Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Mysore Question: Themes, Theses and Anti-theses

It seems that the Ashtanga blogosphere never tires of posing (and trying to answer) the "Why Go to Mysore/Why go to the Source?" question.Which is great: If nothing else, it gives me more material to Ashtangeek about :-) 

In the course of reading the many responses that have been given to this question over the past few weeks, I have noticed that there are at least three main themes that run through all these responses. Each theme can be divided into two parts, a thesis and an anti-thesis:

Theme (1) : The Magic of that room at KPJAYI

Thesis: "You should go to Mysore because it is the source of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. There is a certain magic to practicing in that practice room at KPJAYI that simply cannot be replicated elsewhere."

Anti-thesis: "Sure, there may be a certain magic in practicing in that room, but the experience is really no more magical than practicing anywhere else: When it comes down to it, the magic is in the practice, not in any particular physical place. If you think that your practice will magically transform just because you are at KPJAYI, or that you will somehow magically emerge from that place a much more self-realized being, well, you're just misguided."

Theme (2): The Magic of India/the Motherland

Thesis: "The experience of traveling to India/Mysore transforms you fundamentally, in a way that cannot happen if you simply study with an authorized or certified teacher where you are."

Anti-thesis: "Sure, the experience of traveling to India/Mysore may transform you radically, but what is really doing the transforming here is the experience of a different culture, not anything related to the practice. If you were to go to, say, Italy, and immerse yourself in its culture like you would immerse yourself in the culture of India, you will also experience the same transformation. Guaranteed, or your money back :-)"

Theme (3): At KPJAYI/The Source, you get unparalleled instruction in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

Thesis: "Studying Ashtanga at KPJAYI is like attending the Harvard or Yale or MIT of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. You are studying with this guy (Sharath) who has spent 21 years living and studying with Guruji, and who is totally dedicated to the life work of his grandfather. It is as close as you will ever get to studying with Guruji himself."

Anti-thesis: "These days, there are so many people studying at KPJAYI (as many as 400 at one time) that you are unlikely to get much individual attention from Sharath. What good is being in the presence of somebody who has studied for such a long time with Guruji if you can't get him to pay you much attention? Besides, with so many people there, the whole place has become at least as much a socializing hotspot, a.k.a Club Mysore, as it is a place of serious spiritual pursuit. Why spend all that money and time to travel halfway across the world just to socialize with a bunch of people and get entangled with one another's chitta vrttis? Moreover, you are much more likely to get more individualized attention if you study with an authorized or certified teacher where you are, where the classes are almost certain to be so much smaller."

If you read this blog regularly, you probably have a pretty good idea where I stand with regard to the three themes above. So I'm not going to repeat myself here. Instead, I'll just sign off here, and leave you to ponder and draw your own conclusions about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the theses and anti-theses in the three themes. If you think that there is a theme I have left out, or if you just have something to share, I'll love to hear from you. 


  1. Dear Nobel, I'm sure you want to go. It's good that you digest both sides of the issues. I might go once for the experience, but would get more by working with other teachers, whether in Asia or elsewhere in India.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Arturo. It may very well be true that you will get at least as much from working with other teachers as from going to Mysore. But that in itself won't stop me from going at least once.

      Have fun in Singapore! I saw the food porn you posted on your blog of the sweets in Little India. Looks positively delicious!

  2. These theses and anti-theses are all valid in their own right, but for something as personal as a yoga practice, whether or not to go to "The Source" has to be something that you feel compelled to do, for the right reasons. You have to *want* to go, not go just because you think it's the "right" or the "cool" thing to do.

    Jason (Leaping Lanka) expresses it perfectly in his latest post.

    1. Hello D,
      "Jason (Leaping Lanka) expresses it perfectly in his latest post."

      I totally agree. Actually, I got many of the ideas in my theses and anti-theses from his post.

      I also agree that ultimately, whether to go or not to go is a matter of the heart rather than the mind. I shared this recently in a comment at Grimmly's. But well, I try to be rational too :-)