We've been in Mysore 6 weeks now. It is usually around this point in the trip that my body starts to reach what feels like might be a breaking point; more over, my mind starts to really dive in upon itself and all sorts of buried thoughts and emotions start to bubble up to the surface and express themselves quite loudly in my body through what one might call "pain"! Not to mention there is an underlying feeling of irritation and discomfort that never seems to go away.
I'm reminded of the power of the practice. Bringing yourself fully to your mat day after day without letting yourself off the hook, or taking the easy route out. It's like undergoing a deep operation of your mind, whilst restructuring your entire body!
Not to be too dramatic, but it is a very raw and profound experience to undergo and witness this subtle process taking place, not only in yourself, but in those around you as well. It is difficult to explain, and until you've been practising in Mysore India for a period of time, I'm not sure you would really understand how intense this process of unraveling can be.
It reminds me of a poem by Leunig that Dena Kingsberg, an incredibly gifted yoga teacher & practitioner, whom I feel blessed to consider both a friend and mentor, introduced me to five years ago:
Let it go. Let it out.
Let it all unravel.
Let it free and it can be
A path on which to travel.
As a side note: Dena and Jack are here in Mysore right now practicing, along with their two kids, each morning with Saraswathi - How Inspiring! - the whole family practicing Ashtanga Yoga together - a new generation of practitioners here in Mysore! It is so wonderful to have people like them here to share their wisdom and experience in both the practice and life. It really makes our time here very special, graced with their energy and expertise, as an added highlight to our own personal practice.
So, what helps to sooth the aches and pains that start to manifest in oneself on various different levels?
A Saturday Oil Bath!
This is a very old tradition in South India. Guruji always used to prescribe a weekly castor oil bath to his students to help rejuvenate the body and release excess "heat" that arises as inflammation. It also has many other added benefits...
Thus, today, being Saturday, to help soften our minds and eliminate the stiffness arising in our old bodies… we awoke early and landed in a traditional Castor Oil Bath - in a manner of speaking.
For those of you who are interested I have posted a couple of funny videos made by our friend and fellow Ashtanga teacher Kimberly Flynn that show the correct method for giving yourself an Oil Bath (in case anyone wants to give it a try!)
Guruji always said to use Castor Oil, but it is very thick and can be difficult to find in some areas of the world. Almond Oil, Coconut Oil, or Sesame Oil are also great to use and more widely available, not to mention a little less gooey!
Anyway, that's what we're doing this fine Saturday morning.
Well that, and chasing our child around the house... maybe not what Guruji had in mind when he suggested "resting" after the oil bath.
However, it's the very full and action-packed life of a householder for us, which means we've got to keep up with an almost-three-year-old who had endless energy and doesn't stop going from dawn to dusk. Now that's the other part of the practice here for us… keeping a steady mind and having an infinite patience while running non-stop after a little monkey-man who is into everything!
We are very grateful that Sharath has both compassion and an experiential understanding of this phase of life as well. We are so blessed to have him as our teacher, to be practicing with him here, and to witness his ongoing care and attention to each individual student and to his family. He is truly inspirational!
Om Sri Gurubhyo Namah
FOR MORE ON OIL BATH: