Baptism of fire

So, first class completed and to describe it, I think I need to continue with yesterday’s school analogy:

I was super-excited the night before, fastidiously packing my bag and laying out my clothes, then unable to sleep afterwards. My behaviour prompted Chris to take this ‘first day at school’ portrait just before I headed out the door at 5am this morning- that shining, enthusiastic face was pulled out of the bags of insomnia by adrenaline alone… 😉


However, enthusiasm waned on the rickshaw ride over to Gokulum due to a creepy driver who asked me if I was married then kept requesting that I sit next to him in the front because of the cold. The combination of dark, deserted streets, an unfamiliar route where I recognised no landmarks and my over-active imagination made me feel very vulnerable indeed – my first unpleasant experience like that so far in India, although I’ve seen a few signs in Mysore warning that incidents against western women are on the increase here. Guess it’s due to the clash of cultures that comes when a western bubble, such as  the Mysore yoga scene, floats among the locals of an eastern city.

I arrived at the shala in one piece but rather flustered, and was relieved to see a big crowd of westerners hanging around outside the shala. Phew, I wasn’t late. But then I noticed through the half-light that they were all supping coconuts – hmmmm. I approached the nearest gaggle.

“Excuse me, are you waiting for the 6am led class?”

“Oh no, we’ve just come out – you need to get in there quick! The opening chant starts at 5:30!”

I had that sinking ‘first day at work/school’ feeling where you’ve no idea what’s going on and you look in envy at all those who are riding high on the security of inside knowledge and a well-established routine.

I dashed inside, now even more of a fluster, and was greeted by the sight of around one hundred yogis sitting patiently on their mats in reverent hush inside the shala. I clumsily stepped over a few bodies who had laid their mats in the foyer as the shala was so rammed, and rolled out my mat in the remaining foyer space. So it would appear the rumours of having to practise in the foyer and changing rooms due to the crazy numbers were true then… Actually it didn’t bother me at all – my practice is my practice, wherever I lay my mat. I’ve certainly practised in weirder places, and at least there was a breeze from the door in here. So I was quite content.

Suddenly everyone rose to their feet and Sharath appeared on the stage at the front of the room. He looked towards me.

“You. Come here,”, he shouted, pointing to the stage next to him. Now, I am very short-sighted and, without my glasses, people looking in my direction and giving orders/saying hello – anything that requires a response really – fills me with dread, as I’m never sure if I’m the intended recipient. I pointed at myself. Me?

“You. Come quickly. Hurry up!” Guess it was me then. Next thing, I’m rolling my mat out next to Sharath’s chair on the stage, in front of everyone, feeling like the class trouble-maker. I’m sure I heard him tut. Luckily I wasn’t last through the door and three other latecomers joined me on the stage shortly afterwards, to share my burden of shame.

I later found out that, for some inexplicable reason, the shala keeps its clock running half an hour fast all the time, yet doesn’t seem to share this information with anyone, least of all new, clueless students. As a friend told me: ‘it’s like some unspoken rule that somehow everyone knows about’ (well, clearly not everyone). So basically, whatever time you are given for any shala activity, they actually mean you to arrive half an hour earlier. Go figure?! Maybe it’s like one of those horrific rites of passage you hear rumours about when joining big school – a test of the fresh-blood to sift out the weak from the strong or, in this case, the super-keen punctuals from the fly-by-your-pants latecomers.

As for the practice, it was over so quick I felt like I’d dreamt it. Just one hour fifteen minutes for full primary (with some postures, e.g. paschimottanasana B and baddha konansana C removed to save time – I wonder if these removals will filter across yoga studios across the world, as the reduction of surya namaskara B to three seems to have done…), only time for around two or three full breaths per posture and no time for savasana – the next batch were already pouring in! Due to my sleepless night and flustered state, I felt like I’d been whizzed round a blender and spat out the other end as pulverised mash as I staggered outside afterwards, blinking, bewildered, in the daylight.

Still, I’m nevertheless excited and grateful to be here, and looking forward to Mysore practice tomorrow at the more civilised hour of 9am, or is that 8:30am? Aaagh…. 😉


2 thoughts on “Baptism of fire

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