|with Guruji Pattabi Jois|
Unfortunately, I'm not the most flexible person on this planet and this is further complicated by a cervical slipped disc injury in 1999 (due to over-training before a cave diving class scheduled in Florida). Thus, I am so thrilled that on the first day of the AYRI class, I was able to do my very first drop back. This is, a back bend from a standing position.
The first day of class was yesterday, New Year's January 1. We were told to come at 6:30 am. When we got to AYRI, people were milling about in the streets drinking coconut juice and shopping for organic wheat or banana bread, honey, soya milk carrot juice etc. I guess street vendors picked up the scene in Mysore and turned the area into a mini bazaar. The daybreak crowd was from the 5am class. There are three time slots: 5am is for those who have been here for months or have been coming to AYRI for several years; the second batch is at 630am and the third at 8am. The latter slot is mostly for newbies handled by Saraswati, the daughter of Guruji and the mother of Sharath.
When we walked in, the foyer area was already packed with students sitting on cold marble waiting for their turn. Either Guruji or Saraswati will call out "one more" or "two more" to fill out the empty mat space inside the shala. The closing sequence is done in the dressing room. The shala can fit up to 70 students maximum plus additional 5 to 6 people onstage. You can imagine the number of students this time of the year. The shala is full from 5 to 8 am and then starts thinning after 830am.
The mat space calls for very, very tight suryanamaskars and creative Suptas (I always look at my neighbors before I do this pose).. Guruji, who usually stays until 7am, Saraswati and Manju walk around assisting students. It seems that they are always present to assist during drop backs and I did my first with Saraswati and second today with Manju. I guess Manju flew in from the States because Sharath will be in Goa until Jan 8.
Manju is kind and loves to crack jokes. I told him about my tight knee this morning and he gently eased me through the Marich D. Yesterday he instructed Liana to do 16 drop backs and then started laughing when he saw her alarmed look. Saraswati comes across as being much tougher. Today on my Bhujapidasana I saw her walk away from my mat . So when I struggled to jump back, I was surprised to find her hand on my back and cued me to "stay up, stay up". However, I failed to stay up and she asked me to repeat everything.
The shala is closed on moon days, so tomorrow we'll be moving to a flat. We found a 2-bedroom on Countour Road yesterday two blocks down the shala. Boy, it took two days to find something decent. We solicited the help of everybody - Shiva, AYRI's merchandise manage (Muti), the owner of Arun internet cafe and resto (Ganesh) and the rickshaw driver recommended by Yoga Manila's Hoze Arando (Rama). Its a mad rush to find anything at this time - be it a room, flat or scooter. Ganesh told us this afternoon that there was a line outside his place with people with their luggage looking for accommodations. If you do plan to come, best to call and make reservations at least a month in advance (contact: Shiva +919844226082 or Muti +919880265622).
AYRI is so popular. With the dollar down at USD1=Rs42,the Rs26900 registration fee is expensive (includes the first month though). Then it is Rs17900 for each succeeding month. Guruji handles the registration personally from 4:30 to 5:30 pm from Mon-Fri. The sanskrit and chanting courses are M-W-F and cost Rs700 each. I signed up for the class and the teacher is Lakshmish from Kerala and is dead set serious on us learning. On the first day, our homework is to learn how to pronounce and write the eight out of 15 sanskrit vowels and to start reading the "Shrimad Bhagvadgita" by Svami Tapasynanda.
So far, been enjoying soaking up everything - 92-year old Guruji, the food, morning practice and the students from all over. Its like an international conference of various nationalities and ages. After the first drop back, I'm now open to anything.