The Mysore Diary, #8 (ENG)

Pic by Alessandro Sigismondi

One month has gone by and I am left with just a few more days to spend in Mysore. I am already feeling that funny butterflies sensation in my belly when thinking about my life waiting for me in Milan. I am starting to miss my family, my friends and my cat. Yet I don’t want to leave India… Not yet! So many things I would like to do here, and not enough time left. I will miss practicing with Saraswathi, chanting, Sanskrit classes, the feeling of living in a Yoga community, actually a Yoga city. Wherever you turn, a friendly smile, somebody you can immediately relate to, somebody that won’t think you’re a bit mad talking about bandha, dristhi, asana, Yoga Sutra and the likes. But it’s almost time to bring India back with me. It’s time to give back what I received here, and most of all, what I felt. I never thought this practice could be healing to such powerful extents, even if I have been practicing for years. Coming here put me to the test on many levels. I learnt how to deal with my fears and how important it is to always be yourself, on and off the mat. Over the past few weeks I learnt that my slipped discs cannot stop my practice and can actually heal through it. Sometimes pain is more in our minds than in our body! My practice grew in stability and concentration and I learnt how to balance my natural flexibility with my new strength. But most of all… I met some amazing individuals that I want to thank. Some are old friends, some are new additions to my life that I sincerely hope to cross path with soon again. Greg Nardi, a Teacher I have known since 2007, and his husband Juan Carlos Valan. Alessandro Sigismondi, photographer extraordinaire, his wife Paula Vahos and lovely Leo, you’ve got a friend forever. The brave and intense Taylor Hunt, whose book I can’t wait to read, and his great family. PJ Heffernan and his rock and roll energy. Sam Chen and his adjustments… and vegan cakes! Mark Robberds and Deepika Metha with their beautiful love. Kelly Hogan and our rickshaw ride to Devaraja market. My Italian crew: Martina and Chiara Cova, The Best room mates ever, Rosa Tagliafierro and her hugs just when you need one. My Teacher Elena De Martin with her wisdom and experience, so great to have her here. Maria Luisa Gorla and our afternoons by the pool. Susanna Finocchi and her wonderful smile. Gian Renato Marchisio and his Sama Konasana performance on the rocks. Every single Yogi who practiced next to me at Saraswathi’s and in the main shala. Lakshmish and his great tuitions; Arvind and his philosophy talks, Jayashree and her melodic voice, Akhil Lanka and his healing singing bowls, Nektarious and his sitar. Sudha and her tempting Yoga Shop not to mention Meena and her jewellery… Manju and Ravi the rickshaw drivers. All the guys at OM Cafe, Chakra House, Santosha, Anoki, Anu’s Cafe, Depth’n’green, Kushi, Maya… All the Yogi’s hung outs in Gokulam. And the chai master Amruth Cafe! There is not enough space to mention all of you guys and I have to work on remembering names, but you are in my heart and always will be. I will think of all of you every morning before practicing and it will be like being here, only on a more subtle level. I love you. We are One.

(Pic by Alessandro Sigismondi)

The Mysore Diary, #7 (ENG)

In India, I am amazed at how many things I am quite happy without. No TV, radio, CD player, newspapers or magazines. No PC. No dishwasher or washing machine. No supermarkets, no car. No phone calls, texting or posting only when wifi is available. No high heels! And the list could go on. In exchange here’s what I got: practice every morning with Guruji’s daughter, Saraswathi Jois and her wonderful assistants. Saturday conferences with Sharath. Chanting, Sanskrit and Hatha Yoga Pradipika with Lakshmish. Philosophy class with Arvind. Sound healing with Akhil Lanka. But most of all: eye contact, conversations, random kindness, hugs and smiles from everybody – practitioners, Teachers, rickshaw drivers, shop owners, every single person I meet on the streets. Help from whoever you ask, from the Ashtangi community as well as any Indian person I bump into. Kids calling me at every corner. Praying at any temple, where there is always somebody ready to tell me how to do it properly. Lovely evenings watching the Indian sky and the moon phases. Wonderful books at the Green House and rest days at the pool or at the Market with new and old friends. Time is running up and in a few days I’ll be back to my hectic western world, where now is always contaminated by the “what’s next” thought. This is what I want to take back with me. The ability to live rooted in the here and now, wherever I am. Living at the pace of our soul, that never worries about the future or cries about the past, because only the present moment  is real, and we have to give it all the love we’ve got.

Right here, right now.
(pic by Kelly Hogan)

The Mysore Diary, #6 (ENG)

New Year’s Eve has come. It’s 9:30 pm and I am in bed already. Tomorrow is near and I practice early. I will wake up and walk towards Saraswathi’s Shala passing by the slums, feeding some of the street dogs that I’d take home if I could. Here reality hits you in the face with its brutal beauty. We were born with so many blessings that we fail to see when we are in our comfortable western homes. Yet we come here and through the practice we meet our obstacles and try to burn some karma. Every day during my practice I ask myself: when will I be able to be really present? To forget about judgement, expectations, desire, disappointment or pride? Than maybe for just one breath, in just one posture, it happens. I am lost, or I am found. I am part of this one big breath that moves throughout the room. And I am thankful. I don’t know if this practice is the truth I was looking for. But it certainly is one way to get there. So every morning I get on my mat. One day feeling great, the next with my back or another part of my body reminding me of who I was, who I have grown into, how old – or young – I am, what I have to let go, what I have to be thankful for. One hour and half goes in a second. I am back on Mysore streets just when the air gets warmer. I am a newcomer here, yet I am part of the family already. We are all here for the same reason, we are all here trying to do our best. There is no good way or bad way to be in Mysore. We are all giving it all we’ve got, with our pain and our joy. We are here with our sorrows and our regrets, with our love and our hopes. Maybe we came hoping for a new posture, or for a new understanding. Maybe that posture won’t come, but you’ll understand more. “One more! One more, come!” Saraswathi voice makes me open the door. I lay my mat, ready to start a new day. I am again a student, and always will be. There is no year end and no beginning, because we are as timeless as our first and last breath.

The Mysore Diary #5 (ENG)

Here we go: it’s going to be Xmas eve soon and we will celebrate with a Kirtan at Santosha Cafe. Today, exactly one week after my arrival here, I realized while practicing that the back pain I always feel due to my two bulging discs is GONE. I have been practicing for years and now here, in Mysore, suddenly I feel I have done a gigantic step forward – I totally surrendered to the practice. I came here with no other expectation than walking on my teachers’ footsteps, approaching the practice with an open heart and sticking to its tradition. Well, it’s paying off. I wish all practicing Ashtanga take this leap of faith and come to Mysore to understand how important Parampara is. Saraswathi and Sharath are carrying over a very heavy legacy with grace and strength and they are two Masters in their own rights. Think how many bodies and personalities they have seen and worked with – it’s unimaginable. The teachers that have been Authorized or Certified here have taken on a big responsibility and deserve a lot of respect. This practice works if it is taught the same way (Guruji) Sharath and Saraswathi  do here. It’s a system, it’s a method, and you have to learn it the right way. Go to an Authorized Teacher, don’t buy into shortcuts- they simply aren’t worth it. Every method should be learned at The source or through those who came to the source. My greatest respect goes to all my Ashtanga Yoga teachers, because they are doing an incredible, neverending work. Learning Yoga is something that has no end, but a mandatory starting point is travelling to its Mother Country, India. Mysore is a place where you shred off layers of your Self and surrender to a Higher Power, that embraces us all. You are surrounded by beauty and suffering, your weaknesses are brutally exposed. There is no better place than here, no better time than now to be true to yourself. Merry Christmas!

The Mysore Diary, #4 (ENG)

Those who think the Yogi’s life is nice and easy should come to Mysore and study and KPJAYI! No kidding, if you practice Ashtanga seriously – and this practice demands that you do, or else – the work you have to do is paramount. I am not talking about the postures but more about the method. Drishti, Bandha, Breath during Asana are the first step to take if you are to bring your consciousness on the here and now and prepare it for the greater work of meditation. The Yama and Niyama are rules of ethics that guide your interactions with the outside world and show you how you can be a better person and truly find peace within.

Here you are surrounded by amazing teachers, people coming from all paths of life, all sort of backgrounds, that have devoted their life to a practice that makes no discounts, no special offers – rather, it asks you to come and face your demons every day on the mat, whatever their shape might be – Supta Kurmasana or Kapotasana, to name two of the easiest because here we have some serious bad asses! I am loving this new generation of teachers and find they have so much to say and to give. They embody a critical choice for an age group that could have easily resigned to a dull life, given in to the prison of consumerism to find themselves trapped in all sort of psychological dissatisfaction if not dis-ease – yet, they searched for a different way of interacting with the Universe, looked for a force within rather than superficial goods to fill their life with and are making the difference, day after day, step by step. Yes, they might use social media but how can we spread a message otherwise these days? Is this that bad? When you meet them in person they look almost shy and humble. Instagram and Facebook are a way of reaching out and inspire and some of them are really doing a great job. Think of Greg Nardi, Taylor Hunt, Mark Robberds, PJ Heffernan – their stories are so interesting and powerful that deserve to be known so that more people can discover The True Power of Yoga – its ability to deeply change one’s life, to make us less dependant on what politicians and media want us to believe. A Yogi is a revolutionary, is someone that is willing to face and defeat his fears. We come here to learn, and we surrender to a teacher – we let go. We come here to let go.

The Mysore Diary, #3 (ENG)

I have been here since Wednesday and I already feel at home. I had read a lot of good and bad things about the Ashtangis community in Mysore, but my overall impression is amazing. First, the quality of Saraswathi’s teaching never stops to surprise me. This lady has stamina and she always gives an extra. Today it was Led Primary and I found it incredibly helpful in reminding us students of the correct Vinyasa especially in closing asanas. We all tend to go fast on these when at home, already projecting ourselves towards our daily chores: here we are reminded of the importance to wind down and take our time to meditate. Saraswathi made us sit in Padmasana a bit longer experiencing some Pranayama, and made us chant a bit more, which was really nice. We don’t give enough time to Bhakti in our practices while devotion should become more important as we age. Practicing in the main Shala is a beautiful experience, the energy of so many yogis is there and it kind of influences our own. I keep thinking that we are coming here to find a connection with God that we are losing in our perfectly organized western homes.
I feel the main Shala is a temple where our bodies become vehicles of our souls. I dedicated my practice today to my family’s wellbeing. I wonder what Indians really think of us. They are all very friendly and patient with our hurried attitude! After practice, there are lots of things to do. Having garments made with fabrics of your choice is incredibly fast and cheap. I’ll show you my designs when ready on Tuesday! Also don’t forget to have a Mala made at Silver Nest: another fab lady realizing beautiful jewellery at very affordable prices. Have breakfast at Anhoki or Santosha, great food and lovely places to hang out. More on my next post! Now it’s time to take some rest, have a good read, and maybe a little nap!

The Mysore Diary, #2 (ENG)

There are so many things to say about Mysore that is really difficult to find a starting point. Practice with Saraswathi and her assistants is lovely. The Shala is clean and welcoming. You practice the closing postures in a bedroom so it really feels home. She assists everybody, it feels like she assess everybody’s energy during drop backs. You can feel her Eyes on you all the time! Every shop or coffee place is in a house, so you always feel like you are visiting friends. A very nice atmosphere everywhere. It’s clear that all we Westerners looking for a more approachable spirituality have brought some well being so it’s India, but softer than elsewhere… Although traditions are well alive. Tank tops and shorts are possible only during pratice, the Ganesh temple you walk by going to the Shala is always attended and last night a small, colorful procession was coming down the Main Road. At 8 pm everybody is home, practice starts early and rest is needed: we are all practicing with more intensity here! At the main Shala this morning I saw a few very popular teachers – David Robson, Mark Robberds, Day… I met Greg Nardi and Tim Feldmann yesterday and the wonderful Susanna Finocchi told me she read my blog! I feel blessed! Tonight I am going to a tibetan bells meditation, really looking forward to it. Wondering how many other lovely experiences are waiting for me over The next month!

The Mysore diary, #1 (ENG)

 On the road to Mysore!

This is my third time in India, but my very first time in Mysore. I have been procrastinating this journey for God knows how many years – thinking my practice was not good enough, or that I was going to quit Ashtanga sooner or later, or that I would wait till I found somebody to come with me. Unless I finally realized that there is no such thing as a perfect practice, or rather that I have nothing to prove to anybody – let alone my judging self – that almost 20 years down the line I am still practicing, and that the only other person that I should go with is well, me. So here I am at my first pit stop, stranded at Abu Dhabi airport waiting for my connect flight to Bangalore.
Do I have expectations? Yes and no. I do expect to meet a lot of friends I made over years practicing everywhere in the world – London, Miami, Paris, New York, Ibiza, Los Angeles – you name it. I do expect to walk emotionally in The Shala in Mysore where Sri K. Pattabhi Jois taught the system to so many of my teachers. I do not expect to come back walking on my fingertips or with any particular new physical skill. But maybe,I hope to find like-minded souls who I can talk to about what this practice is about, what is it that keeps us hooked in the quest for spiritual liberation. Here I am sitting in one of this airport cafes, where probably so many students like me passed by, waiting to reach Mysore. I am curious to feel the magic of India once more, and if you want to follow me on this journey, keep checking my page every now and then.