yoga school dropouts

We had high hopes for Mysore. Reputed by everyone we spoke to as a great city and South India’s home of yoga, albeit mostly ashtanga, we’d been looking for a place to stop a while and it seemed for a while that Mysore might be the answer. But alas, no.

It’s not that Mysore isn’t a great city – in fact, it’s lovely. Small enough to be very manageable, but big enough to keep you entertained; great food; perfect climate; very little hassle. And footpaths! Big, wide ones where you could walk without fear of being mowed down by human or vehicular traffic. Huge novelty value there.

It was the yoga. We always knew it would be different to what we were used to, but it turned out that strict Mysore-style practice was too much for our hybrid Iyengar ways. For starters, no props. Our beloved, free-wheeling teacher at home, Sam, isn’t insistent on many things, but a shoulder stand without blankets is a deal-breaker, most especially for those of us with desk job and bucks party-related neck injuries. And despite having a recommendation from a guy whose classes we attended, and loved, for a week way back in Chiang Mai, the school we attended had kind of bad vibes. A bit stunted and awkward, nobody really seeemed to know what they were doing and had their noses stuck in booklets setting out the sequences with stick-man drawings. People were falling out of poses and face-planting into the floorboards, which strangely didn’t seem to bother the teacher much at all.

It also became apparent that we were in a sort of yogic no-man’s land – not really beginners in the wider yogic sense, but beginners in this style. The solution might have been to sign on for a beginner’s course, but we were too impatient, non-committal and tight-ass to do so. Lots of other schools in town won’t even let you attend a casual class to check it out before signing on for a course – one replied back to our email that it was against their “ethics” – so I guess the upside is that we weren’t locked in to something we quickly worked out we didn’t really like.

I don’t view any of this as ashtanga’s fault. I know lots of people practise ashtanga and love it – although strangely enough, we met more than a few ashtanga devotees who didn’t like what they found in Mysore either. As Sam would say, “expectations breed frustrations” and although we tried to keep our expectations to a minimum, it just wasn’t going to work.

But no matter. We soon set ourselves another task, and a noble one at that: working our way through the entire chaats list at Indra’s Cafe. Our incessant ordering eventually became a great source of amusement for the waitstaff, who got to know that every time they walked past the hairy guy and small girl’s table, they’d order another dish, so we stopped needing to flag them down and they’d just stop at our table every few minutes or so. Convenient for all parties, really.

In between chaats I bought a sari, under supervision from a platoon of giggling shopgirls (tip: sari = excellent for hiding chaat-swollen belly), and we checked out Mysore’s sights, including the market, palace and train museum. Lonely Planet describes this as a “must-see”, which is probably stating it a bit high, but for Rs 5, plus a little baksheesh to the guy manning the maharaja’s carriage exhibit, we got to see one of the cutest things ever: nuns riding a toy train. Nuns. On a toy train. I was beside myself.

Which leads us to one of the most fortuitous incidental stopovers on our whole trip – it was on the way to where we were headed and it sounded nice, so we thought we’d check it out – Honey Valley, aka The Happiest Place in India*, perched in Coorg on the edge of the Western Ghats. Within minutes of arriving, we were already making plans to extend our stay. It speaks for itself that many of the other guests were repeat visitors who had all travelled extensively in India and unanimously agreed that there existed no other comparable place; the guest book comments all remarked that “This place is wonderful – not at all like the rest of India” – which, if you follow that logic, implies that the rest of India is crap. I can’t deny that it was a very welcome and pleasant change from the frenetic pace of India outside this lovely cocoon – incredibly peaceful; the silence at night was almost deafening. We made the most of the clean air by sucking lots of it down as we explored the surrounding forests and plantations, generally hiking in the morning (couldn’t possibly miss the tasty lunch) and whiling away the afternoon reading on the veranda. After originally planning to stay for two nights, we only just managed to prise ourselves away after a week.

*Vying for this title is the Delhi metro, which I somehow forgot to include in the already fairly brief list of Good Things About Delhi. Clean, efficient, eerily deserted outside rush hours. It would have won the award if the network currently extended to anywhere vaguely useful. Apparently it will by the time the Commonwealth Games roll around in October. Mmm, good luck with that.

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One Response to “yoga school dropouts”

  1. Alaina Says:

    Just as well. That whole yoga retreat plan sounded far too healthy for my liking!

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