We Cannot Help But Be Seen
Govinda Kai has added so many photos of Guruji to his Flickr stream lately! I didn’t even see many of them on AshtangaNews’ Flickr sidebar.
This photo is from Guruji’s 91st birthday. Click on the photo to see more…and don’t forget to explore around.
From his photo set, A Visit to Kowshika, Govinda writes: “A special trip was made to the small town where Guruji grew up in called Kowshika to honor the death anniversary of Guruji’s late wife.”
It took a lot of time and effort to establish the Mysore-Style program at the Yoga Is Youthfulness studio, but we have been rewarded more than I could have ever imagined. In this post, I’d like to share how it all came together at our yoga studio.
In a prior post, I outlined some of the the challenges of setting up a Mysore-Style Ashtanga program.
Mysore class at YiY (photo by Antonia)
Anne Finstad and I were lucky to have Joseph Hentz‘ full approval (and later, his wife Sabina’s) when we embarked on starting a Mysore-Style program at Yoga Is Youthfulness in Mountain View, California (that’s 40 miles south of San Francisco – where Google is also based). It really helped that he was (and is) a dedicated Ashtangi. I think it would be difficult to set up such an intensive program at a studio where the owner did not at least practice Ashtanga yoga.
To get a better picture of how our program progressed over the years, I went back to our old studio schedules (a great way to see the evolution of any yoga studio). Here’s a rough timeline:
- 1999: YiY Grand Opening. Straight away there’s an Ashtanga flavour to this studio: 4 out of 18 classes were Ashtanga led evening classes. The dominating style at YiY at this point is Bikram.
- Sometime in 2000: we started off with an unguided Ashtanga self-practice group 4-5 times a week at 6:15 in the morning ($5 donation). Without the led classes I think it would have been difficult to get this going. We had a handful of regulars at this point, practicing 3-5 times a week. A self-practice group is a good seed for a Mysore-Style program.
- December 2001: First Mysore-Style class introduced (Friday). It took a while to make the jump to teaching Mysore-Style, as we did not have any role models (the nearest other class was 40 miles aways).
- September 2002: twice a week (Friday and Sunday). From that point on, the Sunday class has been our best attended class, when we’ve consistently broken attendance records.
- January 2003: 4 times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday). We took advantage of the “January Effect” and New’s Year resolutions to double our classes. I think it’s very important to introduce new classes during busy periods, just to get them going.
- November 2003: 5 times a week (no Tuesdays). Up to this point if we had 10 students a day it was considered a busy day. It had been two years since we had started the program, and there were still days at this point when we were wondering whether we were doing the right thing and whether it would work. We were just short of a “full” 6 day a week Mysore program.
- July 2004: 6 times a week. The impetus to commit to a full program came as a result of a month-long 6-day-a-week Mysore-Style workshop. The previous month, we were fortunate to have Dominic Corigliano (a Certified teacher) come to teach a month long Mysore workshop at our studio. This was a first for us: a lot of students who were practicing 2 to 3 times a week took this opportunity to try out daily practice, and as happens often, got hooked. After Dom left, there was no way we could go back to anything less than 6 days a week! We also added a led Friday Primary Series class as it is done in Mysore India.
Lino Miele teaching a workshop at our studio in 2003
Anne made 3 trips to Mysore during those first 5 years (I had twins so my movements were constrained…), and every time she came back it energized every one and took our program to the next level. Particularly memorable was her trip at beginning of 2004, when she took 3 students with her. They all blogged about their experience and it became required reading for our entire community.
Anne’s Mysore experiences and studying with Guruji and Sharath greatly influenced what we did at YiY, in subtle and not so subtle ways:
- Introducing a Friday led class was important to convey the pacing of the practice and for all the students to learn the vinyasa count. I taught the class and tried to model it on the led classes taught by Pattabhi Jois.
- We tried emulate how postures were given in Mysore. How and when postures are given to students can make or break a Mysore-Style program, and Anne’s experience was invaluable in that area.
Anne Finstad and her friend auntie in Mysore, India
- Through being in Mysore, Anne had met with some of the most renowned teachers in the world. Thanks to her contacts we were able to invite Christine Hoar, Kirsten & Mitchell, Dominic & Saisha, David Roche and more.
- Anne’s dedication and commitment to the practice was the cornerstone of the program.
Another YiY Mysore snippet (photo by Antonia)
There was another ingredient which was essential to the success of the program: the flourishing of a “Mysore community” outside the class. Through innumerable potluck dinners and brunchs, video viewings, sutra discussions, chai-making classes and the like, a tightly-knit community has emerged. You can see its virtual expression on MorningMysore.com, the community’s website.