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The Mysore Room Experience: IRL & Virtual

By Monica Arellano

I step on the mat (or log into zoom) and I think, ‘good I made it, the hardest part is over’. I remember why I’m here. How after I practice I feel so much better in the body and mind. More settled. So, from that point, getting started in the practice is easy. Telling the body to move through the tapas, the discomfort and effort is easy because I remember… this yoga works.

The teacher’s smile to greet me makes me smile right back. I feel the energy of the room, the collective breath makes it feel like the room is actually breathing, like there’s a pulse to the energy created by the practitioners. But then I take a closer look and realize beneath that collective energy is each individual practitioner fully absorbed in their own world and I think ‘oh good, they made it too’. Each breathing at their own pace, following their own unique rhythm, making their own unique shapes and somehow blending perfectly into the collective energy of the class. They are part of a whole that would be incomplete without each of their presence.

And then again I catch sight of the teacher as I lay down my mat and prepare my personal practice space. She weaves through mats and students to check in with me, and I take it as a moment for me to check in with me. She goes back to moving in and out of working with each individual student, like she’s weaving in and out of our personal stories, and somehow tying the whole collective story together just by her presence.

The teacher. Human, imperfect and sincere. She’s holding the common thread between each practitioner in her caring hands. The common thread of this practice, of this desire to be better versions of ourselves, of the intention to find stillness. Her presence re-affirms that for me. That I am here for a reason because this space is here and the other students are here, and the teacher is here to make sure that keeps happening.

I come to the top of my mat, bring my palms together and chant the opening mantra silently to myself. Feeling grateful, lucky to have this practice and teachers who have led me to this point of continuing to practice and sharing it with others.

Then I start to move the body, and carefully place the inhales and the exhales. As I lift my arms over my head I feel as if I’m reaching with everything I got, with the hope to make each movement for the next hour or so, sacred. Placing the body and breath so purposefully and delicately as I would anything I loved. I feel into the body and the breath moving through the body to fully experience this moment of being alive. I remember how precious it is to have a healthy and strong body, mind and spirit through which to experience this world by.

As I move through the practice I weave in and out of my personal world, a microcosm of the universe and the collective energy of the room, the overall sense of tapas and transformation that’s happening all around me. Each is a reflection of the other. I keep moving alongside my fellow practitioners to find those rare moments of knowing, of seeing that reflection clearly.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is it that makes a mysore room a mysore room. Since we’ve translated many of them to the online sphere, how is it that we can still call it mysore without being in the same physical space and without the hands on adjustments of a teacher? Are the basic pillars of a mysore room still present? I think so, yes. 

These are what I believe to be the basic pillars of a mysore room, which I believe can be applied to both in person and virtual mysore classes:

1. The teacher-student relationship. Whether it’s through conversation, physical touch, verbal cues this can be present as long as there is trust and compassion both ways in the relationship. The teacher is there to guide you day by day, and eventually through the long term journey of your practice.

2. A sacred space. This practice can become a life long journey that mirrors the ups and downs in life. Whatever is going on you have that room, that space to go in and connect with that part of yourself that will always be there despite all of life’s changes and fluctuations. It becomes this tangible space to provide you with somewhere to go through it all. And the teacher is there to make sure the space stays sacred for you to discover whatever it is that’s waiting for you. The mysore room represents that space – as a physical location or a meeting you log into, it doesn’t really matter. It’s is setting the clear time and place for you to tune in. It sets the parameters for your discipline. 

When you’re practicing at home, creating a sacred space can also be as simple as making sure there is a designated spot in your home where your practice. You keep it clean, maybe light an incense or candle to acknowledge the beginning of a practice. You create your own personal ritual for preparing the space and treating it with care. It reflects how you treat the practice, the postures, how you treat yourself. When you’re in a physical mysore room, usually much of this responsibility lands on the teacher to keep the environment conducive for self-inquiry.

3. Community. Having this tangible space I think is also the foundation for such a strong and connected community that grows from the mysore room. We share the space in which we each go through so much and so we can be there for each other. You can travel the world or log into any mysore class, and find a room with the same sense of community, and feel you are a part of something bigger than yourself.

4. The Breath. The collective energy of the room and the energy moving through the body of each practitioner. The movements are guided by the breath rather than a teacher’s count to set the pace. The breath becomes the guide.

5. Consistency. Sutra 1.14: sa tu dīrgha kāla nairantarya satkārā ‘‘sevito dṛḍhabhūmiḥ 

Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and with deep devotion and sincerity, rather than a task we have to get done and check off our to do list. The mysore room needs to be a space that supports the consistency necessary. It’s the practical consistency of the mysore room – it happens at the same time 5-6 times a week. You can rely on the room being open and the teacher being there. This creates a framework within which yoga and transformation is possible.

The Mysore room is one of those things that once you’re in it, you can’t remember why you were ever scared. Once you’re in there, alongside other well-intentioned people you can’t imagine not having that space. But before that, you feel like it’s something you need to understand or be a part of. But you don’t. You just start. And there will be teachers and others students there with you, supporting you, celebrating you the whole time and it’s such a beautiful thing.

I really hope to practice alongside you some day.

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