Saturday, September 15, 2012

First time India Traveler Allison Lafferty Reflects on her First Week in Mysore


Allison right after her first class at KPJAYI

Allison started her Ashtanga practice on June 17th, 2011 at Land Yoga, just one day after we opened.  Since then she has committed to daily practice, and even encouraged her partner to do the same.  Allison has embraced all aspects of the practice and has taken it on her own to understand the history of what she is engaged in, by reading books and watching documentaries on Ashtanga yoga, taking class with Sharath when he came to New York, and finally, making the 30hr journey to Mysore, India.  Fairly new to her job, Allison had to work hard and sacrifice to get enough vacation hours combined to make this trip.  Before coming here, Allison had never before been off the North American continent.  Curious about her thoughts and desperate to know she was happy about her decision to follow me across the planet, I asked Allison to answer a couple questions:

Lara: It's been one full week since you arrived here.  I have some questions for you.  How was the plane ride? Were you bored?  What did you do?

Allison: Surprisingly, the plane ride wasn’t too bad.  I wasn’t overly bored because all I did was sleep and watch movies/TV shows on the plane.  However, sleep did indeed dominate most of my travel time.  I actually brought a book to read, thinking I could get some literary action in but I wasn’t able to stay awake long enough to read it!

Lara: What were your first impressions of India? Is it what you expected?

Allison: We arrived very early in the morning on Friday and the weather was cool and damp with a certain smell to it; I think it was incense, Indian food, and burning garbage.  It was also very loud with many horns beeping.  The airport was much more modern than I was expecting, yet it is like another planet compared to NYC.  I was a little shocked when I saw an oxcart being pulled. I was predicting India to be very dusty and that part did live up to my expectations.

Lara: How are your accommodations? Are they what you expected?

Allison: The house we are renting has a kitchen, two bedrooms, a room with a kitchen table, a room with a daybed for reading, a ‘wet room’ with a western toilet, a washroom for laundry, and a separate room with an Indian squat toilet.  I really had no idea of what to expect as far as accommodations, but I am really happy that we have a refrigerator and hot water.  I will admit that I was surprised to find out that the ‘wet room’ is literally wet all the time since the shower is just attached to the wall with no tub or shower curtain to contain the water.

Lara: What has been the highlight of your trip so far?

Allison: The highlight of the trip is definitely practicing with Saraswathi.  Each day I look forward to my practice and a great deal of my energy is expended there.  My first class here in Mysore was at the main shala and it was truly amazing to practice in that space.  The energy one gets from practicing with Saraswathi and along side so many wonderful yogis is beyond description and need to be experienced first hand to be believed!

Lara: What surprised you?

Allison: I think I was initially very surprised by the lack of traffic organization and severe scarcity of road signs.  That was indeed a shock to my system….I have no idea how one would give directions or navigate these streets alone without a rickshaw driver or taxi.

Lara: What are your days like?

Allison: The days here start very early, waking up around 3:45 A.M. to bathe and get ready for practice at 5:00 A.M.  My practice takes about one hour, twenty minutes to one hour and a half since I can really take my time with the practice.  After leaving the shala I go to the coconut stand and drink one or more coconuts.  Then it’s time to head back home and bathe again and grab something to eat.  There is plenty of time in the mornings to go out to the local places serving brunch or eat at home, whatever sounds appetizing.  Some mornings I have a Yoga Sutras or Chanting class at 10:30, otherwise it is total ‘rest & relaxation’ time!  After a taxing practice, you just want to relax and read a book or maybe take a nap.  Some days, especially when we first got here, we did some outings in Mysore: for instance we hit the market for shopping and had a pool day.  In the afternoons we head back out to grab a lunch that will give us fuel for the next morning’s practice.  Bedtime here has been between 6 & 7 P.M., since the days start so early.  

Lara: What is your practice like?

Allison: My practice is basically the same as in NYC, but I can take more time since I have none of the time restraints like I have at home.  The first day I stopped where my practice usually would end and Saraswathi came over and began instructing me.  The last two asnas she has given me are a bit of a challenge and she has been guiding me though them every day.  We take our closing poses is the same room and then move to an adjacent room to rest.  It is indescribable to practice here but with all the energy in the shala you are so alive and focused on the present moment throughout your session.  

Lara: Are you happy?

Allison: I’ll be honest, the first day was rough and I was very jetlagged and a bit lonely.  Now, a week into the trip I am happy, everyone is very friendly and I have chatted with some of the other students in my class.  It has really been wonderful traveling with Lara and having her ease me into life here in Mysore.  I feel blessed to be with Lara who knows all the good foods to eat and keeps me feeling healthy.

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