And the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
You may have noticed that I haven’t been teaching or practising at Ashtanga Yoga Melbourne lately. That’s because I’m in Mysore. Yes, again! It’s my third visit to Mysore and my sixth trip to India since 2012.
So, why do I keep returning?
Every year many yoga students from all over the world, make the annual pilgrimage to Mysore in South India to study Ashtanga yoga with teachers Sharath and Saraswati (daughter of Sri K Pattabhi Jois and also Sharath’s mother). Sharath took over teaching at KPJAYI after his grandfather, Sri K Pattabhi Jois passed away in 2009. Saraswati teaches at her own shala, a few minutes away from the main shala.
Pilgrimage is a significant aspect of spiritual tradition in India. Sri T. Krishnamacharya also made a pilgrimage in the early 1900’s, to the Himalayas where there are many sacred sites, therefore a popular destination for pilgrims seeking spiritual knowledge and experiences. There he found his Guru, Rama Mohan Brahmachari and studied with him for 7 years, learning as much as he could. He later returned to Mysore and began teaching what he’d learned. One of his students was Sri K Pattabhi Jois and rest is history.
At one of my first conferences at KPJAYI this trip, Sharath spoke about pilgrimage and parampara. I will talk about parampara later but for now I will talk a little more about pilgrimage.
There are many temples and sacred sites in India where Hindus regularly make their pilgrimages. These sites and the spiritual stories that are told there contain powerful vibrations. Sharath says one of the important elements of pilgrimage is the journey itself. He says, it shouldn’t be easy, like when you go on a holiday or if you go to the Himalayas, there’s no point if you make the journey by helicopter. It’s meant to be a journey of hardship from which you will eventually reap the benefits that come, once you overcome the obstacles and challenges along the way. Although Mysore is not known as a pilgrimage destination for Hindus, it has become ‘The Mecca’ for thousands of yoga students from all of the world. I feel that it’s a great privilege be here in Mysore studying with Sharath and I can assure you it’s no holiday. For some, practice starts at 4am!
In Ashtanga yoga there are 8 limbs of the practice. The third limb is asana where the practice begins for most students. Sharath says, the main purpose for starting with asana is to prepare the mind and the body for self-realization. In order to recognise the yoga that is already within you, your mind and body need to be stable and clear. In some ways, the yogi takes a metaphorical pilgrimage inward on a journey towards self discovery.
This is expressed succinctly in one of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s from in the first chapter.
1.3 tada drastuh svarupe-avasthanam
Then, the seer is established (or re-established) in its true nature.
Part 2: Parampara:The Jungle Doctor