Shala etiquette for Mysore virgins 

KPJAYI signLike many aspects of Indian culture, the KPJAYI shala in Mysore appears at first glance to run on ‘organised chaos’.

But underneath the apparent mayhem lies a set of clearly defined rules and regulations. Some are carried through from Guruji’s days, some have been newly created by Sharath and some are just plain old common sense. But if you’re new to Mysore and no-one’s told you the finer points of shala etiquette, you could find yourself getting flustered or even shouted at, which isn’t a great experience on your first day!

So here are my dos and don’ts to help you navigate the wonderful world of the KPJAYI.        

Mysore Style Class

Why you late? The shala clocks are set 15 minutes early, as Guruji liked students to be on time. Remember that all times given by Sharath or Lakshmish are on “shala time”. Don’t be late! (Or early for that matter.) “Why you late?” “Why you come early?” “You wait outside” “Punishment!”

One more! When you arrive, sit quietly and patiently in the entrance foyer, or on the steps outside if there’s no space, until you’re called in. “One more!”

KPJAYI no photos signNo mobiles Don’t use your mobile phone while waiting.

No photos Don’t take photos inside the shala.

No fighting Use your powers of observation and awareness to work out who’s ahead of you and behind you in the queue. And don’t push in – it’s not very yogic. “Come, no fighting!”

Babies first Let parents with kids go before you. “She first, she has baby.”

One more small Let shorter students take the small person spots. “One more small!”

No coffee, no prana When it’s your turn and you’re called in – move quickly, don’t faff about. “What, no coffee?” “You don’t want to practice today?”

Mark your territory When you get to your spot, lay your mat out first then go change.

Bag inside Don’t keep your belongings inside the shala; only in the changing rooms. “Keep bag inside.”

Switch it off If you do bring your phone to the shala, make sure it’s switched off or in silent mode. There’s nothing worse than an annoying ringtone reverberating around the changing rooms while you’re trying to relax in Sukhasana.

Keep it close Don’t forget your shala card – put it under the front of your mat in case Sharath asks to see it – you don’t want to be sent home to fetch it!

The 2 mat rule A new rule they’re enforcing is that everyone must have both a rubber/sticky mat and a cotton mat (rug or towel) – presumably in an attempt to absorb as much sweat as possible, as it can get pretty wet and slippery in there.

KPJAYI shrineKeep your drishti Try not to look around the room, or into the entrance foyer, no matter how many distractions there are. “Why you want to know what he’s doing?”

Love thy neighbour Again, use your yogic powers of observation and awareness to notice what’s going on around you (whilst keeping your drishti of course), and negotiate the space with your neighbours.

No karate Particularly check before doing any asana that requires more space, to avoid punching or kicking your fellow students. And please double check or scooch forward before doing Chakrasana – this isn’t a karate class.

Finish inside Unless you’re practising in the last batch of the day, take your mat into the changing rooms to do finishing. “Go inside for shoulder stand.”

Counted Led Class

No card, no watch If you’re watching the led intermediate class, don’t forget to bring your shala card, especially if you’re practising with Saraswathi. Sharath will spot you a mile off if he doesn’t recognise you and demand to see it. “Show me your card.”

Class card from KPJAYINo pushing Don’t push and shove each other to get through the gate. And especially don’t trample poor Prakash aka the shala guardian. There is (usually) enough space for everyone, even if you end up in the changing room or entrance foyer, which can make a nice change of scenery!

No throwing Don’t throw your mat from 20 feet away to secure a spot in the front row (yes this happened recently!)

No hurrying Try to stick to Sharath’s count even if you’ve only taken 3 breaths by the time he counts to 5. And don’t move through the vinyasa before he calls it. “Why you hurry?”

Remember to modify I know you want to do every posture to its full extent but I’m afraid in a led class at the main shala, you just can’t. Especially in the 2nd half of Suptakonasana. Don’t come crashing down on your neighbours’ legs, or take up all their space – it’s not very friendly.

No dominoes There are lots of asanas where you can stagger yourselves to get a bit more space. But if you’re at the far right hand side of the room, choose a side to move to for Prasarita Padottanasana and stick to it – otherwise the entire row will be shifting from side to side like dominoes!

No resting At the end of the practice, don’t expect a long Sukhasana. Usually after Sharath has said “lay down” there’s barely enough time to catch your breath before he says “Thank you very much, go home, take rest” – followed by a little chuckle!

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