Nobel, who writes the blog Yoga in the Dragon’s Den asked me this question below:
“How important is it for an Ashtanga practitioner today to go to Mysore, given that (1) Guruji has passed, and (2) there are so many authorized and certified teachers that one can study with, especially in North America. Europe and Australia? Is there something that one can gain from going to Mysore that one cannot from studying with one of these teachers?”
I think this is an important subject to discuss so I wrote an answer. You can see the full discussion on his blog HERE. And you can see just my answer below:
The decision to travel to Mysore to study Ashtanga Yoga with R. Sharath Jois at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute is something that marks a crucial turning point in an Ashtanga Yoga student’s journey into the heart of the method. It is not something that students should force themselves to do, but something that comes as a yearning from deep within. Anyone seeking to teach Ashtanga Yoga certainly would benefit from spending time in Mysore, the birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga.
I remember talking to students who had been studying with Guruji at the Old Shala when I decided to make my first trip to India. They complained that the Old Shala was getting too crowded, that too many students were coming and that Guruji was too old to really teach. But none of that deterred me–I not only wanted to go to India, but I knew that I absolutely had to go. It was my deep yearning that couldn’t be replaced with anything else except actually getting on the airplane and flying across the world to Mysore. When I arrived in Mysore, met Guruji and practiced at the Old Shala for the first time I was so thankful that I heeded my heart’s desire.
There is always an attachment to pleasurable circumstances, but it would be wrong to use those memories to prevent you from welcoming in a new, positive experience. The romanticization of the past has a certain sentimentality that can be both emotional, but also limiting and indulgent. All students who had the great fortune of spending time with Guruji honor his memory and teaching through the practice and sharing of Ashtanga Yoga. As the lineage of Ashtanga Yoga continues it is Sharath’s guidance, perseverance and dedication to the life work of his grandfather that has given the New Shala it’s energy, organization and spirit. Sharath spent around 21 years studying yoga and living with Guruji and is the only person to learn the full six series of the Ashtanga Yoga method. There is no one else who has gone as deeply into the Ashtanga Yoga series as Sharath, nor anyone who spent as much time in close proximity with Guruji than he did. Sharath carries the light of Ashtanga Yoga with great skill, presence and honor. It is under his guidance that I feel most confident progressing further into the Advanced Series that is my daily practice.
There are many truly gifted and inspirational Certified and Authorized teachers all over the world and I would recommend students of Ashtanga Yoga to practice with every teacher they feel attracted to and seek out as much information and teaching as possible. You will be inspired by these wonderful ambassadors of Ashtanga Yoga and you will gain technical, anatomical and philosophical perspectives on Ashtanga Yoga that only they can share. Yet practicing with them does not give you the experience of traveling to India, immersing yourself in the culture, the environment and the practice in the same way. Not only does the city of Mysore itself have a certain magic to it but there is also a deep connection to the lineage that happens when you practice in the home of Ashtanga Yoga at its source, at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute. It is hard to put into words what happens when give your heart to the experience of the practice here in Mysore under Sharath’s guidance, but it is precisely because of that slightly ineffable experience that I return. Not everyone needs to go to Mysore but anyone who feels an attraction to the experience and craves a deeper dimension of the Ashtanga Yoga method would do well to place their doubt aside, buy an airline ticket to India and come practice.
For more info about the shala in Mysore check out their website HERE.