Famous for its precious Sandalwood, beautiful silk and more recently for its yoga, Mysore is a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds and smells. Women in beautiful silk saris whiz by on mopeds. The revered cow can stop traffic while the "lowly" pedestrian dodges rickshaws, bicycles and lumbering trucks, incessantly honking their horns in a language all their own. Fresh, ripe fruit and vegetables are sold in street stalls and blankets for purchase are strewn on the ground. Juicy coconuts abound – husks heavy with sweet coconut water – perfect for quenching a yogi’s "after practice" thirst. Street wallahs push heavy wooden carts with the day's harvest, crying out to lure people from their homes. Temples fragrant with jasmine line the streets as streams of devotees give worship.
And the yoga... Ah the yoga, in the early morning sunrise, in the warmth of the tropical sun, among the satsang of congregated souls, with the bellows of the universe sharing prana with each atma as one. It is divine. It is almost indescribable. It must be experienced for itself.
Students from around the world make the pilgrimage to Mysore – some with decades of experience and others taking their very first yoga class at the "fountainhead" of Ashtanga yoga. The majority of the students stay for a few months and the yoga community that develops as a result is nearly as alluring as the quality of the yoga instruction itself. The students are very welcoming and if you stick around, lifetime friends can be made.
Which is how I met Daniela and how I found a new direction in my journey. Daniela is a beautiful architect from New York (born in Germany) a Cancer, with a huge heart, a witty sense of humor and adventure in her soul. We met over a coconut outside the KPJAYI shala and from that point on have explored India’s alleys, broken a few rules, wandered haphazardly into a silk store, saw sandalwood being handmade, ventured off road on my scooter and watched the sun set over the Mysore Palace. What we like to call, “Winning at India”.
And now we are heading onward for a new adventure towards a new direction. North! Instead of staying in Mysore and practicing another month of yoga at the Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute, we have made a solemn vow to push each other to practice our yoga every morning while we venture forth towards northern India on March 2nd. Where are we going? What is the goal?
Our first stop is Delhi, to experience The Holi Festival (the Festival of Colors/Love). Holi, the liveliest of all Hindu festivals, is observed all over North India. It heralds the end of the winter and the beginning of the spring and marks the rekindling of the spirit of life. It is a festival of joy when all is forgiven. People throw colored powder at each other and make merry. Singing and dancing add to the gaiety of the occasion. In Delhi, the capital, it is said to be an outstanding event.
Our next stop: Agra, to see the breathtaking Taj Mahal. And finally… Rishiskesh, Kashmir, Rajasthan and the Himalayas. If time permits (Daniela has to return to the U.S.A someday), we will venture into Nepal and Kathmandu! All the while, practicing everything we've learned here at KPJAYI, deepening our yoga practice with our newly developed self-discipline, and lacing it all with a grand sense of adventure.
I will miss Mysore and the “compound” as its fellow students affectionately call KPJAYI. But India offers so much around every corner. Every day provides me a new lesson to learn, a new smell or sight, a new feeling. This country is amazing. The awe-inspiring scale and diversity of India’s terrain is calling out to me… So on March 2nd, I will lovingly grab my mat, my backpack, my mom’s ashes and all my books, and I'll venture forth into the incredible world of India, with an open heart, a clear mind, and a smile upon my face. Life is a blessing. Everyday is a blessing.