Mysore Style, pampered and beaten - all in a day!

Today I began Mysore Style classes at the Shala. As I am here to train, I figure it’s important I keep up my practice during my holidays. This mornings class was led by a woman whose name I couldn’t remember if my life depended on it. Starting with “P” and followed by lots more letters, is as far as i know. (Terrible… I know). I needed to be really conscious of being open to a different style of teaching. Although she is trained by Bharath, of course each person will bring their own flavour to a class. So with this in mind, I needed to be open to learning from a new teacher rather than dismiss her (in my mind) based on nothing else other than the fact that she is not Bharath. As I have had so many bad yoga teachers over the years, it’s hard to accept someone new after working with someone as incredible as Bharath. But, I needed to let that go.

I worked through the Foundation Series (as Bharath had recommended), more slowly than usual to be honest. I think a combination of being watched by another teacher and feeling a little out of sorts with my body at the moment (I think that time of month is on its way), I felt I needed to pay a lot more attention to my technique. As predicted, the new teacher had some differing ideas about a couple of the asanas (even something as simple as how many breaths in between) but I surprisingly found her instruction very clear, supportive and encouraging. I ended up really appreciating having a woman guide me into and out of particular asanas. Just something about a womans touch I guess. I can’t quite describe it, and not what I expected. Note to self: Be open to new experiences and don’t be too quick to judge. There could be wonderful learnings to be gained.

As class was done by 10.00am, I had a new found freedom! I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my spare time. Considering I live in Gokulam and have seen very little of it thus far, I decided to go for a wander through the backstreets to try and find some of the little yoga stores and a silver jewelery shop I have been told about. Although I found none of these places, as the shops are usually within people’s homes with nothing outside for advertising, I did come across a little sign for a beauty salon. When I saw ‘pedicures’ on the list of things they do, I was intrigued. My toe nails have remnants of red nail polish which has been chipped away day by day. Not a classy look! Such a simple thing, but having feral toe nails has been a little embarrassing.

Walking into, again, someone’s home, I was greeted by a young boy and four other Indian women, the eldest being the owner. With a price of 350 Indian rupees to have my toenails done, I was in! They saw me right away as no one else was booked. It seemed like they must get quite bored in there, just waiting for people to walk in the door.

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After a short wait, I was led into the back room where two black leather salon chairs sat. One with arm rests and holes in the arm rests (why, I wasn’t sure - my whole leg could have fit through it) and the other was just a normal chair for cutting hair. A young girl with dark hair tightly pulled back with a frizzy ponytail rushed me through and sat me down in the chair, making sure I was careful not to put my feet in the bucket of water below me. Sitting on a small stall in front of me, the young girl placed a white towel over my thighs and one over her own.

The pedicure began with removing the remainder of my nail polish followed by filing my toe nails. She then applied cuticle cream on each toenail and asked me to dunk my feet into the relatively hot water below. As she worked, all other staff sat around watching. I felt as though I was a zoo animal where people come to stare as I look different. But with all my travels over the years, you learn to just go with it!

After a few moments, the young girl asked me to lift my feet out of the hot water, where I noticed the cuticle cream had hardened - like candle wax. Wasn’t expecting that! She then took care to scratch it off with all sorts of mini utensils. Next, she dipped her hands into some honey coloured liquid and rubbed it all over my feet. It was divine. By this point, I realised I was getting a little more done than the original intention, which was to just have my toenails painted. This golden syrup bubbled up and with a fingernail scrubbing brush she then started to scrub my feet - everywhere. The toes, the tops of my feet up to my ankles, my heels, under my toes. No part of my foot was left unscrubbed. One would have thought a brush as hard as this would have hurt, but although it was rough, it was actually a really lovely sensation. With a rinse, next came the huge foot files - two different kinds. I would have been happy with one, but clearly the job wouldn’t have been done right if the second wasn’t used also. I think it may have been a buffer. One of the other girls who sat by the wall watching, a meter or so away, kept bringing more and more creams, and liquids, and brushes over. I honestly thought this pedicure was going to go on for the rest of the day. I wasn’t complaining!

Some peach smelling violet coloured body scrub was then massaged into my feet and all the way up to my knees! At this point I was getting a full leg and foot massage also. I was amazed this tiny girl had such strong hands. With more scrubbing, then washing, my feet were then painted with an avocado green paste! The whole foot to my ankles. By this point, I couldn’t help but giggle to myself about the experience I was having - all this effort just to get my toenails painted. With green feet, I was left on my own for about 5-10 minutes whilst the girls cleaned up behind me. What this cream was, I have no idea. But again, I just went with it!

While waiting, I was watching the young male give a haircut to a man who walked in during my pampering session. Right when I thought the haircut was done, the young male hairdresser brought a spray bottle over and sprayed the customers head, followed by one of the funniest head massages I have ever seen. I watched on in amazement as this customer was slapped and thumped and just attacked overall by the hairdresser. Clearly this is a normal thing as I noticed the customer actually readjust himself in preparation for the beating which was about to come. Had this been me, I think I would have walked out of the beauty parlor with a concussion. The thud sounds were so loud it was as though he was literally being bashed. I had to turn away a few times to hide the hysterical laughter I was trying not to show. I had the tears welling in my eyes and it took every ounce of energy not to completely lose it. By the time I turned back, I notice the hairdresser is back with the spray bottle, but this time spraying the mans face - drowning him by the looks of it. To top things off , the man’s entire face was slathered with shaving cream. I’m not joking. Forehead and nose included. All that was left were some blinking eyes. Seriously, one of the funniest things I’ve seen for a while. Very entertaining. This hairdresser then shaved this man with a cut throat razor. That was very impressive to see. He was scarily quick too. I’m not so sure I would feel so comfortable with a knife that sharp, moving that quickly, next to my jugular! Ahhh, the experiences of another country.

With green feet now washed, I walked out of the beauty salon with lovely maroon painted toenails with pretty silver dots on top. My feet felt amazing. I felt amazing. And I was so proud of my new toe nails. It’s incredible how something so simple can make you feel so lovely - and clean!

After a lazy afternoon, I attended my back bending Mysore Style class this evening with Ragu. I really like him. We have gotten to know Ragu over the past month and he seems like such a lovely young man. I think he is only 22 years old. This is my first class with Ragu and to be honest, his teaching style is not what I expected. He is wonderfully involved in the class, but my goodness he is much rougher than Bharath. Whilst doing my best to hold a position, he would quite forcefully pull my hips back or tuck my chest in. Not what I expected from him at all. It wasn’t bad, but they way the realignment was done makes it a little harder to embed in the memory. I think it’s important to be realigned more gradually so you have time to notice/feel the adjustment. Instead I’ve gone from A to Z without really knowing how I got there. I think this is where the work of a master, like Bharath, shines through. He must know that students need the opportunity to feel how the body is being realigned so we can recall it for next time, rather than force it. A small point but I think it’s an important one. It is certainly something I will keep in the forefront of my mind when teaching my own students one day.

This evening I have spent relaxing at home. I got to speak with my Owen for a short while. Unfortunately the power outages seem to be happening more frequently the more it heats up in Mysore which often stops us from chatting. It can be quite frustrating when the power goes out, again, but what can you do! I use these little experiences to help improve my acceptance and patience in life. If I didn’t then these silly things would get me down. I won’t let that happen. Back home, we have no tolerance for power outages, but at the end of the day - it’s life. In saying that, however, thank goodness it’s not something we have to deal with daily (back home). We really are very lucky. Here - it can happen multiple times a day, anywhere from a few moments to hours. Life.

So my lessons for today are; always be open to new experiences and always look for the learnings and positives within them; live in the moment and appreciate the little things. This is what creates ‘meanings’ in life.

Namaste xx


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