Friday, June 10, 2005

Ashtanga Yoga: In the Mysore Room Day 1

Today, after much internal debate, I finally began my journey into Ashtanga Yoga, the Mysore way. By which I mean, I spent an hour practicing in a real live Mysore room - for the first time. It was at Eddie Stern's place on Broome Street in Manhattan...I think it's called Ashtanga Yoga New York, but who knows, because it isn't listed in the phone book, it has no web site, and basically it is all about word of mouth. So, how did I finally make my way there? Perseverence.....

First I chased him down via telephone. The name, "Edward Stern" was listed as a residence on directory assistance. When I called him, I think he was sitting down to dinner with his wife and kid, and I lamely said, "Hi my name is Lauren and I want to practice Ashtanga yoga." He said, "Lauren, can I call you back?" I gave him my cell phone number and waited. And waited. A few days later, I called again. He said, "Is this Lauren 917-886-3528", and then he promised that he would call me back for real this time. Eventually he did, but of course, my phone wasn't on. Finally, I found him in person at the Puck Building when Guruji was in town, and I accosted him and implored him to give me his information. On the back of a ripped "Release of Liability" from Guruji's workshop, he wrote the address and class schedule and nothing else. Honestly, it all felt like that episode of Sex and the City, where Charlotte wants to be a Jew and the Rabbi keeps slamming the door in her face, saying, "We're not interested"........

But just as Charlotte became a Jew, I made my way into Eddie Stern Mysore Room fold. And all I can say is WOW. Well, actually, I have more to say than just "wow". I can tell you way more.

Yesterday, I took the subway down to Spring Street, took a left at Balthazar and another left onto Broome. The whole trip from the relative yoga boondocks of the Upper East Side took a mere 25 minutes. Yay! The studio is on the second floor. You open up the door, and save for a transluscent orange dividing curtain, you are pretty much already in the practice space. The windows were open, the air was warm and soft and smelled vaguely of incense and vaguely of sweat. I imagined that this is what it felt to be at the Asthanga Research Institute in Mysore, itself.

At first, it seemed odd that a number of students were laying around on mats in the front area of the room, while other students practiced in the rear. But after a while, it became apparent that the area in which you enter is the room is the area in which the students perform the closing sequence of poses - from shoulderstand to savasana. The rest of the practice is practiced (no thesaurus words for this, sorry) in an adjacent area, I suppose you could call it another room, but it's really the same room, divided by a sort of archway.

The walls are a golden yellow, vivid in the sunlight. At the far end is a huge altar. It appeared that there was not only no lobby but also no cash register, no computer and no props other than some spray bottles (for getting one's arms through one's legs in garba pindasana, I suppose, and apparently, for wetting one's ashtanga rug upon laying it down over one's mat).

It drew me in, and it made me hungry to practice, but I stood there for a moment or two, not knowing what to do. A young woman who was wrapping up her practice told me that I should wait for Barry, the teacher, to greet me.

Barry met me under the aforementioned archway. I introduced myself, and once again, I lamely offered that I wanted to practice Ashtanga yoga in the Mysore style. He explained to me the protocol: meet and talk to Eddie and observe the studio for the first day. I told him I had already met Eddie, so he told me to sit down and watch.

What I saw can only be described as mind boggling - the poses some of the students were getting into, or seemingly floating into - the acrobatics of it all. I felt intimidated. But I remembered that it's not about how much you can do. It's about doing it.

The next day, today, I came to practice (but first I took a led class with Mary-Beth at New York Yoga, my teaching home - where I teach my own classes to a wonderful, inspiring group of students - I was nervous that I would not be allowed to practice, and besides I love Mary-Beth's what's another hour or two of yoga? It's all good....).

Sarah was the teacher. I introduced myself and laid down my mat and began. And it was amazing. That room is like magic. It is peaceful but energizing at the same time. It makes you NEED to practice. You simply are drawn in, and it happens. I stopped after Marichi C, although I was able to bind on both sides with Sarah's help. There was no time left to do anything but sit in Lotus and then Savasana.

I can't wait to go back.

My primary Ashtanga teacher (and yoga teacher idol, to be honest) has been, and remains Mary-Beth Garruti, but this Mysore thing is happening, and I am loving it!


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Copyright 2005-2007 Lauren Cahn, all rights reserved. Photos appearing on this blog may be subject to third party copyright ownership. You are free to link to this blog and portions hereof, but the use of any direct content requires the prior written consent of the author.

About Me

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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