The beauty of Mysore Self Practice II: The Mysore Community

I realized the other day that I have been practicing and assisting Eileen at the Mysore classes in Primrose Hill for over four years now. During that time people have come and gone, the practitioners somewhat transient to some degree. But there has also been a pretty steady core of people who I’ve practiced along side, progressed with, and ultimately grown older with during this time. I’ve seen women get pregnant, their bumps getting progressively bigger, their practice softening and slowing, then disappearing completely, only to reappear several months later. I’ve seen guys starting the practice, somewhat cocky at first until they realize how the practice demands a completely different kind of approach from the testosterone driven things they’ve done in the past, whose entire beings change over time. Rounded backs straighten, tight hips open, and I’d like to think people’s relationships to themselves, bodies and minds, becomes healthier. And they’ve seen me completely disappear after being hit by a car whilst crossing the road and suffering broken bones and a fractured vertebrae, only to return 8 weeks later with a metal plate in my ankle and a new found respect for the incredible capacity of my body to heal (a future blog post perhaps).

The Mysore environment is special, as I began to touch on (literally) in a previous post. It is a wonderful social leveler: most people are only seen in their yoga gear and you have no idea whatsoever about their social standing, occupation, country they come from… sometimes whether they even speak English or not. The only other place I’ve experienced this is in the hot springs or ‘onsen’ of Japan – slightly more extreme than the Mysore environment I guess – where everyone is completely naked as the day they were born. Not a piece of Lululemon clothing in sight.

There’s also something endearingly intimate about sharing a space where you are doing a practice that can be pretty damn challenging at times. A pose or a transition might look clunky, you might fall out of a pose or, as in my case for a particular section of the Second Series, look like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards, dripping in sweat, hair stuck to your forehead, clothes clinging to trembling muscles. All done in the presence of people you may not even know. Very humbling indeed. As is practicing in the same place that I assist and sometimes teach. Anyone who practices in that space with me knows the joys I’ve been having with karandavasana (the pose featured in the image for this post) for two very long years. Nearby scientists probably also picked up minor readings on the Richter scale when I first started it and kept landing on my arse. A beginner summed this up quite nicely when she came to me after practice last year and said “I’m glad Eileen shouts at you too”. It’s definitely heartening to see the more advanced practitioners struggle!

Practising the same tradition of yoga, regardless of whatever series you are on, leads to a sense of connectedness, of sharing not just a space but an experience. Yes of course it’s good to be focused and in the zone and all that malarkey, but equally joyous is the catching of someone’s eye when they’ve just nailed a tough transition for the first time, something you know they’ve been practising for months. Or connecting through commiseration when something is tough: a warm, understanding face being the next best thing to a hug in that very moment.

Then of course there is the free porridge that we have after practice in Primrose Hill, the place where you do learn about others and the lives they lead, share film and book recommendations, hear about the latest fad on the superfood front, and generally connect and build on the common ground already shared. One thing is clear – whenever there is porridge, there is laughter. And lots of it.

Enjoy the explosion of colour that is Spring.

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