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My Passage To India Nature Calderon Sail forth--steer for the deep waters only, Reckless O soul, exploring, I with

thee, and thou with me, For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all. O my brave soul! O farther farther sail! O daring joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God? O farther, farther, farther sail! - Passage to India, Walt Whitman

I sensed this journey was not for the fainthearted but it seems the most important journeys never are. The decision to go was almost an afterthought, albeit a very persistent one. True, I have always been drawn to India and I dreamed of going to Mysore, to pay respect to the birthplace of Ashtanga Yoga, but I had my share of uncertainties. I was going to travel to India for the very first time and alone (for at least a few days). This was different from my previous lone yoga travels in the quiet tropics. I read mixed reviews from blogs, heard the hesitation in peoples voices. Still, the Universe unfurled its agreement, one confirmation after another. I asked for the last proverbial sign that I truly needed to go. It arrived the visa that barely made it on time. At the last minute, my suitcase was downgraded to less than half its size. In the face of uncertainties, it is best to travel light (another first). I was going on a pilgrimage, anyhow. For five weeks, I was going to pay tribute to the home of Ashtanga Yoga Krishna Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Gokulam, Mysore. What could I possibly need that will not fit one expandable hand carry, a travel tote and a yoga mat bag? It was a long trip to Mysore. After two plane rides and a 4-hour cab ride, I finally arrived at The Green Hotel. All my excitement and uncertainties were momentarily replaced by pure exhaustion. Thankfully, light and sleep made so much difference. By the time I headed out to the shala (school), I began to feel better. I only wish I had someone to share the giddiness that came with my first official day in Mysore the rickshaw ride and cows, the taste of Indian food in India, that first step in the yoga shala, seeing Sharath Jois face as he scribbled my name on my ID like an autograph in reverse, and, not least of all, that surreal first day of practice. The newness of experience made me feel like a freshman again slightly awkward, a bit eager, maybe too wide-eyed. There I was, officially registered at the KPJAYI, school and source of Ashtanga Yoga. The first 48 hours of my journey carried this strange and beautiful richness and it was only the beginning. Over the next days and weeks, I began to settle down. I felt more and more at home with the idea of a surprise space I never knew which small spot I was going to get. I also embraced the concept of not having any sense of personal space and got used to new looking limbs trespassing on my mat. My alertness heightened as I came close to getting kicked in the face a couple of times, and once felt my foot on someones head (and I apologized profusely). My nose has made friends with a few toes. It felt natural that the beams dripped with the condensed heat of the practice. Imagine, everyone

contained in drops of liquid. I have never seen an Ashtanga studio sweat until that time. I could have sworn the room seemed alive with the sound of collective breathing. I settled quietly into this experience, pruning down all notions and trivial preferences. I came here to practice and learn from within, from the teachers of Ashtangas lineage. Thats exactly what I got. One pleasant surprise during my time there was the number of people from the Philippines. We travelled individually and united in Mysore, practitioner and teachers from different places. There, we were immediately family and comrades. Then again, at the heart of it, we always were. We earned our collective title. Sharath called us by nationality, sometimes, for our turn to practice. PhilipPINE! (like the tree), he would say, sometimes followed by Shart (short) which, for the most part, we were and could therefore fit in the small spaces in the room. Yoga is union, and in Mysore, that took on a special meaning. Being in Mysore meant being absolutely present there, out of the Metro, out of the routine and easy convenience of a familiar culture. The initial strangeness, however, was steadily replaced with stronger friendships, a deeper appreciation of the practice, that joy of letting the yoga grow within. Ive been blessed to meet others in that same journey, that same passage, and in that place where they say it all started. *** As my epilogue, I realize there will always be uncertainties in Mysore as in Manila. It is the yoga that gets me steadily through these unnerving thoughts about my practice and all the day-to-day matters, whether here or there. There are stark contrasts, but the similarities run deep as well. I loved the intimacy of a shared practice, the relationships built, the growing community, the learning process, and the pains and joys of being part of something truly alive. --As published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 22, 2012 Abridged Online version: