If you ever strike it lucky and manage to get yourself booked into the shala in Mysore, South India - which to be honest is becoming harder and harder these days it's a real lottery if you get accepted or not ( in fact it's probably easier to win the bloody lottery) you will have to adhere to the Shala’s codes of practice. Which if you don't know go something like this .. Everyone and I mean everyone (including yoga celebs like Kino MacGregor and Eddie Stern) has to practice primary series on their first week (minimum booking 1 month, maximum 3 months) regardless of what series they are on - first week primary only it’s the law no discussions nuff said. After that first week you are then allowed to practice whatever series you were doing last time you were at the shala and if you've never been before you stay in primary series until Sharath deems your practice good enough to move you into intermediate series. So when I say good enough what I actually mean is that you have a good understanding both physically and mentally of all the postures in the sequence. If you're relatively new to Ashtanga the rule (in the shala )is until you are able to 'bind' ( ie clasp the hands behind your back) in Marichyasana D then you do the next posture which is navasana then move straight into the closing sequence of postures without even attempting the post navasana postures - see here to familiarise yourself with sequence. Some people are ok with this some people get a little hot under the collar about it. Especially as the  (very good) argument for folk getting antsy about that rule, is that there are postures beyond navasana in the sequence that are very good for beginners (baddha konasana upavistha konasana etc) and when I say good I mean good as in appropriate or suitable. Speaking to all the old school Ashtanga Yoga students like David Swenson, they say that Guruji Pattabhi Jois would never really stop a student from practicing the whole sequence – only in certain circumstances. I guess the main reason for allowing students to continue to practice the whole series was down to the fact there wasn’t that many students attending the Shala in the old days so Guruji would be able to keep his eye on everyone to make sure they weren’t doing anything untoward and injuring themselves. But over the years the Shala got double double busy and in 2002 a brand new shiny Shala was opened that could accommodate up 80 students at a time – the old Shala was only big enough for 12 people.  So now it was much harder for both Guruji and Sharath to be able to keep their eyes on 80 students and the above rule of being able to bind in Marichyasana D was enforced. I guess mainly to stop the newer or less experienced students from throwing themselves around the mat and hurting themselves. Makes sense to me. Also another very good reason for this rule (which also applies once you start doing other sequences eg if you can’t get your leg behind your head in eka pada sirsana in the intermediate series that’s where you would be stopped until you are able to do this posture safely and comfortably) is that it helps to keep the ‘check my practice out’ ego maniacs in check – which I’ve witnessed plenty of times in Mysore. Unfortunately this bind rule has been applied I think too literally in the past for the wrong circumstances and wrong reasons and I for one have been very guilty of that. I remember a few years back it was just after I got my fabulous Level 2 authorisation from the Shala and I was teaching a Mysore class in Manchester. One of my regulars who used to come to every class I taught was moving her way slowly and steadily through the practice – now this lady wasn’t able to bind in Marichyasana D but usually as there were only around 10 or so folk at class I was able to help her and others navigate through the more difficult postures beyond navasana. But now I had the authorisation so I must apply the Shala rules – I explained to the student just why I wasn’t allowing her to continue beyond navasana and asked her to start the finishing sequence which she did albeit with tears in her eyes – she thought she had done something wrong. She hadn’t, but I had – big time. That was the first and last occasion that I ever stopped someone in inappropriate circumstances. (I later apologised to the student so all good!) A few years after the above incident I was teaching someone privately at my house in Manchester. The student was going to a different Ashtanga teacher in a different area – and despite this student practicing for nearly 2 years they were being asked to stop at navasana by their other teacher. This person was able to bind in Marichyasana D (albeit on one side only) but as they started to go through their practice with me I could tell that the student had a good understanding of the practice, their body and their body’s limitations. It was a one to one situation and I felt quite comfortable taking them through the whole sequence – especially as the baddha konasana posture was going to be very good for their stiff hips.   I was able to break down section by section the 3 more difficult postures post navasana in a way that they now had a good understanding of these postures and how to do them on their own in a safe way – after all let us not kid ourselves it’s not rocket science here is it. The student loved the class so much so they booked me again the next day. A few days later after the student had gone back ‘darn sarf’ (or was it up north , I can’t quite remember) I got a text message from him saying that his other teacher wasn’t very happy about me taking him through the whole practice. I had explained during the class why  I thought it was appropriate to take him through the whole thing and also the reasons why his other teacher might be stopping him (busy Shala perhaps) , and also as it’s a one to one it’s a safe environment -so all good in my eyes. He also mentioned that the teacher had suggested that he (should) change certain aspects about the way he was living his life which kinda took me by surprise. I told my young Padawan ( well by text , longest text message I ever sent - it was bloody War & Peace on a mobile phone) that in my opinion the only legitimate person who should be telling someone how to live their life was themselves – and that they shouldn’t in no uncertain circumstances be handing that particular authority to anyone else. He should accept and take responsibility for his own life. Yes it’s good to take advice from yoga teachers but when they are telling you need to change certain aspects of your life that you enjoy (and not in any way detrimental to your health) then you have to just let go of that advice. And ultimately give it up for what? Just so he can bind on both sides in marichyasana D .. go figure. Buddhist teacher and academic Stephen Batchelor explains that the practice of meditation is not an end in itself but a practice so one can live a more fulfilling life – whether it’s enjoying a piece of art , a walk in the park or maybe the opera ,whatever. For me Yoga serves exactly the same purpose, yes there are physical benefits of a stronger more flexible body etc but my yoga practice allows me to enjoy more the time I spend with my family or even a fine green tea. And anyone with a modicum of intelligence will tell you that the ability to bind in marichyasana D has no bearing WHATSOEVER on how a yoga practice can impact positively on your life. In the words of David Swenson..
‘Don’t let yoga ruin your life’
Ie don’t get too caught up in what postures you can and can’t do – and certainly don’t stop enjoying life in its entirety. Allowing your life to be about one thing only can be very destabilising emotionally, physically even spirituality (if you’re that way inclined).  
I received an email a few months back from an old student of mine who had moved away from Manchester and although this student doesn’t get to class anymore we still keep in touch about various aspects of their practice. The email went something like this ..
Hi Matt – I saw a short demo by Sharath Jois online recently and I just wondered if you knew anything about the way he places his feet in upward dog. Is this a new method or just something specific to Sharath
  So I tracked down the video in question and checked out just what Sharath was doing with his feet in upward dog. See screen shot below. Sharath Jois upward dog Now I must say it was a bit of a quandary for me as I guess I wasn’t sure why Sharath was using this rather particular method of lifting onto his toes. It certainly wasn’t the way I was taught – which is to come onto the top of the foot – see photo of Guruji in upward dog below. I did actually try doing the posture Sharath’s way but it did feel pretty odd and uncomfortable. Sri K Pattbhi Jois upward dog I emailed back to my student and said to leave it with me and I’ll ask a few people to see if anyone had any further information. I then set about sending emails out to various Ashtanga friends and acquaintances around the globe to see if anyone could help me out. Within a few weeks I got back some rather intriguing verdicts and opinions which make for interesting reading. I have chosen not to disclose the identity of the people who gave me the information below, this was my own decision and not theirs. Verdict 1 The person (who gave me this info) has got this from their teacher who spoke to Sharath directly about the foot thing. Here’s the conversation which (allegedly) took place between this person’s teacher and Sharath.. Teacher: Sharath why is it you lift onto your toes in upward dog and not the top of the feet – is this a new method? Sharath: No this is not a new method. I do this because I suffered from polio as a child which resulted in me being unable to flex my ankles properly, so I’m unable to roll over the toes onto the top of the feet. Teacher: Oh I didn’t know that. Are you aware that there are some students who are copying your method? What should I say to them? Sharath: They are stupid.   Verdict 2 This opinion came from a student who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the body. This person told me that they did know about the foot thing and had discussed it with other yoga students. Their verdict was this. Some years ago Sharath damaged his lower back on a car journey from Mysore to Bangalore. Anyone who has ever taken this journey before the new road was laid will know the old road was full of pot holes and a potential disaster area for cars and passengers. Sharath had been in a car that had hit a pot hole which resulted in a rather nasty lower back injury. So the reason for the upward dog feet thing was to help with the rehabilitation of the back injury as lifting just onto the toes was a less intensive (on the lower back) variation than lifting onto the top of the feet.   So there you go two rather contrasting verdicts and whilst both of them seem quite plausible I have no idea if either of them are correct. When I next go to Mysore I’ll ask Sharath about this and then I’ll know 100 % which verdict (if any) is correct. I’ll keep you posted. One thing that this does flag up is that this gives any students who are using this method because they have seen Sharath doing it (without qualifying if it’s actually the right method for them or not) some food for thought.      

 1. You’ve got a lovely backbend.

Guruji Pattabhis Jois would comment that students needed a strong body before they could consider making their mind strong to help them practice the other limbs of Ashtanga Yoga , and his quote of ‘Do your practice and all is coming’ became a personal mantra for the Ashtanga Yoga community worldwide . And as humans with a fundamental need to be loved us Ashtangis are not averse to a bit of ego stroking when we bust out a few bad ass asanas in front of class. There’s been a lot of blood sweat and tears gone into that bit of showboating..  

2. I’ve started reading the sutras.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are widely believed to be the Ashtanga Yoga bible (even Guruji would call his Ashtanga Yoga ‘Patanjali Yoga’) so when a student rocks up to class with a sutra commentary clearly on display for all to see in their yoga mat bag expect a tear or two of joy from the teacher. But do be aware, make sure you’ve got a spare couple of hours if you ever ask your teacher to elaborate on a particular sutra. We do love the sound of our pontificating voices : )  

3. Can we do the chant today?

As much as Ashtangis like to show their prowess in asana we love just as much to lead our classes through a rousing chorus of ‘Vande Gurunam’. Usually the chant is a call and response affair with the ‘teach’ up front busting through each line in a pitch perfect (they think) stylee with a real mixed bag of styles & keys coming back at them from the class. Put it this way when Guruji said ‘Do your practice and all is coming’ he meant you must practice your scales too.

4. I’m thinking about making the jump from the led classes into the Mysore self-practice sessions.

Ahhh this one is sweet music to our ears. The true method of Ashtanga Yoga is in the ‘Mysore Style’ self-practice as first taught by Guruji and now by his grandson Sharath Jois in Mysore,South India. Students always feel a little daunted at first when they leave the comfort zone of their led class for the great unknown of self-practice, and when ‘personal space’ is invaded in an up close n personal adjustment from the teacher the student might feel they’ve made a wrong move. Slowly slowly the practice reveals it’s essence over time and students can stop hiding their cheat sheet under their mat and throw it in the bin.  

5. I’ve quit my Bikram yoga practice.

No elaboration necessary ; )   Wondering what the 5 things to NEVER say to an Ashtanga Yoga teacher are ? Find out here.
1. Does God exist? 2. Is there life after death? 3. Should Ashtanga Yoga students go to Mysore (to study at the KPJAYI) Did you spot the ‘red herrings’ in the above questions? Was is that obvious? I like Buddha’s answer to the first two questions, he said something along the lines of “don’t twist your melon trying to prove or disprove the existence of God and life after death – it’ll probably send you doolally.” So I’ll heed his advice and try to make sense of question three only as God knows (or maybe doesn't) I've been asked that particular question a million times. I’m just back from my 8th visit to the KPJAYI (the Shala) and I now feel pretty comfortable with giving some kind of answer to question three. The place has changed over the years; physically changing in 2002 when it moved lock stock and barrel from the tiny 12 students at a time ‘Old Shala’ in Lakshmipuram to the much larger 50 students plus toilet space ‘New Shala’ in Gokulam. That was when the first murmurs of discontent started to rumble, the ‘Old Shala’ versus the ‘New Shala’ debate. I guess it was bound to happen as people always like to have a moan about something, myself included. And having studied at both shalas, my biggest moan about the old place was the two-hour daily wait to get on the mat. Still it taught me patience. Even Spiritual Awakening is subject to the laws of supply and demand, and for me my friend, I welcomed with open arms (and only a 20-30 minute wait to practice) the move to Gokulam. When Guruji, the heartbeat of Ashtanga Yoga died in 2009, the flame was passed to his grandson Sharath. Guruji had been pretty poorly for a few years and had actually retired from teaching in 2007, but he lived upstairs at the Shala and his presence could be felt on the Shala floor even when he stopped teaching. In some ways the passing of Guruji marked a new era in Ashtanga Yoga as quite a few of the older students stopped making the annual pilgrimage to the Shala, and a ‘new generation’ of Ashtanga Yoga student was born. Like Guruji passing the Ashtanga flame onto Sharath, the student flame was passed from teachers like Richard Freeman, Tim Miller and Dena Kingsberg to the new kids on the block: Kino MacGregor, Luke Jordan and Mark Robberds. Despite the presence of some truly awe inspiring people in the Shala, people still wanted to moan; whether it was about monthly fees going up or the alleged ‘aggressive’ energy in the shala, there was always a ‘shala drama’ going down. Having been there a few times, I have never felt this supposed aggression in students – what was that quote from Homer Simpson ‘Offence is only taken, but never given’. I guess people get too caught up in other’s people’s journeys rather than focusing on their own. Yes there is a definite energy in the room, but for me this energy is the power of the Ashtanga fire burning up egos and attitudes and transforming hearts and minds. My latest trip to Mysore in March 2014 marked a personal ‘awakening’ in my internal and external Ashtanga journey. As mentioned above I like a good moan as much as the next person (I think it’s the human condition, to be human is to moan, I moan therefore I am,  maybe that’s what the Buddha meant in the first ‘noble truth’ not life is suffering but life is moaning). This trip, despite the heat and the Shala being busy, saw a ‘dropping off’ of the moaning, no shit. I got up I went to the Shala, I waited, I practised,  I went home – hallelujah, I finally ‘got it’.  Maybe some people ‘get it’ quicker than others. I’m pretty slow witted and it always seems to take longer for the proverbial penny to drop. Ashtanga Yoga is a process a physical and mental journey, “a 100 year programme” as one teacher likes to call it. The problem people make when they go to the Shala is their expectation. They want it to be a certain way and then when it’s not like what they envisaged or hoped for then it’s a ‘waste of money’ or ‘I’ll never go back there’ moan. What made complete sense to me this time (I told you I was a slow learner) was it’s like the old spiritual cliche of digging a hole looking for water: you gotta dig deep baby to get there. Too many people give up after one shovel full of earth, which when you actually think about it is just plain bloody stupid. If you’re after adjustment after adjustment then go to Freddie’s Fab Adjustment Clinic , Beach Side Hotsville. If you can be honest with yourself and want some personal transformation (this can be physical, mental and spiritual) then you got to start digging and keep digging and then dig some more until you find what you’re looking for.  I wouldn't say that I've finally hit gold (am I carrying on too long with the digging analogy here?) but one thing’s for certain: I’m definitely onto something when I’m at the Shala, and that door’s open for you too as long as you can leave your bullshit at the Shala door. Yes it’s a bit of a hassle getting there – even the booking process is a little convoluted these days, but see these kind of things not as obstacles but as part of the whole Shala process. So in answer to the above question three YES, YES and thrice YES. In the words of Jimmy James & The Vagabonds ‘Now is the time’ – don’t delay get on t’internet and email the Shala today. Fancy dipping your toe in the Mysore 'Self-Practice' method water? Check out Matt's monthly Mysore intensive in Chorlton.

    ashtanga yoga mysore journey

       

Week 4

So into my fourth and final week and you know what...? Practice wise, things kind of clicked into place. I wouldn’t say it got easier but maybe I just got used to the heat and I was no longer questioning my sanity each time I got up at 3am. Ashtanga Yoga (I see some people like to add the word ‘vinyasa’ in-between Ashtanga and Yoga – did I miss a meeting?) changed my life for the better – it gets wrongly tagged as some kind of power yoga – yes it is powerful but in the fact that it’s power transforms both mind and body, and this month in Mysore (my 8th trip) again proved to me why I keep coming back to the ‘source’. Think next trip I’ll choose a slightly less hot month… This last week in Mysore we (Lina, Agnes and I) were joined by my sister Hayley, which helped us to get our backsides in gear and get out of Mysore and do some more ‘touristy’ things. I’m not one for walking round with a union jack hanky on my head and wearing socks with sandals but I actually enjoyed it. First stop was the tour of the beautiful Mysore Palace. There’s plenty of ‘no photo’ signs dotted around which everyone seem to ignore, people happily snapping away, so I decided to join them. And well you can guess what happened next... a firm hand on my shoulder and a whisper in my ear which I think roughly translates as ‘come with me sonny’. Caught in the act by the Palace Police! After plenty of pleading my innocence I was ‘let off’ with a fine of 100 rupees -which is about £1 (I say a fine, but it’s basically a bribe which goes straight into the ‘sky rocket’ of the officer) The rest of the tour went off without incident, camera kept tucked well away in my bag. ashtanga yoga mysore elephant blessing india.We also finally got round to visiting a temple, and the ‘Shiva Temple’ at Nanjangud about 30 minutes out of Mysore was a real beauty. Over 1,000 years old it is one of the oldest temples in South India and on certain festival days, devotees from all over India will make a pilgrimage to pray and make ‘Parikrama’ (which means to walk or even roll around the temple in praise of Shiva). Luckily for us we went on a Tuesday morning on a non-festival day – so it wasn't that busy. I also had the good fortune of being blessed by ‘Gowri’ the scared temple elephant – who places her trunk on your head in a blessing fashion, I didn't get enlightened but it felt pretty cool. We also bumped into a lady who is said to be 110 years old – apparently she visits the temple every day to pray to Shiva (maybe for a long life). So I’d like to finish off with a few words in praise of my teacher Sharath Jois. Sharath took over as the sole director of the Shala when his grandfather Guruji Sri K Pattabhi Jois sadly passed away a few years back. Guruji was a man mountain of a person and teacher, I had the good grace of being taught by him a few times before he ‘moved on’ to his next life. So for Sharath to be able to carry on the Ashtanga tradition from his grandfather must have been a huge challenge for him. There’s a great Beatles song called ‘carry that weight’ which is about bearing the burden of people’s expectations, and Sharath is carrying the weight of the Ashtanga tradition with grace, humility and most importantly with his granddad’s sense of humour (the guy is laugh out loud funny – he could almost be a Mancunian). So until next time, a big shout goes out to my main man Sharath Jois –thank you kindly dear Sir, I’ll be back.

Week 3

Into week 3 and the tough going went into hyper drive as more and more advanced postures got tagged onto my daily practice. The Sunday was a moon day so the intermediate led class got switched to Monday - and with this extra day of taking rest, this meant week 3 was a shorter week- and thank Shiva,Vishnu,Hanuman etc for that. The whole moon day thing is an interesting point of debate. For those not in the know, in the Ashtanga ( 6 day a week ) practice there are 'rest days' when it's either a full or new moon day- Saturday is also a rest day. The reason for taking rest on the Moon days is rather long winded - click here if you really want to know. Saturday's rest day I believe came about when Guruji's wife Amma complained that she never saw her husband as he was always teaching,so he agreed to take every Saturday off for a 'family day'. So Saturday became a traditional day off for everyone . Friday night becomes party central in Mysore where everyone gets really drunk and stays up all night partying - ok that's a joke b.t.w. the only difference on Friday is that you are so exhausted from the week you actually end up going to bed at 8 pm instead of 9 pm - crazy eh! During the week there was (yet another)  Hindu spiritual festival called Holi. I'm not sure exactly what the festival is all about - but the celebrations are quite good fun . To celebrate Holi people chuck coloured powder  all over each other - it's like a massive water fight with sherbet dip instead of water . Lina Agnes Boo and I got well and truly 'holied' by 2 guys on a motorbike - thanks for that fellas ! See above photo. yoga sutras of patanjali , ashtanga yoga , mysoreI'd like to report back that we've visited lots of temples and hung out with realised beings - but it's so bloody hot most days we end up going to a hotel that's got a pool -  spiritual awakening will have to wait I'm afraid well until its much cooler .I'm reading yet another commentary on the Patanjali yoga sutras when I'm at the pool and that's about as near to Samadhi as I'm going to get this trip.   So one more week to go- time seems to go both quickly and slowly at the same time (mainly slowly during the led classes ) buts that's India for you -it's as mad as a box of frogs here but thats why I love it. Ciao for now-over and out.

Week 2

When the going gets tough, the tough get going and Sunday 9th March the going got well and truly tough at my first Intermediate (2nd series ) led class. A led class is where the teacher calls out the postures and everyone follows, with various students dropping out along the way as they reach the posture they are working up to in the sequence. Only once a student has mastered the posture are they then allowed to move on to the next one in the sequence. During the led class it felt like some kind of karmic payback from all my students who get rather fatigued (that’s rather a polite way of saying it) at my laid back counting method, as Sharath crawled his way through the calling of the breaths in the sequence . The 5 breaths of each posture felt like at least 10 minutes and we were only into the sun salutations. Yikes!! I set my mind on a return to bed after class and that seemed just enough an incentive to get me through right to the end. On that Sunday afternoon (after 3 hours of 40 winks ) I got to visit Kurune Mane – the orphanage set up by Operation Shanti , the charity Yoga Manchester sponsors. I’ve been hanging out here ever since it was set up in 2008 and the kids are just amazing. It’s one of my favourite places in Mysore. So the rest of the week has been a daily practice of intermediate and advanced A postures which leaves me absolutely cream crackered- it’s one thing doing this practice in the cool and calm of Manchester (ok the freezing cold) but doing the same in the heat and intensity of Mysore India feels ten times as hard. My daily routine goes something like this.. 4.30 am wake up meditate for 30 minutes 5 am bucket bath – this is the traditional way of washing –where you literally fill up a bucket with water then throw it all over yourself – oh and despite the heat the water feels like it’s been mainlined from Manchester (ie freezing cold) 5.30 am leave the house and walk to the shala 6am -8am take practice 8.15am (it takes me exactly 15 minutes to walk home from the shala) a large dose of lying down, recuperating mustering the strength to go and eat breakfast So the rest of the day is a mixture of reading, studying, going to the pool to cool off and watching DVDs -but not always in that order. The week ended with another led class – as it was Friday this means everyone does primary series only. As the shala is very busy Sharath has to do 3 separate led classes – I’m in the first one at 4.30 am which means getting up at 3am to meditate etc and yes of course it crosses my mind a few times that maybe I might be slightly mad. Even the 4.30am class is oversubscribed and students spill over into the men’s toilets / changing area. This is where I am – well I’m actually in the smaller area up the stairs in the toilets which seemed like a good idea as there was only one other student up there with me , until I realised this is where the mosquitoes like to hang out. Mosquito bites are like buses you get none for ages and then you get 9 all at once – I have nothing nice to say about mosquitoes – let’s leave it at that. Practicing in the upstairs of the men’s loo I can just about hear Sharath ’s voice through the door from the main Shala but every so often he’ll will walk into the toilets to make sure no-one is slacking. When he comes into the toilet it feels a little like when you go to a concert at an arena and you’re sat miles away from the stage but every now and then the lead singer walks over to the side of the stage to give your section of the crowd a little wave. castor oil , oil bath , mysore india , ashtanga yogaSaturday was day off and I thought I’d treat myself to an oil bath. An oil bath is the traditional practice for a Saturday in Mysore to help relieve any aches and pains (and I've got lots) and involves a lot of castor oil and this weird green powder you use to wash the oil off. I went from looking like a body builder getting ‘greased up’ for a competition to a cross between Shrek and the incredible hulk – not a pretty sight – just ask my wife.   So week 2 over – the going was getting tougher but ankles are now being grabbed Sharath is happy –all is good. Over and out.

Week one

I've not managed to get back to Mysore since 2011 and the first thing that brings all the memories back as we walk out of the airport is the smell – a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly - nowhere on the planet has the smell of India, and then there’s the heat. Without stating the bloody obvious it’s hot in India, and coming from the arctic North-West of Manchester it almost feels like we've landed on the sun. The 3 hour taxi journey from Bangalore Airport to Mysore is the usual terrifying ordeal. The taxi driver intent on seeing just how close he can get to the car in front at 90mph, blowing his horn every 17 seconds to make our presence on the road known to every Tom, Dick and Devashree. Normally I just accept the driving protocols by closing my eyes, sitting in the back and praying to Shiva, but this time I've got my wife and 5 month old daughter with me so it’s a little disconcerting. Anyway we arrive in Mysore unscathed albeit with nerves still jangling from the journey. The Shala sign up procedure has changed over the years and the busier it gets the more difficult the registering process becomes. First you have to book months in advance – and if you don’t sign up in the 1 hour window of opportunity, well, you aint getting in Mister! So with registration documents in hand I set off to the Shala to sign up for the month of March... What seems like 23 hours later amongst pushing and shoving and arguments I’m good to go baby! Start time 6.30 a.m. next day. Well, 6.30 a.m. means 6.15 a.m. shala time - the clock in the shala is set 15 mins fast I’ve never known if that’s done on purpose or not - so be warned if you ever make the journey , get there early! Just a quick re-read of what I've written so far one could be asking do I actually enjoy being in India and the short answer is yes, of course I do it’s the most amazing place on earth. The practice in the first week at the shala for anyone regardless of status and level (even for those who can levitate) is primary series only and between me and you, thank the lord it is. As  1) I feel absolutely knackered from the journey and 2) it’s a much more difficult experience practicing in these temperatures. But Friday comes and even though I have to practice in the upstairs bit of the men’s toilet during the led class all is good. Sharath seems in a good mood, represented in his sense of humour about the quality of my practice during this first week...’Why no taking ankles, Matthew’ !!! So week 1 completed unscathed, it’s good to be back in the Mysore saddle. We even managed a day to go and visit Swamiji – where my daughter Agnes Boo was more interested in his beard than her toys (see main photo). I met Swamiji 14 years ago on my first ever visit to Mysore and we've been good friends ever since. In 2011 he organised my ‘Big Fat Indian Wedding’ which alongside the birth of Agnes was the most special day of my life. We also spent a very lovely afternoon in the company of the amazing Tracy Kunichika who pretty much single handed set up the Operation Shanti charity in Mysore Check them out here and spread the word. photo (71)Special shout out to my man 'Rickshaw Ravi' who has driven us around diligently with due care and attention to the fact there's a 5 month old baby on the back seat.          

Only In India Part 1

India is a very , very religious country. Anything and everything can be declared sacred and therefore be blessed including this photo (68)young fella's motorcycle. I guess that's why everyone drives around like a maniac as they have had their vehicle blessed and are therefore exempt from crashing , on religious authority!