Tuesday, 23 August 2011

I drank the kool-aid.

This week (just in case you haven't heard) Sharath is in town. After feeling non-plussed when I took 1 led class with him two years ago (as an almost complete newbie) I was torn between utter terror and major excitement in the run-up to his arrival, but three days in I am absolutely 100% loving the experience, 4.30am alarms and all. In brief, here is why:

He just walks into the room and we all stand in silence. There is no fluff, no precursor, no bullshit. Just his presence, at which silence falls, his quiet removal of his jacket with his back to us, the feeling of anticipation as he faces us and we rise and come to front of our mats, waiting to hear him say "samasthiti" at which point absolute stillness falls. It is nothing short of magical.

The feeling of being surrounded by so many dedicated ashtangis, knowing that they have travelled from far and wide for the same reason is in itself something special.
The fact that I know or recognise so many of them makes it all the more special. My twitter friends, most of whom I've met previously, but one very special person who I hadn't, are making the week even greater than the sum of its' parts. Lovely ladies from Dublin who I practiced with at Peter Sanson's workshop, colleagues from shiny yoga HQ, my regular shala-mates, familiar faces from work and previous workshops, seeing all of these people here together in one room reminds me that London is not a big and faceless or lonely place. It also reminds me how we have managed to create an incredible, supportive and loving set of connections in this big and sometimes scary world by connecting through our breath and our intentions. And a very special friend gives the most incredible pre-practice hugs.

As we all move together, following Sharath's count (sometimes longer than we would wish, sometimes not long enough) I feel the power of moving to somebody else's instruction. It doesn't feel like giving over the power, as it sometimes can, it feels like blissful surrender.

The focus in the room is incredible. It is palpable. The gentle giggles when Sharath makes one of the jokes we all know he will make soften us and reminds us not to take things too seriously.

For the people who need him, he is magically there. For those who perhaps don't, to suggest that a week of adjustment-free led practice won't teach you anything would be utterly and completely missing the point. I am yet to feel the touch of his hand on me, but as he walks past and his eyes move over my practice without pausing, my confidence in my strength grows. I am learning so much, just through each breath I take in that room, surrounded by a hundred others who are also learning untold amounts each day.

With every count, every breath, every day, my intention to go to Mysore and practice with Sharath strengthens. He reminds me why I am here, why I turn up on my mat every day. The practice goes by so quickly even if sometimes the count does not.

Each day reminds me how far I have come. Each day I feel stronger, even though I also feel more tired. I am growing through this experience. I am sharing it with my friends. I am leaving the room a different person than the one I am when I arrive. I am filled with the feeling that the world is small, and friendly, and that loving connections are everywhere you look.

I keep the faith in difficult postures where I would usually count quickly and give up: navasana, uttana padasana, sirsasana, ardha sirsasana. In utipluthi, I have a little less faith ;)

The feeling of connectedness as we take our final vinyasa to the top of the mat to recite the closing chant is markedly different than at the opening of our practice. I feel my ankles and feet bonded together, utterly grounded and still. I find my breath to chant, and as I left today I kept Sharath's pronunciation of "lokah  samastha" running around my head in a loop. 
As we take a brief savasana the energy in the room is electric. I feel the energy radiating around me.

This is why he is the guru. In this room, in this way, he teaches with no westernised adaptations. Maybe this isn't for everyone, but I know without question that is is for me. 

I think we can pretty much say I drank the kool-aid. 
Been there, done that, got the tshirt.


  1. Beautiful Mel xxx

  2. nice.... and nice to read it

  3. Gorgeous - so wish I could be there ... :)

    And do you ever wonder where that expression 'I drank the Kool-aid' came from, or what it refers to?

    I think it comes from way back in the 70s. There was a book called The Electric KoolAid Acid Test - by Tom Wolf I think ... about Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters (a bunch of hippies!) When they put acid in KoolAid that was available at big rave parties! I guess I'm displaying my age here, but it sort of reminded me ... :)

  4. Thanks everyone :)
    And Susie my drinking the kool aid reference is this one - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drinking_the_Kool-Aid about the cult massacre!! Not that this is the same thing, of course...but also in a workshop I took with Kino a few years back she said of second series: "By the time you get there you really need to have drunk the kool-aid already" :)

  5. I never understood that Kool aid thing when Kino mentioned it last week, thanks for the explanation. It was a great week.

  6. Both Hannah and I love your post. It really captures the spirit of the week in London. Hannah says it's beautifully written and it brought a tear to her eye.

    The week was a real celebration of yoga! The effects will be deeply felt for sometime to come and indeed the fruit of the seeds planted will blossom with daily practice (and a trip to Mysore next year for us too!)



  7. thanks Mel, your post really inspired me. I am thinking about going to Mysore this winter but I am still not sure if I am ready for it.
    When are your going?
    Janne :-)

  8. Thanks Guy & Hannah, it really was a celebration of yoga! What a special week to share, and I loved practicing beside or near you guys every day. I miss everyone!

    And thank you Janne! I think we are ready for Mysore whenever the opportunity in life arises for us to go. I am hoping to get there next spring, February-March if the planets align in my favour ;)

  9. Interesting - about the Jonestown massacre link. Makes sense! I looked at the Wikipedia entry, and saw under 'Alternative Meaning' there was also a reference to what I was talking about:

    "The expression has also been used to refer to the activities of the Merry Pranksters, a group of people associated with novelist Ken Kesey who, in the early 1960s, traveled around the United States and held events called "Acid Tests", where LSD-laced Kool-Aid was passed out to the public (LSD wasn't deemed illegal in the U.S. until 1966). Those who drank the "Kool-Aid" passed the "Acid Test". "Drinking the Kool-Aid" in that context meant taking LSD. These events were described in Tom Wolfe's 1968 classic The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. However, the expression is never used figuratively in the book, only literally."

  10. wonderful post! Makes me miss my "magic yoga environment" in london. practicing together with people of the same mind- set, towards a common aim- oh it can be so beautiful, especially with a great guru thats leading you. No words needed. Thanks for sharing-looking forward to reading more from you!