the travelling ashtangi

as kids, my family never went half-ass on vacation. we travelled all over the U.S.- florida and disney world several times as my grandparents had a very nice jumping off point in orlando. gettysburg to see the battlefields, mesa verde in colorado to check out the cliff dwellers (at 15 years old i was the 3rd designated driver on that trip), prince edward island (that’s in Canadia). the younger sibs even made it out to the badlands (oregon trail style, but no one died of dysentery). there was no national park or museum we didn’t hit (i saw the house, not the movie, where jesse james was shot). we always drove, packing 8 kids and all our reading material and pillows into a 14 passenger van. it was a hoot. until saturday came.

my mom (designated driver #2) would always make sure that on sunday morning we were taking up an entire pew at mass in Godknowswhere, USA (or Canadia). i’m not sure how she did it, but she always found a catholic mass for us to attend. even on vacation! (honestly, she made me track down a catholic mass in kasane, botswana) and if a mass couldn’t be found, she would be very put out. quiet all day and reading her today’s missal. eish.

now, as an ashtangi, i understand. because whenever i go somewhere, travelling for work or on vacation, i am on-line checking out where to catch the nearest mysore/ashtanga classes where i’ll be. in NYC it’s with eddie and his crew at ashtanga yoga new york. in amsterdam it’s yoga mandala, in nairobi it’s with oriane (who finally got me to my chin in bhuja pidasana). i’m now heading home for 6 weeks and thinking: vermont? boston? portland?

because we ashtangis, we’re all one big tribe (don’t you dare call it a ‘religion’ or a…*whisper* ‘cult’). though ‘physically intimate, but emotionally distant’ we still like to practice together and enjoy each other’s company for that 1 hour, 1.5 hours, maybe even 2 hours, on our mats in the morning, even if we never make eye contact. it’s what holds us all together and individually keeps us sane. because who else would get up at 5:30am to practice primary series again? while on vacation?

and like a catholic mass, there’s no question about what you’re supposed to do. growing up i knew when the bells rang i had to go to my knees and start spewing latin, no matter where i was. now when the instructor calls ‘samasthitih’, i know we’re going to chant the vande gurunam together- in sanskrit. so it seems the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.

and as a studio owner it’s wonderful to see the occasional, and very welcome, international travellers. those people, who like me, always google: ‘ashtanga [name of city on plane ticket]’. and then scan links for words like ‘traditional’ or ‘mysore’. hell, we’re probably the people who i didn’t make eye contact with in the yoga room/inter-denominational prayer room at the [whatever international airport].

two weeks ago it was a woman from milan. this week it’s a man from america. ekam has had visitors from zambia, france, and lots of south africans now living abroad coming home for the holidays. they bring a breath of fresh air with them and a dedication to a practice that crosses borders and peoples (though i have a sneaking suspicion that we’re all a-type). it’s inspiring that a practice that started in a room that couldn’t hold more than 12 people at a time, has expanded into a global, individual practice. and we welcome all comers. because, in the end, it’s a little global piece of home, and a practice that we all share and are inspired by. in the end, there’s no vacation from the dedication to the practice.

(funny article about how insufferable yogis are. and there’s even a link to something about yoga snobbery. [snark.])



  1. Hi ekamyogini, I need some advice. I’ve only practiced at one shala ever in my life since starting Ashtanga 5 months ago. I just started on 2nd series and will be traveling lots soon. Like you, I’ve been researching where the closest shala is at my destination but seems like the etiquette is slightly different from what I’m used to. Here at my home shala, which is open from 6:30 – 11am for morning practice, I usually show up around 7:30 and am out the door by 9. So most of the time I miss the opening prayers at 7.

    I am noticing that some shalas have a fixed start time? What is the general consensus for the traveling ashtangi?

  2. you’ll have to check with the individual shala(s) to see what their local rules are. Matthew Sweeney has some great comments on Mysore etiquette here: in bigger studios they have longer mysore times, at Ekam, for example, I need to get to work so I appreciate when people start at 6am and definitely before 7am, but shalas vary. safe and happy travels.

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