Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Going to Mysore? Getting Authorized?

"If I knew that today would be the last time I’d see you, I would hug you tight and pray the Lord be the keeper of your soul. If I knew that this would be the last time you pass through this door, I’d embrace you, kiss you, and call you back for one more. If I knew that this would be the last time I would hear your voice, I’d take hold of each word to be able to hear it over and over again. If I knew this is the last time I see you, I’d tell you I love you, and would not just assume foolishly you know it already."

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Grimmly's recent post has sparked a lively conversation about going to Mysore and getting authorized. As usual, I'm going to piggy-back on this conversation, and say a couple of things here.

I have previously written quite a bit about my feelings about going to Mysore (see this post). For me, the Mysore bug, if I may call it that, is something that arises more intensely at certain times more than others. When I wrote that earlier post about going to Mysore, I was going through this very intensely contemplative phase in my personal life/practice. Right now, the intensity seems to have subsided somewhat (being in the middle of the semester, and having a ton of things to do probably also helps to take my mind off too much existential Ashtangic ponderings). In addition, the fact that I have gotten so much valuable guidance from great teachers in this country in the past few months (especially Kino) has also given me a sense that perhaps, just perhaps, going to Mysore might not be so vital to the continued development of my practice as I thought it was.

But what do I know? After all, I have never been to Mysore, and there might be certain irreplaceable experiences that one can only get in Mysore. So maybe I should not say any more about this issue. I'll just make a couple of rather obvious observations here, and see if these get us anywhere. So here are my humble observations:

(1) One does not need to go to Mysore to practice Ashtanga. I think this is true even if one's intention is to practice Ashtanga in its "pure form", as it is practiced and taught in Mysore. Of course, you need to take this observation with a pinch of salt, since I have never been to Mysore, and have no first-hand experience to back this claim up with. But given the number of authorized and certified teachers in North America and Europe (and the rest of the world) who are committed to teach the tradition as they have been taught (and I have no reason to doubt their sincerity in this area), I think we are in pretty good hands on this count.

(2) One does not need to get authorized or certified in order to teach Ashtanga. Being authorized or certified indicates that one has been entrusted (I don't know if this is the right word, but this will have to do) with the responsibility and the expectation that one will teach the Ashtanga tradition as it has been passed down to one by Guruji and Sharath at the KPJAYI. But this does not prevent someone who is not authorized or certified to teach and pass on the tradition out of his or her own spontaneous desire to share it with others. Nor, in my opinion, should people be prevented from doing so.The first person who taught me the primary series was not authorized (she had been to Mysore once). And she was no less a good teacher for not having been authorized. And although my desire to teach yoga has somewhat lessened in intensity in the past couple of years (this will take another post to talk about), I will be most happy to share this practice with whoever wants to learn and practice it.

Of course, none of this is meant to put down the value of going to Mysore and/or getting authorized. And I do not know when I will finally make that trip to Mysore, and if I will ever get authorized. But really, if we think about it, there are too many things we simply don't know, and will probably never know until the appropriate time comes. I don't know if I will ever get to third series. Actually, in light of my recent posts, a better question to ask would be: Will I get to do Karandavasana in the near future, or even ever again in this lifetime? I don't know. Actually, come to think of it, every morning, when I wake up and step on my mat, I don't really even know if I will make it past the standing series. I just take things breath by breath; miraculously, even on my most tired days, things always open up, and I always find the energy to go forward.

So when all is said and done, going to Mysore and/or getting authorized is great, but not having these things will not (and should not) stop one from practicing and gaining the benefits of the practice. Once again, do your practice, and all is coming. 

Then again, you probably already know all these things anyway. Thanks for putting up with all this repetition ;-)


  1. Lively discussion, did I miss something?

  2. I am referring to your April 25th post on going to Mysore and Becoming Authorized. There were 16 comments on it. Not all of those comments talked about going to Mysore and becoming authorized, of course, but a few did. Unless, of course, I am seeing things :-)

  3. My current teacher says, "Mysore is a great place to practice ... but it isn't the only great place to practice :o) i've had many amazing practices in Singapore too ... but keep that dream alive ... some day, it may happen!"

    I'm taking her word for it and stick to own practice for now.

    And, there's only one certified and authorized teacher in singapore :(

  4. yoginicory, your teacher's advice is great advice. I believe it too.

    So there's one authorized teacher in Singapore? I wouldn't have known that; I didn't start practicing yoga until I came to the U.S. :-)

  5. I understand. I've gone through phases of intense desire to go (recently passed through one of those), even despair about not going, and then equally clear phases of not caring to go or seeing the need to go. Now, I feel like I would like to experience India, but not necessarily for the express purpose of working on my practice. I definitely have plenty to work on and learn right here, I can tell you that for sure. And, I'm off to read GGM...I'm loving re-reading Love in the Time of Cholera now (and love the quote here). Kristen

  6. Thanks for sharing, Kristen. I empathize totally with your sentiments. Yes, Love in the Time of Cholera is my favorite GGM novel too. And Florentino Ariza is also my favorite GGM protagonist; as Marquez says of him, "He is ugly and sad... but he is all love."

  7. Nobel, I appreciate your courage and honesty. Nobody owns yoga; not even Ashtanga yoga. I don't know about authorization, but I think one is qualified to teach Ashtanga if they have a deep & knowledgeable practice themselves, and wish to share it with others. The best place to practice ashtanga is in a quiet mind. This allows me to hear and follow the real teacher; the one inside.

  8. Hello Alicia, thanks. I like and agree with you that "the best place to practice ashtanga is in a quiet mind."

  9. Hey Alicia,
    are you the Alicia who owns Ashtanga Yoga Richmond? If you are, thank you so much for having me over at AYR for Kino's workshop! I really enjoyed my time there.

    If you are not the Alicia who owns AYR, then... hello anyway! :-)

  10. For any folks traveling to Mysore later this year, I am looking for a travel partner, and possible networking for sharing housing. Sharath is scheduled to resume teaching there starting October, 16, 2011.

    thank you,