Monday, January 9, 2012

Conference recap

Yesterday morning was like the Mysore equivalent of a marathon.  Started off with a packed led intermediate (the unofficial count was 71 people!!!), and then just enough time for a coconut, only to head straight back into the shala for an early conference.  This was one of those occasions where Sharath was at his best, and I wish I could have been a bit more focused through all of it (my grumbling tummy was louder than his voice at some stages of the morning), but a lot of what he said really sunk in.  Some students take notes on their ipads or laptops, but I am just going from memory here, so nothing is word for word.
~People expect things to be instant, and for everything to happen quickly, and yoga can be frustrating when they can't do something right away.  There are phone calls to the shala every week from people asking about teacher trainings, and you can't study everything that quickly and expect to learn anything properly.  It takes time.  A certificate doesn't mean you understand yoga, and any school that says they can teach you all eight limbs in special 2 week course and the you are a teacher is not correct. 
~Someone who says ashtanga is just putting your body in poses and never focuses on the other limbs is like a sailor who only ever goes across the top of the sea and never takes the time to dive in and see the beautiful creatures under the water.  You don't get the whole experience of yoga until you do the practice, do the asana, and develop discipline and devotion, and start to apply the other limbs.  It is experiential, and I guess this is another way of saying it is 99% practice and 1% theory.  You must first calm your mind, and cure your body of any ailments, and then the asana practice becomes an expression of dharana and dhyana (concentration and meditation), so that you don't need a special pillow to sit on and take a separate practice for these limbs.  Use the breath and the drishti and the asana together to find something more than the physical, make it a spiritual practice.  This is a point he has mentioned the last few weeks at conference, so I am thinking he feels quite strongly about it.
~Guruji  has passed and he is deeply missed by the whole family, and I would say a large part of the ashtanga community, but his energy is still very present in the shala.  Someone asked how to keep the inspiration for daily practice, and Sharath said to put his photo in the practice space, then he laughed (as did everyone in attendance) and said to put Guruji's photo, and think about how much he dedicated his whole life to yoga, not just the time in the shala.  He asked if anyone has seen God, and looked around asking a few people individually, and then changed the question to has anyone felt God?  There was a shift in energy in the room and he likened Guruji's presence to God's presence... you can't see it, but if you are paying attention, you can feel it.  He went on to say that it doesn't matter if you say Ishvara or Jesus or Shiva or Allah, the divine is the divine and it is all one.  He also went on with a laugh and said that if Jesus came from India he would have been called a yogi.
~Someone asked about ujjayii breathing in practice, and Sharath quite clearly said that there is no ujjayii in asana practice, it is a pranayama.  When we do asana we should do free breathing with sound, that is all.  If we take shallow breaths we can't clean our nervous system so we need to move the breath deep into the body for it to work properly. 
~A very cheeky question came up right at the end of conference; someone asked what to do if your teacher at home tells you something different than you have been told by Sharath, and this person went on to name two senior teachers, one of whom happened to be in the room the time, essentially throwing them under the bus(rickshaw?) (so to speak).  A murmur went through the room, and Sharath handled the question gracefully, saying that two gurus will kill one student, just like two doctors will kill one patient.  You need to know who to follow, who to listen to, and keep it simple.  He has said before that things have changed over the years a bit, and people should practice and teach how they have been taught by their guru, whether that be him or Guruji or whoever.  Faith must be there in the one person.  We come to Mysore with many problems and then think that some time in India will fix everything, and then leave India with more confusion and more options and new opinions, and then gossip about it on facebook, and that makes even more problems, so we need to keep things simple. 
In my humble opinion, a question like that shouldn't be raised at conference if names are going to be mentioned,  Taking class with any teacher is a choice, and if you think so strongly that what they are teaching is not correct method, why go back to their class???  Fingers don't need to be pointed in group situations, and it comes across as very catty and completely thoughtless.  The named person who was in the room handled it well, no drama at the coconut stand or speaking out in defense, and I would hope his other students are more grateful for the effort he puts into teaching.
Conference was followed by chanting, so by the time I got home it was noon, and nearly lunch time.  The chai I managed to have between conference and chanting had to suffice as breakfast... not enough after the intermediate class.  The rest of the day was dictated by either hunger or the food coma that came after lunch.    Today is shaping up to be much better in the food department, moon day sleep in, coffee taking, and then secret breakfast place idli.  On the way out the door the greens man was walking by, so I bought a huge bunch of spinach to make for lunch.  It can go with my mung sprouts that I made in my nutmilk bag in the kitchen.  No scurvy today!

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