A question of space and time

My confusion about the shala timings continues – today I was so early I was late?!

The time given on my ID card is 9am for Mysore classes, which I now know actually means 8:30am, so I arrived at what I imagined to be a super-early 7:55am in order not to embarrass myself again. The only other person there at that time was the girl who’d come in after me yesterday and practised next to me on the stage – disgraced minds think alike…

The man on the gate told us we were too early and couldn’t enter until 8:30, but then Sharath’s stern ‘One more!’ wafted out through the door and he nodded us through. To further tax my discombobulated mind, a lady inside then asked for my ID card, scribbled out the 9am start time and wrote 8:30 instead.

‘You start from 8:30 from tomorrow,’ she said. ‘But you come at 8:15, OK?’ By which, of course, she meant 7:45. (My head hurts just writing this.)

Feeling rather dazed I entered the fug of the shala.

“You’re late! You should have been here 15 minutes ago!’ Sharath shouted at me from the stage. I decided it was best to nod meekly and find my spot rather than explain I was ridiculously early for the next batch rather than late for this one. I’ll get it right eventually!

But despite the teething tribulations of knowing what time it was and who and where I was, I actually enjoyed my practice. The room was so crowded with sweating, contorting bodies that it was actually easier to go inward and focus on my own practice, as the alternative was too overwhelming. Still, my drishti naturally wandered a bit. I noticed that Sharath spent long periods perched cross-legged on his chair on the stage, surveying the room and shouting his already familiar ‘One more!’ every time a spot became available. The scene somehow made me think of a garden gnome presiding with glee over a pond seething with slippery, writhing eels for the taking. Probably just me though…

He’s massively on the ball though, darting amongst the students in between space-spotting and deftly dishing out adjustments, usually helping to take hands to ankles in drop-backs. There was also a team of around ten assistant adjusters, one of whom helped me into supta kurmasana, although I only saw their feet and ankles. I then received an adjustment from the man himself. I’d just finished my third drop-back and he stood in front of me and told me to go down again.

‘You take your hands to your ankles,’ he told me. Easier said than done, but I gave it my best shot and it actually felt amazing in my upper back to go deeper than I’d usually dare. He helped me back up.

‘Next week, no problem,’ he said and gave me a warm smile, which felt like the most welcome of gifts after what I felt had been a shaky start at shala etiquette on my part. I completed the finishing series in the changing room, which is the done thing, and enjoyed a buzzing savasana.

I felt good. Not amazing, not blown away by some revelatory experience of having touched magic. But definitely good. Looking into Sharath’s eyes I suppose is like looking directly into the blood lineage of the form of yoga I’ve ended up dedicating so many hours of my life to. And that felt like a good thing. A connection of sorts. A sense of belonging. True, I already feel that sense of belonging when I practise in my local shala back home, but it was good to know I can feel it on the other side of the world too, at the place where it all began… 🙂


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