The city of Mysore was our first destination that was not in either of the two southernmost states of India, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It was also the largest city we had visited thus far. It was well known for its yoga scene, particularly Ashtanga yoga as that is where Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga set up his school. We planned to check out the famous palace, hopefully find a few yoga classes to take, and also had another CouchSurfing host lined up.
The day we arrived we just took it slow, walked around a bit, and then visited Kannaiyan and his father in the hospital (you’ll have to see the last entry if this doesn’t make sense to you). Visiting a local hospital wasn’t on our to do list in India, but we were actually glad to see what it was like. Kannaiyan and his father were so happy to see us and so grateful for the small bag we had brought, and we realized what a strong connection we felt to them in just a short time being with them. We stayed and chatted a bit, had some tea, and then left for the evening. The following day we ventured out of the central city to an Ayurvedic center to treat ourselves to massage, checked out another old palace that was in the same area, and returned for the evening. We visited the main royal palace on our 3rd day, which was very impressive and surprisingly enjoyable. I say surprisingly because neither of us are typically the type that enjoys those kind of tours, or wandering around museums, or things like that. But instead of hiring a guide or just wandering aimlessly, we rented the audio guides for a self-guided tour and it worked out great. The palace was beautiful and the history interesting and we learned just enough to be intrigued without getting bored. That night we headed to Madu’s, our CouchSurfing host, and just chatted with him until it was time to sleep. We didn’t hit it off as seamlessly as we had with our previous hosts, and it made for a bit of an awkward night, but we figured it was all part of the experience.
In the morning we visited an Iskcon temple nearby, that Madu had told us about when Amy expressed an interest to hear chanting. In short, it is what we would call Hare Krishnas, but the meaning is so different than all baggage and stereotypes that come with that term back home. We attended their morning service which was beautiful to witness and they welcomed us warmly and helped us participate. We learned there was a festival that night and promised to come back to take part. The rest of the day was spent searching for yoga schools. We didn’t have much luck the last couple days, and it appeared that multiple day courses were much more common that drop in classes. So we wanted to find a good school (we weren’t interested in Ashtanga Yoga which is style of yoga offered by the majority of schools in Mysore), and if we could then we would consider signing up for a longer course. We had some recommendations to check out the neighborhood of Gokulum a few kilometers away, which is where the expat and yoga scene was clustered. When we did, we settled on a place called Yoga Bharat, created and taught by a man named Bharat, and we signed up for a 5 day course starting in two days. It was very exciting! We would finally be studying yoga in India, and a new form of yoga at that. So the next job was to figure out where we would stay during the week, and after a lot of searching we found a great place just down the road where we would have access to a kitchen, which was very important to us. When we got back to Madu’s in the evening there were two other couples (one French, one Irish) that were also going to stay with him that night, and we all decided to hang out there for the night and have a small party. We first went back to the temple to be a part of the evening festival, and the French couple came with us. There were about 5 times as many people at the evening ceremony as there had been in the morning, and this was due to the importance of this day. Again, we really enjoyed being a part of it all and getting to witness this authentic type of occasion. The night was fun and full of the typical type of conversation that comes when a bunch of travelers and people from different countries all get together over a few drinks.
The next day was Sunday, and we spent it settling into our new lives in Gokulum where we would reside for about a week. We got our bearings and figured out all the essentials of the town, and then we actually met up with another local CouchSurfer named Darshan. He is not able to host people but contacted us to meet up for a meal and so we met him for lunch and walked around a bit while he gave us some insight into the local culture and his life. I wouldn’t say we became best friends but it was still interesting to have an opportunity to meet up with a local.
On Monday our yoga retreat began, and routine quickly set in. But before that, there was just one snag. It was Superbowl Sunday and the Giants were playing! Our place had wifi and my plan was to wake up early (because of the time difference the Super Bowl started about 5am Monday morning), and stream the game live in bed. When I first tried it, the streaming wasn’t working and I was quite tired anyway so I went back to sleep and decided to try again around half time. I tried again then but nothing was working, it appeared that all the live streams were blocked in India or the internet was too slow to make it work. I was panicked that I would miss it all, and then Amy had a stroke of genius! She suggested Skyping with someone who was watching the game and seeing if they could turn the camera onto the TV. I got in touch with my brother who was watching at home anyway, and he was happy to oblige. Oh the wonders of modern technology! For almost the entire second half I basically say next to my brother on his couch and watched the Super Bowl, chatting about the game together as we would if I was really there. It worked out beautifully and the reception was great (see the photos). Of course, it also helped that Giants won the Super Bowl!!! As the final minutes were winding down it was getting dangerously close to when we had to leave for yoga. Amy was patient enough with me knowing the importance of the occasion, and had even served me tea in bed so I didn’t have to miss anything, but she wasn’t going to be late for yoga on account of sports. If you remember, the end of the game was quite dramatic, and when it finally came down to “ok just one last play then we’ll leave,” that was precisely when the Giants punched through the defense and scored what would be the winning touchdown. I didn’t get to watch the extra point or the last couple plays, but by the time we had walked to yoga and were getting our stuff ready, my brother texted to say the game was over and the Giants won. What an experience! Towards the end of the week my friend Geoff was kind enough to repeat the favor for me, this time with a Knicks game. It was the peak of Linsanity and I was dying to catch some games, what would have been my first live action of the season. Well, thanks to this technique, I got to watch the entire Knicks-Lakers game when Lin went for 38 points and totally outplayed Kobe on way to Knicks win. I love Skype!
So, back to life in India. The yoga immersion was wonderful. It was great for Amy to get to experience a different style of yoga, and for Adam it was the first time he really dove so deep into his practice. Our days were routine, in a very beautiful way. We would wake up and have tea and some oatmeal so as not to work so hard on an empty stomach. The morning class was 8:30-10, after which we would head to the vegetable stand and pick up supplies for lunch. Back home we would shower and then prepare a healthy home cooked lunch, and just relax for a couple hours or sometimes even take a nap. Then the afternoon class was at 4:30-6, and our routine afterward was much the same with buying ingredients, cooking, eating, and resting. A few times we would have another activity or two in a day, like when we took a cooking class one afternoon that was really more just watching someone cook and then eating the result, or had to head back into Mysore to buy train tickets on another, but for the most part this is how we passed the week; feeling good, eating well, and living in peace.