Most yoga student’s first visit to Mysore to study yoga these days is well planned, they are heading straight to the K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute to practice Ashtanga at the source and are booked in months ahead.
My first visit in 2007, however, was not at all planned. I ended up there by chance, to spend the last three weeks of my yoga trip around Southern India. I was on a self-guided yoga exploratory trip of Southern India and determined to find the right “Yoga for Me” to commence my yoga life! I knew it was all about finding the right practice and the right teacher, but I was having a little trouble finding this back home in Sydney, Australia.
So far on my Indian yoga journey I had tried a variety of different yoga systems from Iyengar (where I had an all round bad experience – but that’s another story!), to Hatha, to Vinyasa to Sivananda. I was just at the point in my journey of leaving the Sivananda Ashram at Nywar Dam in Kerala, and not sure where to head next and what type of yoga to try. I only had just over 3 weeks left and had still not found my dreamt of practice and time was running out. What yoga style was going to suit me and where should I go next to find it.
I was actually in a taxi with a group of yogis leaving the Sivananda Ashram to spend the New Year on the beach in Varkala, when someone suggested that perhaps I should go to Mysore for the last 3 weeks of my trip. They had found their teacher there, a gentleman called Vankatesh, but he required a minimum of 4 weeks to practice his yoga intensive with him. But they also mentioned that it was possible to do some drop-in Ashtanga classes at a place called the Mysore Mandala and this seemed like a great idea. I had tried a little Ashtanga in group classes back in Sydney, and liked the energy of the class and the way it followed the breath. So, I thought ,”why not” that sounds perfect at least I have done Ashtanga before. However, was I in for a big surprise!!!
Mysore Style Practice!
It now seems so obvious, that when in Mysore, I would be doing a Mysore Style Ashtanga class!!! However, to be honest, I didn’t even really know what that was. Hence, on my first morning of Ashtanga in Mysore, I found myself at 6am in a tiny rickety room on my yoga mat amongst around 20 very experienced Ashtangies at the Mysore Mandala. A tiny little Indian man named Shishadri was the teacher (who I later found out through experience was also well known for his “strong” adjustments). I had absolutely no idea of the sequence and Shishadri really didn’t speak much English and there were no printed out sequence sheets to sneak a peep at – help!!! In at the deep-end.
As luck would have it, one of my room mates was also attending this class, and she advised me just to follow her until the teacher told me when to stop and finish. So I muddled my way through the class pretending to know what I was doing and I came out of my first class feeling like I had just come out of a tumble dryer. It was lucky that I was fit and had been doing yoga every day for the past two months, or I don’t think I would have survived it. I found I loved this yoga style. The strong set sequence and following the breath suited me and I continued the classes and finally learnt the sequence bit by bit over the next 3 weeks.
Finding my teacher
However, my morning ashtanga practice was good and I was getting the hang of it, but it left the whole day free and I now only had 3 weeks left in India. I was living in a share house and whilst talking to my room mates one yogi there suggested that I would really love his teacher, Vinay Kumar at Prana Vashya. Vinery didn’t teach Ashtanga, but taught his own sequence called Prana Vashya, and also offered an afternoon Flexibility/Back-bending class that I might be able to attend.
This sounded like a great idea to fill in my day, so off I went to see Vinay and plead with him to let me just do the 3 weeks back-bending in the afternoon (there was meant to be a 4 week minimum). Luckily, he gave a little sparkly eyed grin and said ‘yes’. Yahoo, I was in, and hooked forever!
Prana Vashya Shala 2007
The back-bending and flexibility class was tough, but I knew straight away that Vinay was the teacher I had been looking for, but unfortunately I was out of time on this visit to practice longer with him. After looking at his Prana Vashya Sequence sheet, and talking to fellow students who were already practicing, I just knew that I had to come back to Mysore again to learn this sequence with Vinay. After 3 months of travelling India, I had finally found my teacher!
As soon as I returned back to Australia, I wa