I had a very long day. But it was a very fulfilling day and it confirmed for me that my decision to come to India to deepen my yoga practice was the right one. The Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram welcomed its Heart of Yoga students this morning at 7:30AM. We were introduced to the faculty, we introduced ourselves, and after a breakfast of idly, chutneys, fruit, and chai on the roof of the building we dove into our studies. This is our regular schedule and what I’ll be following for the next 4 weeks.
7:30 – 8:20 Asana and pranayama practice
8:20 – 9:00 Breakfast (provided at KYM on the roof)
9:00 – 9:50 Principles of yoga
10:00 – 10:50 Principles of asana
11:00 – 11:50 Vedic chanting
12:00 – 14:00 Lunch break (on our own)
14:00 – 14:50 Principles of pranayama (and practice)
15:00 – 15:50 Application of yoga (with Dr. Kausthub Desikachar)
15:50 – 16:10 Tea break (provided at KYM on the roof)
16:10 – 16:50 Teachings from other yoga texts
17:00 – 17:50 Meditative practice
My head is swimming in Sanskrit words and my body is tired from being in a disciplined learning environment all day. But I really enjoyed and learned so much today. The group that’s participating in the program is made up of different nationalities and from everywhere around the globe; just getting to know them a bit during our meals and tea was fun and exciting. I got a chance to speak to a shoe designer from Taiwan, a Cuban American who is an Ashtanga teacher, a woman from Trinidad and Tobago who has been living in Norway, a lovely French woman, a Chinese woman who was raised in South Africa, and of course my apartment mate who is an American living in Spain. There is a Mexican woman who lives in China, a French woman who’s been living here in Chennai for over a year, and the list just goes on. Today most of us talked about our own history and journey of studying yoga, and about where we are living for the four weeks while we’re studying at KYM. After lunch I even showed two of the students my apartment as they’re not yet settled on where they’ll live. They were both exhausted and not yet feeling 100% from their travels. To add to the stresses of the demanding schedule at KYM, most of the students just arrived in India so I saw a lot of jet lagged and weary eyes. The shock of the first few days of India is so fresh to them that I found myself nodding constantly and telling them how they’ll get used to the dust, the smells, the honking, and the chaos of it all.
As for the lectures today, we covered a lot of definitions and fundamental points of yoga. Where is came from, what certain Sanskrit words mean, what the basic concepts and philosophies are. In addition to the lectures we had a short asana practice, a pranayama practice, meditative practice, and vedic chanting. I found the vedic chanting lesson the hardest and the most foreign. It was like learning a whole new language, as if I was in a beginner’s Mandarin Chinese class. The mantras are in Sanskrit (written out in phonetically) and we are to chant them in certain tones (higher, neutral, lower). We learned to properly pronounce the words, to pause, to count, and to distinguish the three different tones. It was HARD. We found out that vedic chanting was reserved for men only in the old days but it was guru Krishnamacharya who started teaching women to chant and now it is an accepted practice. Our chanting teacher is a woman as well. We laughed through some of the harder parts of our chanting practice today, even our teacher found some of our mistakes amusing. But she was very serious when she said “just open your mouth wider,” which we all found hysterical. Opening my mouth wider wasn’t going to make my delayed higher tone sound like hers. I have 19 more lessons of vedic chanting. I wonder what my mantras will sound like at the end of the month…