When I’m teaching in Mysore, I’m so involved in teaching that I hardly get time to do my own practice. Every year, I always try to take a few months where I can concentrate on my own sādhana. This is what I’m currently doing. It helps me refresh my yoga practice and my teachings as well as maintain balance.
Usually, I teach for five to six months straight, but this past season, I wanted to take a break to be with my family and help my children with their education. Many students told me that the past two months went by so fast. Some were crying when they left. They didn’t want to leave. They wanted to stay and study, but they have family and work to return to. They wanted to know when the shala will be open again so they can take holiday from their work to come back. But a part of yoga is to live a balanced, steady life, and not spend too much time away from home.
When students come to Mysore, they don’t have the usual demands of their life back home. For many, it’s nice to come to the source and learn. At home, they have their job and family and it’s difficult for them to give complete attention toward their yoga practice. In Mysore, if they choose, they can concentrate completely on yoga.
Mysore is very simple. Nothing is fancy in Mysore. No matter how fancy your life is in your country or how complicated it is, once you come to Mysore and learn in the shala, everything is simple. The teachings are simple, very effective, but simple. It’s about experiencing your yoga practice in an environment where you can relax.
In Mysore, students spend time together. They learn yoga, practice together, sightsee, and lunch together. It’s learning, but they also enjoy their time. All these things rejuvenate them. They go back refreshed to their country, but they always miss it here. In Mysore, they feel like they are part of a family.
It’s the same when I travel to teach. Every year, I get many requests to teach students in their hometown. I have been traveling for many years now, teaching yoga, and trying to reach as many places as I can. Not everyone can come to India to study yoga, so when I travel, I try to give them the experience of how authentic yoga is in Mysore. I’ve gone to places where there was no Aṣṭāṅga yoga, where students had never experienced the authentic yoga that we teach in Mysore. I always try to encourage them to learn more. The energy is very good when students visit me on tour and are willing to learn. Maybe one day they will visit Mysore, but until then I will try to go to them.
In many ways, traveling recharges me. Whether I’m teaching, traveling or taking time off, I try to keep in harmony with family, work and sādhana. When making my plans to travel, I consider my practice, my meals, and my sleep routine. When taking time off, I consider my students and how to recharge so I can teach them. When teaching, I try to enjoy everyday life with my wife and children. For my own sādhana, balancing these things is essential to contributing my best efforts toward anything I do.
Very soon, I will begin traveling again. In April, I’ll be in Thailand and China. Then I’m home to teach in Mysore for June, July and August. In the September, we have a tour going to Spain and Portugal—two countries I’ve never visited before. Once I taught in Santiago, Chile, but this will be my first time to a Spanish-European speaking or Portuguese speaking country. In October, we are doing a yatra in Northern India in Rishikesh, and then I go to Japan, the Philippines, and Bali. When I travel and meet new people, it’s inspiring. Maybe they have just started doing this yoga and when they practice with me, they get a certain energy. Hopefully, it leads them on a path of transformation.
Photography by Leslie Hendry