From the kitchen to the deck
As the Retreat Chef, I’m usually knee deep in turmeric, cashews and banana flour while everyone else is on a journey of self-discovery on the mat. However, fresh out of our recent Bali yoga retreat, I’ve decided to embark on a three week Ashtanga Yoga Mysore immersion at the Ashtanga Yoga Bali Research Centre (AYBRC). I’m in the very capable hands of the globally regarded and super lovely, Team Pradha, Anthony ‘Prem’ Carlisi and Heather ‘Radha’ Carlisi.
Mysore immersion at the Ashtanga Yoga Bali Research Centre
Named a Research Centre to pay homage to Pattabhi Jois’ original Research Institute in Mysore, the AYBRC takes yoga to be a science of self-study. With this in mind, this blog hopes to log and evaluate some insights from the practice to discover valuable nuggets of yogic wisdom for the onward journey.
So I’ve donned my pink, ladies, elasticated, porn pants and I’ve put my hair in a double man-bun. It’s time for the chef to flex.
My body is clean, clear and ready for an Ashtanga Yoga experience
If I was ever going to be ready, I suppose now is the time. I last drunk five months ago, roaming the streets of Sydney with a bottle of rum as a bush-dwelling, pedestrian, sex-pirate. I haven’t smoked for seven months and I’ve been on a mostly vegan, low-gluten diet and visiting the gym with intent since the middle of January. Game on.
At our recent yoga retreat, my buddy Dave, who I’ve not seen since China’s Got Wedding last year, said my eyes looked really clear. Thanks, Dave. I’ve noticed that too. Laying off the drugs, tabs and booze has seemingly sieved the impurities straight from my eye holes. My body, mind and soul are primed for this challenge.
Prem and Radha Carlisi are global leaders of the Ashtanga method
Anthony ‘Prem’ Carlisi and Heather ‘Radha’ Carlisi are two of the most prominent Ashtangis in the world. We’ve been introduced to them by our mate Bora and we’ve decided to go headlong into a 3 week Mysore Ashtanga Yoga immersion at their centre in Bali, the Ashtanga Yoga Bali Research Centre. Click on the videos for an intro to the pair.
The journey begins
Flying the flag for profuse, Northern European bodily fluids in this tropical climate, my mat on the first day looks like a steaming mirage. I’m walking on water. A man-bunned Jesus. In my porn shorts I complete 10 sun salutation A’s and 10 B’s before starting to get to grips with the standing poses. Radha is away for the first week, so Prem is guiding, correcting my asanas with direct cues, a knock and a tap straight out of Mysore. He seems genuinely alarmed at my ability to produce liquids. Frankly, I’m surprised too. What is all this? Will it stop? Is it natural? Something tells me there’ll be more.
The mystery of Ashtanga Yoga unfolding
Ashtanga has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Ashtangis always seem to have some kind of chip on their shoulder about their brand of yoga being somehow better than the rest. During today’s class, I start to see why some might think that. In a Mysore class, it seems there’s a rigid structure and this allows a genuine opportunity for a teacher to hold a safe and personal space for each student that I’ve never experienced in a led class. Through the primary series, I’m able to work with my full breath, to my fullest expression of each pose, in my own time with regular and specific alignment instructions. How can you get this from a led class? I’m not sure you can.
I’m no sheep. Following instructions, especially as part of a crowd, has never been my forte. I can often resist teachers or find myself distracted, disapproving or hiding in protest at the back of a class. In this Ashtanga Mysore, however, there’s less of a sheep-factor. You’re granted a level to work to and you go about executing it to the best of your ability in your own space-time. Everyone is in their own meditation with it and the teacher isn’t sailing at the speed of the slowest boat. There’s an independence and personal touch to it that I really like.
My lungs are pretty big. I found this out when I went diving in the Gilis and my buoyancy was wildly awful to control. It’s one of my bugbears when teachers ask a yoga class to complete 5 breaths in a pose and then only give you a window for 2 breaths before moving on. My lungs were very happy today to take 5 full breaths in down dog without feeling pressured to stay at the pace of the rest of the class.
An unexpected ending to the first day of Ashtanga Yoga
When Prem thinks I’ve had enough for my first day, he props my butt into a seated pose and asks for 20 Ujjayi breath before savasana. After a shower, Prem has a Q&A arranged so that students of the Mysore class can extract his knowledge about whatever they want for an hour before heading back to Ubud. The Q&A took a turn not many of us anticipated and it shined a light on what must be the burning topic in the world of Ashtanga right now. That’s for another day.
Thanks for reading. More – read about day 4 of the immersion.
Read about Prem’s journey with Ashtanga here.
Read about Radha.