Thursday, April 12, 2012

Practice with Sharath

Check out who I practiced led-Primary with on Tuesday morning:

Me and Sharath post practice
Sharath Jois and Saraswathi!  Grandson and daughter of Pattabhi Jois (a.k.a Guruji, founder of Ashtanga Yoga).  My friends and I road-tripped down from Boston on Monday night to practice with them in Greenwich, CT.  My friends were fresh from a month of studying with them in Mysore, India (they kept a great blog going while they were there, check it out: Ashtanga 4 Life); this would be the first time that I met either of them.  Sharath and Saraswathi were only planning to visit the East Coast once this year during this time to help open the Jois Yoga shala (studio) in Greenwich, so I didn't want to pass up the chance to practice with them when they were practically in my backyard.  When I signed up, I was unaware that this was actually one of the studios that was coming under a bit of scrutiny from some people in the Ashtanga community.  Basically, the issue that some people seem to be having is that these new studios are a chain and are super fancy, and they are worried about Ashtanga Yoga becoming a brand, that the name is becoming more important than the method.  I won't rehash the whole article, that came out in Vanity Fair of all places, because I don't know enough about what's going on or have enough knowledge of how things were done during Guruji's time; but you can read it here if you're curious. 

Also, that's not what I want to talk about here, I want to talk about what it was like to practice with someone who studied as close as anyone possibly could with the person who created Ashtanga Yoga, and who continues to direct and teach at the main shala in Mysore.  How was it?  Very sweet...that's the best word I can think of for it.  Yes, the new shala is super fancy with a high-end boutique in the front.  But that's not the yoga--doesn't matter how fancy the space may be, we were all still squeezed in there together, sweating and bumping in to each other some of the poses because our mats had to be so close in order to accommodate all the people who came.  While we were waiting to start, Sharath said, with that awesome smile of his, "It's not enough that you practice Mysore, you have to experience Mysore!  Bring the mats closer!"  And all that new studio fanciness, that's not Sharath. 

Sharath speaking with a student before the next class (that's Guruji in the painting)

My friends and I ended up being in the very front row and I was directly in front of his chair; front and center, not my favorite place to be in a class, lol.  But he had this wonderful, non-intimidating presence that just reflected his attitude that he does not consider himself to be a guru, he is still thinks of himself as a student.  You could just see from his smile and his attitude that he just seemed so happy to just be there teaching and sharing the yoga.  I really liked the way he taught the class too--the pace was perfect, much slower than I had heard about from some people (my own pace tends to be pretty slow, so I was a little concerned about that, lol).  His tone of voice was calm, quiet and a little humorous too, teasing us by counting slower when we got to Navasana (an intense abdominal strengthener that comes in the middle of the Primary Series that you repeat 5 times and hold for 5 breaths each) and Utplutihi (the last pose of a class where you sit in lotus, or cross-legged, and hold your legs/bottom half off the floor for 10 breaths), "Don't come down!  Don't drop the legs!  Lift back up!"

At the end of the class, there was no promoting the new studio or any sort of advertising.  All he said at the end was that it was important to practice everyday; that if you had 2 hours to spend on Facebook everyday, then you could spend 2 hours on your yoga practice (I'm summarizing, he said it much better, lol).  It was really nice to be able to practice with him and Saraswathi and get a little bit of first hand experience of what they are like.  And it's always nice to see how big and connected the community of Ashtanga practitioners are.  Ashtangis are a dedicated bunch of people and that seems to connect us: India, New York, Connecticut, Boston, Cambridge...even if we've never met each other before.

Me, Cara and Cyndi (part of "Team Boston")


  1. Oh there is the picture! lovely!

    I would agree that it was very sweet. Good word to describe it :-)

  2. I'm sooooooooooooo jealous!

    This is awesome!

    I wish I was there as well!

    You so ROCK!

    PS: I don't have much of a problem with these "chain schools."
    I don't see anything wrong with having nice amenities and some professional control over how Ashtanga is marketed.

  3. Hi,

    Great site! I'm trying to find an email address to contact you on to ask if you would please consider adding a link to my website. I'd really appreciate if you could email me back.

    Thanks and have a great day!

    1. Hi Emily. Thanks! What is your blog?