Articles about Gokulam, Mysore
By Paul Dallaghan
Whether you realise it or not, either directly or indirectly, the reason for pulling you towards Mysore is the work done by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and his guru Sri. Krishnamacharya over the past 75 years. Mysore is known as the home of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. It is here that Jois has dedicated his life to the practice and teaching of this approach to yoga. This approach is also responsible for the current global yoga popularity, though watered down in many off-shoot forms. One thing is for sure, Sri Jois has stayed true and committed to its teaching in a very clear and thorough manner over the past 65+ years. A visit to Mysore and the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute will reveal this fact. Studying with Pattabhi Jois, or Guruji, and his grandson Sharath, gives one the real flavour of how the practice is. January 2003 saw the AYRI open its doors at a new location after 50 or so years at the "old shala." This new shala is a magnificent structure with a large and bright practice space. Focus, calm and joy permeate through Guruji's and Sharath's teaching. These qualities are the product of yoga and can easily be felt. We are aware that yoga is not merely about the physical. It becomes clear in this approach and their teaching. Patience, focus and dedication lead one to growth and advancement. The ambience created in this space tends to nurture these qualities. If not, the result is one's own personal anguish and disappointment. Guruji will just simply say, "Yes, you come, you do." The maxim, "Practice, practice, practice and all is coming," is to be realized here. Although Guruji is in his late 80s, his strength and vitality are great to see and experience.
The practicals: The shala is open to all levels, from the absolute beginner to the seasoned, returning practitioner. Practice begins at 6am with space for about 30-35 students at a time. If one is arriving new there will probably be a wait time. As the first group finishes up the next fills the spots. If you like to watch others practicing you may sit there for an hour, otherwise wait time could be 5 to 15 minutes. A look into the room will find a very vibrant and active Guruji and Sharath teaching and adjusting. The approach to teaching here is the "Mysore" style or self practice. Every student learns the sequence of postures, combining the linking movement known as vinyasa. If you are new to the practice, do not know the sequence or have difficulty in poses, you will receive ample attention as is required. Those more familiar and adept with the series will be let practice on. Adjustments are given when needed and not for the sake of trying to satisfy every student's desires. Through yoga one becomes non-dependent. Teaching is ultimately subtle. Hands-on when needed. Sharath will carefully monitor your practice and let you know when you're ready for new poses or to begin a new series. Commitment and time in practice are required. The key to the best experience there is to come each day and just practice, no expectations. After all, this is yoga and it's our own inner experience. One thing is for sure, both Guruji and Sharath care about yoga, the practice and the student. They are not there to try to push people on or satisfy individual wants. The integrity of the practice is highlighted. And this is why we go to such experienced teachers.
In addition to practicing and studying under the Ashtanga masters themselves, Guruji and Sharath have also made Sanskrit chanting available to students in the afternoon and Sanskrit language in the morning. This takes place in the shala for registered students at 300 rps or $6 for the month. The aim of all the teaching is to help a student progress down the path of yoga, removing the obstacles and impurities that are in the way. Given the time and honest and pure approach from the student, this progress can happen. It is counterproductive to run around to others in Mysore who offer teachings. Typically this comes from a distracted mind or the overactive ego to try and push open the back or get on to a new series. It results ultimately in too much stress on the system, damage to the nerves, and ultimately confusing and clouding to the mind by receiving too many teachings and approaches. It is for this reason that the policy at the shala is that if you study there, you commit to your teachers and their guidelines. Stay focused and allow the process to happen. If you decide to go to other teachers, you'll be asked not to study at the shala anymore, as it is counterproductive to them investing their time in teaching you.
The monthly fee is US$350 with an additional $200 registration fee the first month you come. So basically that means you pay $550 for the first month and $350 for every month after that. To get the most out of your time there, a three-month stay at least is recommended, longer if you can is great, and if you only have one month then you are also most welcome. You can register from 4:30-5:30pm, Monday to Friday. Bring a passport photo. If you know for sure you are coming, then it is recommended to write in advance and let them know. To get to the shala, just give any rickshaw driver the address. Enjoy the experience.
Life in Gokulam
By Paul Dallaghan
The new wave of yoga living in Mysore is growing up in Gokulam.
Gokulam is a suburb of Mysore, away from most of the noise, traffic and pollution of the city, and considered to be one of the prime residential spots. Characteristic signs of India are ever present there but it is a much more comfortable and homely area to live in. Perhaps the best element for the yoga student staying in this neighborhood is the freedom and ease to walk to yoga, walk to lunch, walk to a friend's place, walk to evening chanting or walk to the corner store or Internet for your basic requirements.
Gokulam has become the new focus for students as of January 2003 due to the fact that Sri. Pattabhi Jois has relocated his yoga shala to a new and impressive space in this neighborhood. All the facilities from the last twenty years or so are still available in the old areas but Gokulam is receiving students and facilities in growing numbers.
As mentioned, much neighbourhood walking, even strolling, can be done yet, on your own scooter, or braving the rickshaw man, a 10-minute ride gets you in to the "city." So all in all the neighborhood is much "calmer," as Guruji would say, but also quite accessible to whatever you want to do in Mysore. Living here is just getting established, but already after a few months, the majority of students are finding places, some through word-of-mouth and others through real estate agents. Therefore, enquiring with other students at the shala and the odd other "helper" of students should lead you to something quite quickly. As the student turnover in Gokulam grows, so will the number of places and the knowledge of them. The best source is always the student grapevine to find out who has a share available or if someone is leaving and their apartment will be available. Expect to pay a little more than in old Lakshmipuram. Rents can be from 3000 - 9000 rps but the quality of place is higher and newer.
There are only a few restaurants in all of Mysore, and perhaps all of India, that we would recommend. Indian restaurant food, chiefly the north Indian cooked meals, are loaded with oil and a thickening powder, which ultimately doesn't treat your stomach and intestine nicely. South Indian thalis, idlies, dosas, rice bhaths are pretty free of them. Even better is home cooked food, either by yourself or some of the industrious Indian ladies in Gokulam who do so with love. Here are a few:
- Janaki, aka Bay's Landlady. After a request from some of the students Janaki has started offering some of the most tasty and nutritious food you'll find on this planet. Her thought was never to do it as a business or to make money but just to feed us with love. It's seen in her face. This aspect of intention is most important which tells us the purity of the food. It's too difficult to explain how to find so just ask some of the students. Now known as Janaki's Yogic Foods, she cooks on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is wise to let her know in advance. Call 500058. If you have a group that wants to eat on another day you can also call her to book it.
- Tina, the cooking and teaching meistress. She has also relocated to Gokulam. Her house is just off the KRS Road near the Hare Krishna temple. She's made a nice little garden café in the back. She serves breakfasts to all the students but is chiefly known for her cooking lessons. Typically a few students (5 or so) get together and are taught through a cooking session of their choice. The end result is that you get to enjoy the fruit of your, or rather Tina's, labour.
- The Three Sisters did relocate to Gokulam but are now back in their old place near the Kaveri Lodge. They have thalis, all clean, nutritious and home cooked, as well as their renowned juice bar. Their juices are made the same as any juice bar in the West, which means just the fruit and/or vegetable. (Avoid the Indian juice stops as they add sugar and their water which will give you a majorly fast "cleansing" period.)
- Also out of Gokulam is Sandhya. A student of Guruji in the early 70s as a young lady now she has rooms and mouth watering lunches for students. She's back in the old neighbourhood though, near Lakshmipuram, just up from Mahesh Prasad. Lunches can be arranged there. Her number is 332648.
Restaurants in Gokulam
- There's a brand new Nalpak on the main Gokulam road. Very clean, lots of space and choice. Perfect for breakfast or lunch.
- Green Leaf is a brand new, clean restaurant frequented by Gokulam living Western students of yoga. It is off of Temple Road, perpendicular to it, at the second roundabout, meaning the one just after Loyal World supermarket. They offer everything.
- Hotel Rashi is in the heart of the Gokulam "market," but we're not planning on recommending it yet. So stick with the others or especially the home cooking ladies.
Scooters - Motorbike Rental
© 2003 Paul Dallaghan