Ashtanga Yoga World Wide Community Blog.

A Week With My Teacher by Matt Ryan

2 Sep 2013, 15:19 in Ashtanga Yoga
Yoga Manchester

The idea was to get back to Mysore this year for a month, but then the wife got pregnant, which threw a spanner in the works of that particular plan. The next best thing was to book myself on to the week-long intermediate talk-through classes that Sharath was teaching in London in August 2013 (workshop hosted courtesy of Mr Astanga London – Hamish Hendry).

I’d been to something similar a few years back and whilst it’s not like being in Mysore (OK, it’s not even near like being in Mysore), it’s still quite good fun*. Attending the intermediate classes has both good points and, well, some not so good points. First up on the good list is that I didn’t have to be up at stupid o’clock to get to class, as the Intermediate sessions were starting at 8.15am (and 9.15am on the Sunday and Monday), which is pretty much like the middle of the day compared to the middle of the night practice times I have to adhere to in Mysore. Then comes the rather more challenging aspects of the Intermediate led classes; mainly the treacherous journey to the end of the five-breath count for each posture. Now, I’m no speed merchant when it comes to the count when I’m practicing on my own, I mean, I’m not in a hurry to get to five, nor am I Mr McSlowcount of Slowcountshire, Slowcountland. And let’s face it; there are no hiding places in Intermediate Series – there’s no Janu A to have a little rest in or a Baddha Konasana to take a quick breather – it’s all hard work. But, I enjoy it – I’m like that. There is however, after Karandavasana (perhaps the most advanced posture of 2nd series), a period of what seems like two days when Sharath helps various students to lift up in the posture whilst everyone tries to keep warm by staying perfectly still. During this unofficial downtime I deemed it best to stay in a variation of Up Dog to keep the back open and, well, it felt quite nice.

Even after practising Yoga for over 15 years or so, I still get those fluctuations of the mind which seem to be coming from the physical body that say ‘what the hell are you doing to me!?’ Or, more often, ‘stop you lunatic!’ But these are coming far less these days – seems the hard work is paying off. And, to be honest, although I can throw in a few clichés like ‘the journey is the destination’ (which is very true), the physical and mental peace that comes at the end of practice is, to me, priceless – there is nothing (in my experience) quite like it – it really is wonderful.

As a teacher I get asked all the time should students go to Mysore or somewhere else (like the USA or Australia, for example) and my answer is always the same – there is nowhere quite like Mysore in the world. Going to a workshop with Sharath in your own country is great, but experiencing the teacher and the teachings in the birthplace of the practice is, well, priceless.

I got asked this morning if Sharath was a source of comfort for me, which made me laugh; ‘Not when he’s got me in Kapotasana for bloody ages’ was my reply. But, it did make me think a little about just what my relationship with Sharath is. There’s probably hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who all consider Sharath to be their teacher, and I suppose I’m just another notch on Sharath’s Yoga Mat. He knows my first name, so that’s good enough for me. I’m not a needy student hanging off his every last word; I rock up, bust out a few postures and go home. When I do something wrong he shouts at me and when I’m in the best Pincha Mayurasana, like, EVER, he completely ignores me – like a good teacher should.

To be continued at some point perhaps next year when the sprog is old enough to go to Mysore…


* Fun, not in the usual sense of the word like, ‘this is fun bouncing up and down on the trampoline.’ More of a funny doolally kind of way.

Matt Ryan teaches Ashtanga Yoga in Manchester , UK

Did you attend Sharath’s recent teaching visit to London? What were your experiences like? How important is the teacher-student relationship to your Yoga practice? Maybe you’re a teacher yourself – who inspires your approach? Maybe you’re someone who has visited Mysore and learnt from Pattabhi Jois and/or Sharath – how was this experience for you? We’d love to hear your comments and experiences. Please feel free to respond below. We like a good discussion here! :)