Sacred Symbols

Mysore Diaries

Day 5

Another day and more new experiences in Mysore. I’ve met so many interesting people the past week, have had stimulating conversations from yoga practitioners who have traveled around the world.  Some of them are also studying at KPJAYI, some practicing at other local shalas. 

I am constantly learning about the different view points of how yoga is perceived and practiced in the West.  Just like that old game telephone, where you tell the person next to you a line or verse, pass it down the line and by the last person the message can be no where it’s original meaning. 

There's nothing like being close to the source to really open up your eyes to the sacred experience of this practice. 

Speaking of which, I've recently had to alter my favorite yoga mat for this very reason.  So - you may be wondering why my mat has this little cut out?  

 

Well, I have been really trying to fly below the radar and not draw any more unwarranted attention to myself while practicing at the shala. Sometimes I feel like my belly has this huge target mark on it that screams out "Uh, hello, pregnant Ashtangi in the house!" 

So to my mortification and dismay, after the 3rd led practice day of the week, Sharath decided to use my mat as an example to point out what is not allowed in the shala. He was very adamant in explaining that Om’s and other sacred symbols are not allowed on your mat otherwise he will take your mat.  He also said that sacred symbols are not allowed around your feet or lower portion of the body.  If you have tattoos on your feet, well, he will take them too. Of course this was said with a mischievous smile. 

Thank goodness I don’t have any tattoos of Om or other symbols around the foot area. I was literally shrinking in sheer mortification from being pointed out as an example.  

The explanation is this.  Anyone who has spent time in India know that feet can get incredibly dirty.  It is thus insulting to Hindus to step on Om or any other sacred symbols and your dirty a*% feet don't belong anywhere near, or on them.  Stepping onto these symbols is considered disrespectful. 

While we are on the topic of feet. Another interesting tip to know is that it is also considered rude to point the soles of your feet at another person, especially your teacher.  

Uh - yeah - who wants to be giving a lecture and see a bunch of dirty soles pointed your way? 

Last helpful tidbit is do not let your feet touch your books. Books are sacred and feet don’t belong anywhere near them. 

So for those of you who are planning to travel to Mysore in the near future with mats, rugs, or shoes that have Om's or other symbols on them - beware!  And if you are considering getting a tattoo with sanskrit on your feet or lower body, think twice.  Don't tell me I didn't warn you. 

P.S. I also recently wrote to the company who produces these mats. They probably have a gajillion of these in inventory already, however I felt compelled to share some customer feedback before more future production runs of these mats.  After all, sharing is caring.  My email may have just disappeared into the ether or they may reply.  Will keep you posted if they do. :) 

With love from Mysore. 

Update Monday, October 10, 2016

I am happy and grateful to report that the contact person I've communicated with at Liforme graciously replied to my original message about the shala's policy on symbols of Om's. Having worked as a fashion designer and manufacturing in my previous life, my direct experience has shown how valuable client feedback can be. Unfortunately many know that some corporations are infamous for either taking their time to reply to customer feedback, while others completely disregard them.  

It is so encouraging to support a company that stands by their philosophy and integrity. I am sharing a portion of the reply I received from the customer relations team at Liforme:

"We're so sorry to hear you've had to personally cut your mat in order to practice at KPJAYI Shala.

We really do take our customer feedback seriously and we've recently launched the Liforme Evolve Mat as a result of this :) Ultimately, we really want everyone to have the same opportunity of practicing on a Liforme Mat, without having any concerns.

Our Liforme Evolve Mat (https://liforme.com/shop/liforme-evolve-mat.html) has all the same features of the original Liforme Yoga Mat, but with a refined and pared-back alignment guide. As well as simplifying the AlignForMe system, we have removed the OM symbol and the Shiva Trident."  

Unbeknownst to me, I had no idea that Liforme has a new mat! Incredible! So if you are like me and really appreciate the grip, comfort and feeling of this mat and you would like to avoid any faux pas, check our their updated mat before your next trip to Mysore. 

*Please note that my additional comments are in no way sponsored or endorsed by Liforme. 

I am simply sharing my gratitude to the folks over at Liforme for their amazing response rate; for really listening to their clients who utilize their mats for practice and their follow through on their dedication to "products made by yogis for yogis." 

Awesome sauce. :)