As the sun sets on the end of my third week of living and practicing yoga here in Mysore I have to confess to feeling physically quite tired and have been reflecting on how much I have done so far. I feel quite a part of my local neighbourhood and am on first name terms with owners of the bakery and chai stall and his neighbour who sells the most wonderful fruit and vegetables. The morning cycle to practice, past the lazy but rather endearing street dogs, children on the way to school (either on foot or piled into a Rickshaw) and people going about their daily business is rather lovely, with people saying hello to me at various points of the journey. I have also discovered that, just like the car drivers with their horns, the bell on my bicycle is in permanent use …. I am now cycling around like a local!
The daily practice at the shala continues to be a journey of self exploration but I haven’t as yet really got the hang of the twice weekly led classes. On a Friday morning at 6am and Sunday at 4.30am (both Shala time of course) there are led (or counted classes) where everyone arrives at the same time to practice together, let by Sharath, as he counts us all through the Primary Series. I am very used to counted classes and usually love them but having been finding these increasingly challenging. A 4.30 start actually means a 4.15 start and you need to arrive at least 30 minutes earlier to wait quietly outside the gates if you want to have a mat space in the main room, which means getting up around 3.15 am. Consequently the whole process feels a little like I have dreamt it when I go back to bed again for a couple of hours afterwards. The trouble is that there are so many people practising at the shala that when there is a led class the mats are literally next to each other with no space between them and those not lucky enough to make it into the main room (which so far includes me) are then practising in the changing rooms, or the entrance hallway. I haven’t yet mastered the technique of being in the right place to ensure I can put my mat down in the main room so have adopted the strategy of by passing this altogether and heading straight for the ladies’ changing rooms. I am most definitely learning new levels of patience and acceptance which can only be a good thing.
In other ways my journey here has taken a different direction as I am now also involved with a new Project in the form of a permaculture course with work on a vegetable garden for the girl’s home at Odanadi. In the way that all things seem to work here, I was introduced to a friend of a friend who was running a course here after I had offered to work on the garden at Odanadi.
This has so far involved, amongst other things, a visit to a beautiful small organic farm just outside the city. Only four acres large but a brilliant example of how agriculture can work in a sustainable way in a country where farming these days generally involves mono-culture with a reliance on chemical fertilisers and pest control and a gradual deterioration of the fertility of the land as result. What struck me most was how lush the planting at the farm was, especially as all of the surrounding area was pretty much all dusty dry red soil. Under a beautiful canopy of coconut palms were a whole range of established fruit trees : chicco, mangoes, papaya and jack fruit, as well as rows of bananas surrounded by scented rose bushes and other flowering shrubs (whose names I didn’t know). Hardly an inch of the ground remained uncovered and we sat listening to beautiful bird song on a blanket of very ‘springy’ green grass under the shade of an old jack fruit tree as the farmer cut up one of its fruit to share with us. The garden at the girl’s home is quite a challenge as, unlike the farm, the land there is extremely dry. Water is at a premium here and anything that is going to grow needs to be able to cope with the very dry conditions, so a priority will be putting in more quick growing trees such as the coconut palms to provide much needed shade where slower growing plants can thrive. It is exciting to think about the possibility of the women and girls at the home having a fully stocked fruit and vegetable garden at some point in the future, not to mention a greener, planted environment in which they can sit, play, come together to socialise. The girls and some of the younger children from the home have been so brilliant as they join in with some of our preparations. Lots of smiles and hugs and ‘hello sister, what is your name’ every few minutes. They are an inspiration and I hope to be able to give at least a little of my free time here to help with the garden.