The Mysore room in Mysore is, literally, full of the world's most advanced ashtanga yogis. I'm reminded of when I used to bike race in Boulder, Co. I was on an amateur team: that is, we weren't making full livings as athletes but we had sponsors that helped us with nutrition bars, bike gear and bodywork, we sometimes won prizes and we definitely rode the same roads as (and sometimes with) Olympic team members and racers who'd turned pro. More importantly, we all shared a love of the sport.
The discipline, the energy and the injuries I experienced cycling led me figuratively and literally to yoga. I think many people who participate in sports share a questing nature, and that questing and pushing and over-reaching in cycling eventually found me in a yoga studio where I was struck by how the practice also harnessed the body, but took it for a spiritual ride.
My first few years of yoga practice were about undoing so much of the hardness, and ego, that came with pursuing a competitive sport. Many years later, I realize again and again that practicing yoga is still, and always will be, about dismantling past conditioning. I'm not a beginner anymore...and I'm always a beginner.
In yoga, our teachers tell us, this is a good thing. Sharath repeatedly reminds us in conferences that we (he includes himself) are all students, that if you're practicing yoga as a teacher, you aren't practicing yoga, and that doing more advanced poses does not mean you have a better understanding of yoga.
Here, relative newcomers to the practice (though it's not unheard of, there are very few first-time yogis in Mysore) are few and far between. Most people who get here have at least been introduced to Mysore-style yoga back home, and a larger percentage of people practicing here this season are flat-out advanced: most of the way through Intermediate Series or starting Third Series, experienced and famous teachers. A handful of the elite elite practice third and are learning fourth series'.
Today I practiced between a person doing half-primary and a Certified teacher learning fourth. As I'm working on the first parts of Second, it was both an apt placement and sampling of the spectrum of practitioners here as well as an example of how we're all practicing yoga, whatever it looks like. The experience is at once inspiring and humbling. We all get the benefits of practicing in an intensely energetic room, get first-hand views of what's possible...and at the same time get to fully realize where we're at with ourselves now.