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The Allure of Silence


By Clara Murphy

I remember the very first moment, eight months ago when I first crept into the Mysore room and was confronted by the silence. Only the occasional, gentle movement of various shuffling bodies, or the rise and fall of inhalations and exhalations clung to barely audible sound waves.

I remember the mounting panic that began to rise as I suddenly became aware that if I was to start what at the time was an unknown practice. It was to be a quiet affair– there was to be no sound to drown out my fears, no background noise to distract me from the discomfort in my head. It was my mat, the room and practice.

I was one of those people that avoided silence at all costs. I just didn’t ‘do quiet’; the type of person that told myself I needed noise to survive. Quiet made me feel completely alone, or perhaps too close to me. The very place I did not want to be — it aroused an all too familiar sense of terror, of vulnerability and ultimately made me want to run. The torment and pain that I carried round with me rose in volume when there was no noise to deflect my attention from the emotional cannonballs that regularly fired at me and which I preferred to keep buried.

So here I was stepping into this cocoon of peaceful quiet and being asked to put down my shield of fear and shame, to begin to let down my guard-and finally surrender. There was to be no instructions, no talking- just the movement of the Astanga sequence.

Ironically, it is the silence of the Mysore room- the lack of noise that I had been so afraid of, that I so dreaded and avoided that has slowly become something I crave and one of the many things that keeps me coming. It directs my focus and thoughts to my breath; it roots me to the solitude of my practice and has become something that I deeply treasure. It’s as if in the silence I make a pledge to abstain from noise, the mental clutter in my head and connect with the person underneath the layer of fear, of hurt or whatever particular feeling I am experiencing that morning.

The quiet for me draws a distinct line or division between the space of the room and practice from the rest of my day and has begun to become something I carry with me. This almost sacred boundary between the quiet of the room and noise is something in our daily lives we often miss.

For so much of the time we are surrounded — bombarded –by the background noise of everyday life: people on their phones, traffic, music from various devices, television. Even in other yoga classes there is often music played or instructions shouted, even chatter.

The quiet of the Mysore room, however, offers us a chance to be with ourselves, to confront the dialogues that roll within our heads, the shadows we like to keep and hidden and tap into what really lurks beneath our surface, beneath our shields to what is in our hearts. We are thrust into the present moment; there are no sounds to talk about tomorrow or yesterday. We are asked to let ourselves truly hear and discover what listening really means.

In the silence one begins to hear things in an entirely different way- even time takes on a new dimension. We have no ticking clocks, no announcements of the minutes past, or what’s happening outside, just the breath and our pulsing bodies, the beating rhythm of our whole being.

It is in the silence that we are asked to build a relationship with ourselves, the inner self, and challenged not to desire external stimuli- we hear our true voice perhaps for the first time.

As Anna Muzin has said about the quietness, “when you step into the Mysore room this prospect can be either a draw or a deterrent- it depends on whether you are ready to listen.”


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Mysore style astanga self-practice

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