Total Surrender: One Week of Practice in Mysore

Blog by Kino MacGregor

My second week of practice in Mysore was one of the most confusing weeks of practice in the last ten years. After two days off thanks to a New Moon on Sunday and a restful week of Primary and Intermediate before that I felt more rested than I had in years. But then Monday started off with a full power Guided Second Series class that left me shattered. Not only was I off count with Sharath’s tortuous pauses but I was also weak. My chest, shoulder and back muscles were sore for days. Within the first few postures of the Guided Second Series class I realized that I take it really easy on myself in my daily practice. I have a friendly attitude towards Second Series and I’ve categorized it to one of taking it easy days. I guess doing Third and Fourth regularly can make you think that Second Series is easy. But all I had to do is come to a Guided Second Series class to put that thought to rest.
The last time I did Advanced practice in Mysore I did Third and most of Fourth Series back to back. It took me more three hours and I could do nothing more than lie flat for the rest of the day trying to recover. Ever since I got to Mysore I had been dreading the moment when I would do that marathon practice. I was literally lying in bed anxious about it. So on Tuesday when I thought it might be time to do it, I asked Sharath what I should practice and he said “Intermediate”.  I was so happy that I thought “yea, yuuhuu” and proceeded to be very happy about doing another day of Second Series and avoid the Advanced marathon at least one more day. Eight postures into the Second Series Sharath came up to me and changed his mind. He told me to do Third and then do Third and Fourth on Wednesday and Fourth of Thursday, that is was better. But here I was in the happy yuuuhuuu mindset of no Advanced Series and not to mention in the middle of the Second Series backbends, about to do Kapotasana. So I was confused and asked to be sure if what he meant was that I should stop Second Series and go to Third. Yes, he said, “stop Second and start Third now”. I was so confused that I actually went out into the lobby and scratched my head for a moment or two before returning to my mat. The happy-go-lucky yuuuhuuu attitude was gone and I knew I had to focus not only on Third Series but on changing from Second to Third in the middle.
I’m someone who likes to set a course and stay on it. I like to plan and see the vision actualized day by day. I don’t like to quit or give up. So I was confused when I had to give up one course of action for another. But all I could was surrender and focus. Wednesday I thought I knew what I was doing and I was mentally prepared for a marathon. So I started Third Series with a steady focus bracing for three hours of brutality. But when I got nine postures into Third Series Sharath said my name from across the room and held up four fingers with a confused look on his face. After Tuesday’s practice I looked up and asked if I should stop Third and start Fourth. He said yes. Here we go again letting go of one course of action for another unplanned. Mentally this was exhausting. Two days I practice and start a series and then abort the mission only after starting to do something else. The second day was easier though because Third and Fourth require the same type of energetic inward intense focus. Besides Fourth Series is so hard I can always use a little extra warm up before starting. But doing a bunch of backbends right before the beginning of Third, which is all strength, nearly killed me.
Either I misunderstood what he said on Monday or Sharath wanted to run my mind through the emotional roller-coaster. Regardless it was a good lesson for me. Here are the three things that I took away from this experience:
  1. Don’t plan for anything – or if have a plan and be prepared to let it go at any moment
  2. Total Surrender – if you trust your teacher, do what your told even if it seems odd
  3. If you want to be a student, ask for guidance.
It also happened that I was attending a Bhagavad Gita class with James Boag (http://www.jamesboagyoga.com/) this week. The single most striking thing from his teaching of the Gita was the moment when Arjuna says he will not fight in the battle and ultimately asks Krishna for the teaching of yoga. Arjuna says to Krishna, “I am your student, give me your shelter.” Since arriving in Mysore I have felt so grateful to be a student and take this time to be under Sharath’s guidance. I am his student and I am so thankful to my teacher. The most important thing for a teacher of yoga is to remain eternally a student. Without the refuge of returning to Mysore to deepen my practice I am not sure I could continue to teach the way that I do. Thank you Sharath for continuing the lineage of Ashtanga Yoga with integrity and strength and thank you for letting me be your student.

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