Deb and Roger’s Yoga Training, Mysore, India

Sri K Pattabhi Jois

Our Yoga Training in Mysore 2002

I’ve been drawn to Buddhism, and Eastern philosophy since I was in my early twenties, so it is only natural that places like India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bali, etc., seem to occupy a space in my soul.

After our two month intensive Yoga Teacher Training in Bali fall 2001, Roger and I decided we wanted to deepen our practice even more. And where better than where Astanga yoga began.

We arrived in Mysore on August 6, 2002. We decided to visit Mysore, rather than other yoga havens in India, because it is the home of Ashtanga Yogi Guru Pattabhi Jois, or guruji, as he was affectionately called by his students. PJ passed away in 2009 after teaching and inspiring students for more than 65 years.

PJ was considered this centuries Ashtanga yoga master. If you aren’t into this type of yoga, you’ve probably never heard of him, or Mysore. But in the Ashtanga yoga community he is considered the guru. The man you must train with in order to officially teach this style of Yoga. Our teachers have spent many years studying with him, so we were quite excited at the prospect as well.

After settling into our hotel we spent the next several days trying to find out what was happening on the yoga front. Mysore isn’t a very big place so we thought it would be simple. But, not the case. Not only are very few Indians into yoga, there were few westerners about, especially since PJ was leaving for his four month tour to the West. And not everyone spoke English.

Each day we inquired about Yoga at our hotel, the rickshaw drivers, and anyone else we thought might point us in the right direction. We had not done a lot of pre-planning, as is our usual style, when we are traveling we try to stay flexible. And one day we had a rickshaw driver that understood what we were looking for and took us to Sri Bramatantra Swatantra Parakala Mutt Yoga Shala. But it was only after the 3rd time that we were finally able to speak to someone.

It turned out to be the yoga shala of B.N.S. Iyengar. After talking to the few westerners practicing with him, we signed up for 4 weeks of training, which turned into 7. He is a good teacher, having also learned from Krishnamacharya, the Godfather of Yoga. We started our practice at 6:00 am on Friday, August 9th, just a couple of days after our arrival.

A few days later we did discover where PJ lived (his old place), and went there on several times hoping to speak to him. I was interested in getting an interview. Unfortunately there was never anyone home. But we did find out that not only is PJ the focus of much controversy in the Yoga community at home (in Amerca), it is so here in his hometown as well. The Indians have a much different definition of a ‘Guru’, and were only to willing to take us to those they held in high esteem. But, that is another story.

Mysore, and India was quite an eye opening experience. In some ways, quite disappointing, especially as the yoga scene is concerned. I expected something completely different. A peaceful, quiet place. A sanctuary of sorts. Isn’t that the way it is with expectations! Though I travel extensively, and have had my share of backpacking experiences, I simply wasn’t prepared for the noise, chaos, filth, lack of organization, politics, asana obsession, etc. It was at times very wearying.

But as with all experiences, you take the good with the bad, and hope it makes you a better person. For certain it builds character. I learned a lot about detachment, acceptance, focus, mindfulness, patience, tolerance, non-judgement and more. All part of the Yoga journey. Funny, too, just when you think you have a handle on those things, you put yourself in a new situation, and realize they are still with you, just on a another level. I find you gain these perspectives through your experiences, usually the more extreme the circumstances, the deeper the learning. It’s just like one’s yoga practice. All the years of pent up tension in the body have to be released layer by layer until the body becomes free, and less rigid. And this only comes with practice, practiced more practice. And lots of patience.

We met many wonderful people. And learned so much about the Indian culture, Hinduism, and ourselves. I fell in love with the country, and the people, not just my romantic notion. India is quite simply, indefinable. We experienced the benefits of Ayurvedic healing. And have further honed our abilities to cope with different situations, circumstances and attitudes, since India does require a tremendous level of tolerance. There is a statement in the Lonely Planet that says,  India could try the patience of a saint. I agree, and remembering this has helped me not be so hard on myself, and to realize once again, that we are all simply human.

I love the training we had as there is nothing better than total immersion to change behavior, alter perceptions and change beliefs. This foundation has been so powerful and enabled me to create all types of classes from gentle to power vinyasa flow. However, I do not call myself an Astanga teacher since I cannot do the Mysore Style Primary Series completely due to injuries. But do as many of the asanas as I can, honoring where my body is on any given day. I also have not been given the blessing by the the Astanga Yoga Institute. However, my practice as well as my teaching focuses on the tradition, the eight steps, the teachings and emphasizes the internal, meditation and breath work as much as the physical asana practice.

Our yoga teacher, B.N.S. Iyengar has practiced yoga for over 60 years. He studied under T. Krishnamacharya in the 1950’s, and has been teaching Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga for the last 17 years. Mr. Iyengar is a master of Sanskrit, as well as English, and several other languages. He has vast knowledge of Yoga Philosophy, and is able to share with his students the theory behind the practice, and the deeper, more spiritual aspects of Yoga.

Mr. Iyengar has been involved with the Karnataka State Yoga Association for many years, and gives a certificate for the courses completed. Classes are offered in Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Kriya, and Meditation. And you may receive a lesson in Yoga Philosophy at any time while studying with Mr. Iyengar. Classes are held from 6 am to 9 am, and from 4 pm to 7 pm except moon days. Students who are interested should inquire at the Parakala Mutt near Jagan Mohan Palace about prices, and the availability of courses.