Sharath, our teacher, has some trademark sayings. His English is not perfect so some are made all the more endearing for their grammatical incorrectness. He can’t possibly remember the name of every student, but he manages to remember countries and each morning as he shuffles students’ practice times around he says things like “Canada sisters, you come 6:30 tomorrow - Japan, why you late? - Holland, you stop there”. If a students falls during a headstand or a drop back he says “don’t break floor!”
One of his favorites is “no fear, no fun”. He says this often to students who are just learning a particularly difficult or fearful posture. Drop backs for instance are when you stand at the front of your mat and bend backwards until your hands touch the ground behind you, then you spring back up to standing. This asana for sure instills fear but the look on my fellow Ashtangis’ faces when they stand up for the first time is definitely all fun.
For my last week in Mysore I adopted this as my mantra. No fear, no fun led me to a party in a teak forest, it led me to eat an unwashed tuber straight off the turnip truck, and finally … to an Indian water park, where the real fear of water-born parasites only helped to amplify the fun.
My Mysore sister Shelley and I had been trying to come up with a good party plan for weeks. We had bandied about the idea of renting a hotel suite and throwing an air conditioning party, a particularly enticing idea when the temperature wasn’t dipping below 95 Fahrenheit until the wee hours of the night, we managed to venture out for a few dance party nights at a very surreal Mysore discothèque, but it wasn’t until we passed the water park that the epiphany came.
We invited everyone who would give us the time of day, in the end 13 hardy souls hit the park on Friday the 13th. The park was so much fun! I felt like I was ten again, like I was Charlie and all of India was the Chocolate Factory.
We slid, we splashed , we bumper car-ed. The highlight for me was the Aqua Dance Party, a dance floor covered in dousing sprinklers and Indian men in long pants and tank tops dancing like we were all in the final scene of some Baliwood epic. to quote the bumper sticker, I danced as if no one was looking. In that moment I had no reservations about anything, no inhibitions, no fear, purely fun.
My final days were filled with friends, plans for the future and reflection on my time in India. On the morning of my last practice, Sharath gave me permission to return to the shala in August. Insallah, I will be back that soon, and then I will stay for a more extended practice of three to six months.
The last night Shelley, Cary, Emma, Bernadette and I climbed up Chamundi Hill and drank champagne in the pouring rain, honoring the goddes Raguphuthi had assigned to me the week before. My friends and I laughed freely, gazed intently and I loved fully the women I was with, the country I was in and the person I have become. After a glutenous dinner of Tali and one last visit to the dazzling palace it was time to sleep away the night.
My neighborhood dog Ruby decided to help me fully experience that last night by howling at the moon beneath my window. Thanks to Ruby I lived that last night fully. Sleep seems less important now; in those last hours I was appreciative of Ruby’s perpetual alarm and I tracked time by watching the moon move across the sky.
In the morning I drug out my practice for as long as I could, soaking in the energy of the shala and gaining three new postures for the road. As I left, I touched my hand to the threshold and then to my heart to honor my teachers and all of my Ashtangi family members who have crossed this way before me, and to those who will arrive wide-eyed just as I did a month ago.
I pulled a breakfast hat trick stopping in at all three of the yogi haunts. At Santosha I met Thomas and collected my painting, now I have Chamudiswari Parviti to remind me of this time and to evoke when I need strength or humbling. One by one I said see you soon to my friends and fellow yogis, taking the moment to look into their familiar eyes and absorb one last bit of them before leaving.
As a final memento I had my nose pierced like all good Indian women do, to honor the part of me that resides there now.
When it was time to go, Shelley saw me off and took over where Claudia had left me weeks before. She moved into the 12 Cross flat, adopted Pepe the Honda Scooty motor bike and settled in for her final weeks. Saying goodbye to her or to Mysore seemed all too premature … after all I feel like I will be there again very, very soon.
Please allow me the indulgence of gratitude. I wish to thank my Ashtanga teachers, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Sharath, Saraswati, Marco and Sandra Bianco, Katiza Satya, Claudia Pradella, Paul Dallaghan, Neil Barker, Steve Roger and all of the beautiful yogis who I have had the honor and privilege of practicing with. My Mysore sisters Shelly, Cary, Kelly, Maggie, Melissa, Danielle, Nina, Ursala, Emma and Bernadette, my brothers James, Thomas, PJ, Javier, Arne. I thank you for the gift of yoga, the lessons of the path and the luxury of your attentions.
I live in gratitude. Namaste. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.
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