Direct Instruction on Mysore Style Social Skills

Being strong as an ox and stubborn as a mule has many advantages. In the Mysore room my strength has granted me access to many poses that others must develop from scratch, and my stubbornness has kept me doing Ashtanga for over 20 years, many of those years I have been without a teacher. When given the choice between exacting protocol and feral, I lean towards feral, and without a teacher I not only leaned towards my preference, it started to take over.
I was raised an athlete, I have been in an intimate relationship with gravity as it pertains to my body and  sport for many decades now.Ahh…here’s the rub…., the Mysore room is not a gymnasium, and it is not the weight room, nor is it the track. Each of those venues has a set of social skills that the athlete partaking in the sport learns and embodies. I know the social skills of those venues. I learned them from my coaches and from the other athletes as we all grew into the correct way of interacting with the sport at hand.  And then came the Mysore room.

My first Mysore room was me and three friends, it was just us, it was entirely ours. One of us would adjust and the other three would practice. We would call our teacher Annie Pace (then Grover) once every few weeks to check in, and ask questions. We were very serious, but we were also friends. There was talking,  laughing, adjusting each other, admiring of a new yoga top…….
This went on for over five years. Then we opened up a yoga studio and the rules changed a bit, but we were still us. This went on for ten years. And this is how I came to be in such desperate need of direct instruction of the social skills that apply to the Mysore room. Help I am a Mysore style Ashtanga yoga teacher and I can’t shut up.

Cut to the present day… about three weeks ago.
I get a call from David. Our teacher /student relationship stakes have been raised, I am now one of only three people  in his teacher apprentice program, it is rigorous and not just physically. He called to get clear on some things, and one of those things was the way I conduct myself in the Mysore room. Very awkward when the  “King” himself has to tell you how to act in front of him. He had spoken with me about my talking, my too much interactions with other yogis, my need to focus on myself on my own mat while we were in the Mysore room. He had done this MANY times in the Mysore room, but now I am getting a stronger message because the asanas are not there to be some sort of excuse for me to look around. The asanas are not there for me to hide my habit of poorly trained  dristi gobbling. Basically, David is asking me if I really want to be in his teacher apprentice program or if I want to continue to disregard his Mysore room protocol. Wow, it is uncomfortable to held responsible for  my behavior.

Last week I went to  a Five Day Mysore Intensive taught by David at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My main focus was on the Mysore room protocol, the code of conduct that David had gone over with me on the phone. The night before going off for the intensive my husband was reading The Mahabharata to me,  when he read this passage he stopped in the middle of it and said,”Oh this is for you in the Mysore room!”

So as to not get off topic replace: king with teacher, King with DG, and God with Guru.

 A little back story: A king in hiding, is getting some pointers on how behave while in the presence of another King.

“In the proximity of a king, you will have to keep in mind a few important rules. Being a king yourself, you will not have known them. Only a commoner serving a king could realise that  it is a knife-edge existence. Far happier are those who never see their king except when he passes along, riding an elephant, in a procession. One who serves a king is serving an embodiment of God and must adjust his distance suitably. Never enter the King’s presence without announcing yourself and seeking his permission. Never occupy a seat at the court which may rouse the envy of another. Don’t offer any counsel unasked. Don’t talk unnecessarily or carry gossip, but remain silent and alert at all times. Never give any occasion for him to repeat a command. In the King’s presence one should be gentle in speech and avoid vehemence and the expression of anger or contempt. On should not laugh too loudly nor display undue gravity. One should not dress like the King, nor gesticulate while speaking, nor mention outside what has transpired in the King’s presence. Be available to the call of the King but don’t be obtrusive.” Thus Dauyma went on expounding the code to be followed by a courtier.

  • Why do I need direct instruction on the social skills as they pertain to the Mysore room? Some people don’t pick up on social cues the way others do, and I am obviously one of those people. The real question, the important question for me is, now that I have been given such instruction will I take it? Can I take it? Now that I am aware that my behavior needs changing, will I shape my behavior accordingly… Do I want this? 
  • so many ideas come to me form this: why is not talking, not being loud important.
  • can other people really turn in and concentrate on inside of them, what the frack is wrong with me that I always feel like one of the ducks flying in formation, i feel all of us? why can’t i just be ONE of the ducks?  I have embodied the team thing so deeply it is hard for me to just be only me.
  • how deep is this habit of weak drisit? What aspect of myself is it serving?
  • how selfish is this weak dristi? If I can think of my dristi as helpful to others, that will probably help me to change, but I feel so selfish concentrating on  just me…..
There it is… The doormat in the center of the universe! “Help, I have low self esteem and I am taking it out on my fellow ashtangis…..”


One comment

  1. Hi Suzanne, did you write this piece? I Loved learning more about you. And you are an amazing writer…. and I promise to conduct myself very well in your Ashtanga Mysore room, Love the space you have created.

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