A. P. P. Goes to Mysore: Come As a student, not as an expert

The 411

I feel like I have made progress in my backbends. I felt grounded in my legs. Sharath assisted me without commenting on the distance of my feet or the straightness of my legs. He grounded me down more through the pelvis which helped a lot.

I accidentally floated too high when I went into Utkatasana. I overshot and lifted up a little in a hanstandish way to keep from slamming into some else’s mat. It is habit. When I overshoot, my first inclination is to put weight into my hands, try to catch balance and come back down. My second habit is to drop over which would have  resulted in me slamming into the person in front of me. I chose to just balance and come down.  Of course, he saw it. He asked me, why I was going up? I was like a deer in headlights. It took me too long to answer so he admonished me.

That must have put me on his radar because when I transitioned from Warrior 2 to Chaturaunga,  he dinged me again! An authorized teacher, who shall remain nameless, taught me to lift up my back leg and then lean forward and lift. He was like, “no Bakasana!” referring to Eka Pada Bakasana in Third Series which was not what I was trying to do but I definitely see why it would look that way to him. I was not leaning on my front arm at all. I was not hopping. I was not hand standing. I checked in with a few of my fellow practitioners and they keep their back leg low and hover from there. I think (who knows because he did not explain it) it was the height of my back leg that made it look like I was doing Eka Pada Bakasana (I wish I could do Eka Pada Bakasana).

I would be lying to you if I said I did not get into my head after that. I felt tremendous guilt because the person, I claim as my teacher, never taught me that. I would feel much sadness if Sharath made that conclusion.

Afterwards, I thought about two things Sharath said this week.

“Come to Mysore as a student, not as an expert.”

“Don’t come here to prove what you can do, come here to learn.”

I am trying to remain open to the process here. I don’t understand how things are done here so the next best thing for me is to remain open. I am more likely to gain understanding if I do not shut down.

The practice ended on a high note. Sharath helped me with my drop backs and smiled and laughed on the last one.



Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.


  • Endora

    My stomach is in my throat after reading this. LOL Now I’m all in my head wondering how I transition out of warrior 2. I know it must look like a crazy mess after I’ve adjusted and modified it so many times to accommodate my shoulders…and laziness. I’m sure this experience for a Mysore first-timer is all too common and you are not alone. I feel like I would have shut down and just started weeping on my mat, haha. Thank you for sharing. I am thoroughly enjoying and learning from your experience!

    • Shanna Small

      Honestly, I am starting to think he tells different people different things. Don’t mind me! If he does not like it, he will tell you!

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