What Is Mysore Practice?

Esalen '11  

Mysore, for me, begins at 6 am when my alarm wakes me. I hit the snooze button and begin the same argument I have with myself every morning. "Maybe I should rest today. I really have been so focused lately. I deserve to sleep in. The air outside the covers is just way too cold. It's probably raining. Maybe its a moon day..." This goes on for at least 10 minutes until the alarm reminds me that its time to make up my mind. On a good day, a mysterious force deep within me starts moving even as I protest, and the next thing I know I'm fumbling for my shoes in the dark.

By the time I get to the car I have accepted my fate and I start to take credit for my magnificent devotion as a student. I have got to be racking up some good karma for this! I turn up the radio and roll down the windows. It's time to be conscious. The fresh, crisp air connects me to my breath. The whole city belongs to me at 6:30 in the morning. No angry drivers. Wide open roads. A blanket of quiet peace enfolds me.

I shuffle my inevitably stiff and sore body into the shala and resume the argument. "Someone's in my spot. There's a substitute. It's too cold. It's too hot. There's still time to leave before anyone notices." Once again I feel a gentle nudge from that steady, strong place inside. I got this.

I roll out my mat and shuffle around a bit until it is clear even to me that I am procrastinating. Then there is this moment at the top of my mat when my toes come together and my body lights up at full attention. I turn to my breath and chant the Invocation to Patanjali sweetly, humbly in my head. I am here in the present moment and my breath and this practice are all consuming.

Surya Namaskara A brings an awakening of my muscles and joints. Surya Namaskara B ignites a fire and loosens my tension. The sound of the communal breath soothes me. The cold winter falls away and I am gently held and supported by every other practitioner in the room. From this place I begin meandering along a path of 60 or so postures. Some how I usually manage to avoid forget one or two. Luckily in Mysore someone always happens to be watching when I make a mistake.  I trust my teachers. Their  guidance encourages me. They keep insisting I can do this. All is coming.

Sweat. Breathe. Be here now. I am confronted with myself by myself. I take inventory. Where are my weaknesses? I practice bringing strength to them. Where am I injured? I practice healing myself. What is hindering my balance? I cultivate firm stillness. Am I breathing?   "I can't do this. I'm tired. I hate this pose. The girl across the aisle is way better than me. I really should be better at this by now." Just keep going. I begin to love that determined piece of me. I must remember to listen for that voice when I'm caught up in the struggles of life off of my mat.

Savasana. Corpse Pose. The conclusion of physical effort. I am rubbery and vibrant. My body sings to me in gratitude. My mind is calm and clear. There are sounds of popping floorboards, deep breathing, and quiet instruction. I take it all in for a moment and then let it go. I dive into my Self.  I witness exploration and restoration, expansion and ease. Just when I think I could stay here forever, the sounds in the room come back, or the clouds outside part and guide me back to the room with light.

There are smiles and hugs in the lobby. These crazy people understand me. They got up at 6 am too. We are bound by a practice that few have the discipline to maintain.

I shuffle back out the shala door at around 9:15.  What a long journey I have made since 6 am. This is Mysore practice.