‘Slowly slowly ….’
This was the reply from my teacher Sharath when I asked questions about the practice during my (brief) registration meeting. It also pretty much accurately describes life here, or at least the pace at which things get done, and I have been slowly adjusting to a more Indian perspective over the last 3 days. Although one of the things that I haven’t quite managed to get used to is the idea of a good night’s sleep. The ‘wooden’ mattress doesn’t help but the nightly chorus of feral dogs in the nearby streets really doesn’t help. No wonder they all lay around all day with all the night time activity! The traffic doesn’t stop either during the night and I realise how much I have got used to the wonderful quiet of night time in the countryside. Give me an owl hooting over a barking dog any day. Things might move ‘slowly slowly’ here but they do everything with plenty of noise!
I have spent quite a bit of time simply exploring and getting to know my way around a little which included meeting the wonderful Ganesh who helped me with my taxi here from the airport and seems to be the fountain of local knowledge for yoga students. He also has a beautiful dog which reminded me of Betty, who I then really missed . Ganesh furnished me with a map and lots of information and I set off to find the coconut stand which, according to my lovely friend Nat, is the ‘centre of the universe’ in this area. Everybody, it seems, knows the coconut stand. There are few things more delicious than drinking coconut water straight from the shell and I can see I might end up having to ration myself soon. The coconut stand is just around the corner from the yoga shala and consequently is the ‘go to’ place for nearly everyone in need of a bit of post practice refreshment.
Registration at the main shala is the first time you get to go there and meet Sharath. As with the classes it is at ‘shala time’ (15 minutes early) and I arrived in plenty of time to queue outside in readiness. It was good to meet a few other students as we waited and I had that first day at school feeling. This is followed by more waiting and form filling before going into the main shala and then Sharath’s office to register. The whole process is fairly swift and you are given your pass and start times to turn up for each of the weekly classes. There is a sense of history about the shala and as I walked through I was definitely aware of the special energy of the place …. the energy from all of those people who have been and practiced there over the years.
The following day, Friday, was my first practice which was one of two weekly led classes at 7.30 am. With everyone practising together these are very busy and I was advised to arrive at least 30 minutes beforehand (which is actually 45 minutes if you factor in ‘shala time’). Perhaps because of nerves about not waking in time, finding a rickshaw to get me there in time or just being generally confused by the start times, shala times and how much earlier to arrive times I had a bit of trouble getting to sleep on the Thursday evening. When I did finally drop off it was not for long as a woke up with a start a couple of hours later thinking we were under attack. It was only fireworks but whoever was letting them off was being quite enthusiastic about it. This in turn woke up the dogs who’d been remarkably sleepy until that point and this then started the monkeys off. I abandoned all ideas about sleeping, phoned home to have a lovely conversation with Paul and read my book instead.
I didn’t feel as bright and bushy tailed as perhaps I should have done when I stood patiently outside the shala on Friday morning and when I stood on my mat in the hallway (the main room seems to fill up with mats remarkably quickly before the class) I really wished that I had had more sleep. As with all the times before when I have been counted through my practice by my teachers John and Lucy or when I have attended classes with Pattabi Jois or Sharath, there is a kind of magic alchemy that takes over as you chant and then breath and then move and there is no time to think or dwell on how your body feels like lead that day or anything else. You simply get carried on a wave of energy … all those people with one breath. The next thing you know we are chanting the closing mantra and soon after I am drinking my coconut water at the coconut stand. It feels good to be here!