There are different factors that make up the energy of a mysore space: the attitude of the students, the number of practitioners, the architecture of the room, the artwork and accoutrements. Even the other uses for the space outside of class hours can contribute to the feel of a room, what vibe it gives. Then, there’s the teacher.
Over the last few years, I’ve spent a good chunk of time practicing in a too-crowded room so hot that steam collects on the windows and ceiling. I love it, practicing alongside die-hard ashtangis, beginner or advanced practitioners, devoted enough to take time out of their lives to travel to a small city in India to practice with one teacher.
The shala in Mysore has history. The students that go bring a lot into the mix. But it’s teacher Sharath Jois who is the lynchpin, it is his energy that directs the practice and facilitates these mental and physical shifts. Sharath, grandson of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and director of KPJAYI, holds the space–quietly, powerfully, and beautifully.
Even in a smaller scale, this is true. These months, traveling and teaching, stepping into other teachers’ existing mysore programs and spaces has been very interesting in that respect.
Each teacher imparts a certain quality to their students’ practice. Everyone has a unique teaching style, varied experience and their own vast wealth of knowledge. Each teacher has a distinct personality that feed into first their personal practice then their teaching. The teacher’s hand is visible in the practices of their students.
And then when a visiting teacher, like myself, comes into the mix, I notice it brings a shift too. New ideas get introduced and there is a different focus on techniques and methodologies. A new teacher comes with a fresh set of eyes, and a whole different way of seeing things. But even more important than the details that come with teaching, it’s the new energy in the room that propels the practice. It is a total sum of yoga and life experiences (one’s yoga journey, consistency of self practice, life style/life choices, struggles and victories, love for the practice itself, etc…) that holds the space, that directs the efforts and energies in the room.
It’s exciting, the things, the events, the people that move the practice. I know that when I go and when Iman “Amy” Elsherbiny returns to her students after months of deep and soulful studying in Mysore, she too will have a renewed and vibrant energy to share with her students.
It is so subtle and surprising this relationship between teachers and students. There’s a lot of magic between transmission of teaching.
I feel particularly blessed teaching now because I recognize that the relationship is a two way street, as I am equally nourished by the effort, dedication and love that students put into their practice. Their movements, their internal and external shifts, inform my own understanding of ashtanga yoga.
Photo: Start of evening mysore at Ashtanga Yoga Cairo in Zamalek.