2.26.2011

Primary Friday: My First Mysore

Sooooo....

Last week, a friend from teacher training put me on to a Mysore room in town offering FREE practice on Friday afternoons for the winter season.  I thought it too good to be true but, curious and frugal Ashtangi that I am, packed my mat and towel and headed yonder way.

I approached the reception desk with trepidation, half expecting the usual "hipper & fitter than you" attitude that so often comes with the territory.  Instead, I received a warm greeting and speedy, pressure-free registration process.  I had forgotten to account for the extra time it would take to fill out my first-timer forms and anxiously asked, "where do I go?  Is it upstairs, or...?"
 
With my information in hand, the receptionist waved me closer and pointed at me with her left index finger.  I stared, blank-faced, until I noticed the finger had a little orange sticker hanging from the tip.  "This is the code."  I took it.  She proceeded to verbalize a list of instructions as though I were about to embark on a secret mission:  "Take a left when you go out the door.  Hug the building all the way around until you're dumped on the opposite side of the street."  Intriguing.  "You'll see a building painted like this one.  Put these numbers in the keypad," she gestured to the sticker, which I had stuck to my water bottle for safe keeping, "and the door will open."  I nodded with conviction and set out on my mission.

Having followed her directives to the letter, I found myself on the stoop of a small, brightly colored building with no windows and two doors.  One door was green.  The other was blue, the keypad positioned between the two.  I entered the code and waited.  I heard the green door unlock and grabbed for the handle.  It opened.  I was in.

It was quiet.  And dim.  Three yogis were already on their mats, two engaged in the Surya Namaskar, one sitting nervously, facing the mirror.  None of these people appeared to be the teacher.  I took my spot at the end of the row and laid out my mat and towel as quietly as I could.  After five grounding breaths in samasthiti, I began.  Slowly, the room came alive.  Several more practitioners arrived as I took my first few Suryas.  Breath filled the room and, though I dared not intrude on the others' practice with a wandering drishti, I enjoyed the symphony of breath.  I noticed the teacher walking the room.  She headed straight for the nervous girl beside me.  It was her first time.  She didn't know the series and, indeed, knew not what mysore meant.  I smiled at the serendipitous proximity of our mats because, though I knew what I was in for, more or less, this way I could absorb all those foundational gems teachers dole out to beginners (I assume), gems I may have missed in my solitary Ashtanga endeavors.

After instructing my neighbor in Surya Namaskara A and assigning her 5 rounds, she ambled my way.  "Hi, what's your name?"  I introduced myself.  She introduced herself.  "Okay, Megan.  Do you have tight hamstrings?"  Uh oh.  I wondered why she wanted to know.  "The reason I ask is your posture.  I'd like you to draw the ribcage in and point the tailbone down."  HA!  Hahahaha!  An awakening, indeed.  It's the same old story every time.  I expressed to her that I'm aware of and having trouble overcoming this problem.  She reminded me throughout the practice, which was hugely helpful.  I think regular work with a teacher might be what I need to break this habit.

I was afraid I wouldn't remember the sequence very well, but surprised myself and made it all the way to Baddha Konasana before my Primary train derailed and the teacher had to come over to get me back on track.  She stopped me after the Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana sequence and informed me that the series is no longer practiced the way I had been doing it (standing upright in UHP A and bringing both hands to the foot for UHP C, ala Swenson's manual).  She made me redo the series, folding chin to shin in UHP A and eliminating UHP C entirely.  With her help, I bound Marichyasana C for the first time.  She nudged me deeper into Supta Kurmasana than I've ever gone before.  I got some good tips on some of bum balances and was generally able to work out many of the kinks in the series I've had trouble resolving on my own.

Around the time I arrived at Setu Bandhasana, I noticed that I was the only person still working through the sequence.  Everyone had gone home except for one guy in Savasana down the room a ways.  Apparently, I'm slow.  Remember, I was one of the first to arrive.  The very attentive teacher watched me do Urdhva Dhanurasana, then assisted me with 3 stand ups and drop backs before she, too, left me to my own devices.  Before she departed, she mentioned that if I come back next week, she'd help me work out a couple more things with Primary, namely dropping back and standing up, and then start me on Second series.

WHUUGH?  Second?  Me?  My astonishment must have been obvious because she said again, "Yeah, I think you're ready."  Wow.  Cool. Who'd have thought my fun little Primary Fridays would get me to Second series so quickly?  Certainly not I.

All in all, it was a great experience.  I had a strong practice.  I came away with a fuller understanding of the energetics of the Primary series and a new perspective on the work I do at home.  I'm seriously considering committing myself to regular work with an instructor, something I've never had, outside of those three months in teacher training.  This weekly afternoon Mysore suits my schedule perfectly since that time is already set aside for my Friday Primary home practice.  Looks like I might jump this Ashtanga train after all.

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