Undoubtedly, there are amazing Indian yoga teachers and gurus in Mysore. There are also hundreds of Westerners living inside the Mysore bubble. That protective bubble that exists where one can hide and survive in the lap of luxury while insulating themselves from the hard realities of India’s poverty and filth. The bubble of fancy hotels with pools, accommodation with comfy beds and simple kitchens, air conditioned restaurants, intenet cafes, and outdoor cafes with yummy organic and vegetarian Western food to fancy the palate tired of curries and mustard seed oil. This is what I call the Mysore yoga bubble.
I arrive in the bubble and am covered with goose bumps as I meet Guruji and his grandson, Sharat. I ask if I can please study yoga at their institute. Guruji, with every finger covered in huge gold rings, asks if I pre-registered as they are full. I lower my eyes and say I am there to study with Sharat. Sharat replies his class is full. Maybe Sharat noticed my fire energy or burning passion to learn because as I was walking out he yelled for me to be in his shala at 9:00 am to practice.
I decided to study with Sharat as his classes are smaller and one receives more attention. Sharats classes begin at 7:00am and as one student finishes the mysore style practice (self practice), Sharat assigns the sweaty spot on the ground to the next anxious student squatting patiently on the ground. I arrive on time and Sharat calls my name and requests payment in cash. I hand it over and he instructs me to sit. Finally a slot opens and I am called to the tiny space between two mats. I slide in and begin my self practice nervous that I will forget a move. If there is a pose I cannot do or if I am out of sequence Sharat will call me out and tell me to go to other room for the closing practice. Glory! I am not stopped. I survived.
After class the students stagger out minutes apart covered in sweat and reward themselves with huge fresh coconuts. Talk covers topics of what poses they got into, if Sharat adjusted them, what caf they will go to for breakfast and if they will go to the hotel pool. I soon learned these are the conversations that dominate the yoga bubble.
No, not all students are in the bubble. Yes, you can get out of the Mysore bubble. Yes, there are other amazing teachers and institutes to learn yoga in India. Yes, this is all just one person’s opinion.
In the end the experience was amazing and well worth the effort. Being amongst so many dedicated yoga students and having conversations around yoga days on end forced my practice to a new level. Practicing in P. Jois or Sharat’s led classes with hundreds of others, trying to flow gracefully without getting a foot in the face or kick someone, forced a new awareness. Witnessing other yogis with incredible strength and flexibility taught me humility. My great lesson was that after being in the bubble I learned my place was outside the bubble.