Ambition Tightens Hamstrings 

Thus ends my first ever month of early mornings on a mat, bending and stretching at a yoga shala. To be honest, walking towards the shala that first day, I would of laid a bet on my attendance being 50%, tops. 

“I’m so happy that you’re joining me for yoga”, the GF smiled me that smile. 

“I’m proud of you”, she added with earnest, “and actually, it’s kind of romantic”. Wink, wink.

Yep, that’s me, Mr. Romantic, but my mind wandered. Surely there would be the sneaky sleep in, a handful of hangovers and a couple of can’t be f**ked’s throughout the month. But, 30 days later, I can say I went the distance, and I’ll also let you know that it was neither a problem nor a big deal, but a real pleasure and a lot of sweat.

I started as a COMPLETE novice (I now consider myself a beginner), but I was able to pick up a thing or two about yoga along the way.

Firstly, yoga is not just for girls or the incredibly athletic posers of Instagram. Gawking around the shala on my first day, the diversity of students was obvious. People from all over the globe, of every shape and size, every age and colour, all together sweating and bending their way to bliss. Some stretching with the finesse of a Russian gymnast, some struggling to touch their toes (me). There is an oft quoted saying thrown around Mysore, “Yoga is for everyone, that is everyone EXCEPT lazy people.” 

Also, yoga is not a religion, nor a cult. Yep, there’s chanting in a dead language, Sanskrit of all things. Weird right??? Any weirder than ten thousand blokes standing around every Saturday at Stamford Bridge, all in unison yelling, 

“Blue is the colour, football is the game. We’re all together, and winning is the aim.” ???
Not really. 

Sure, yoga is full of philosophy and advice on how to live a better life, much like religion. But, hey, I’m always open to suggestions. As Alain De Bottom noted in his book, Religion for Atheists :

Some people can remain a committed atheist and nevertheless find religions sporadically useful, interesting and consoling.” 

And so it is with yoga. I’m open to ideas on becoming more mindful of how to eat, consume and act. I’m not too proud to acknowledge that I need some good advice every once in a while. Yoga offers a great opportunity to hang out with a lot of flexible, considerate and super healthy people.

As the GF always says,”Be part of it. practice yoga”.

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Mysore in September


(Photo KPJAYI Main Shala, Mysore. Courtesy Instagram@briana.nicholson)

Back in July when organising flights from A to B, the GF pointed out that since we were flying over India anyway, we would be mad not to touchdown for a yoga fix in Mysore. The GF is full of good ideas, and I was happy to agree.

“This time, you should practice yoga with me,” the GF added, after the flights were booked.

“Hmm……”

Well every healthy relationship needs some give and take, and always willing to try something new, I bought myself a mat, a pair of Lululemon shorts and jumped on the yoga bandwagon. In for a penny and all that. I was to learn that we had signed up for a month of Ashtanga yoga, at the ‘source’, KPJAYI. 

If you don’t know what Ashtanga is (I didn’t) I won’t bore you with the details other than to let you know that it is a flowing set of moves (asanas) that stretch and bend you for about an hour a day (longer if you’re better). But, you NEED to know the moves, so before jumping on the plane a crash course in Ashtanga was needed. Thanks YouTube!

Arriving in Mysore in the ‘off’ season the GF and I realised we had stumbled on a secret. Gokulam, the suburb where most of the yoga shalas are situated, is super quiet. Tranquil even. We had been here before, in the high season when the town is busting at the seams, with lines for restaurants, hotels over booked, Insta-famous yogis everywhere. Not the zen place that you’d expect. But now……well ‘shhh’, don’t tell anybody, because it’s bliss.

The head of Ashtanga’s lineage, Sharath is out of town. He’s touring abroad, but his mum, Saraswathi is still holding class. Both classes are packed to the rafters over the high season. Sharath holds class in the main shala, a big, beautiful room that is the epicentre of Ashtanga, a place where yogis worldwide need to wait and wait and wait to register for a place months in advance to get the chance to practice and improve. Saraswati has another shala around the corner. But with the head honcho outta town…. 

The GF asks Saraswati, “Are we practicing in the main shala for ALL of September?”, a little over excitedly.

“Actually”, Saraswati replies, “it is MY shala. I just let my son use it when he is here, but he is not here, so we will practice in MY shala”. 

Big smiles all round.