Mysore style practice is a specific way of learning Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India. It involves one-on-one instruction in a group format, but the class is not led by the teacher. Rather, students practice at their own pace and the teacher goes from student to student assisting each individually according to their ability level and particular needs.
When I first heard about Mysore Style Ashtanga Yoga practice I thought, why would anyone pay for a group class that is not led by a teacher? Why not just practice at home on your own for free? I also felt pretty intimidated by the idea of memorizing all of the asana in the proper sequence. Now I prefer to practice Ashtanga Mysore style and I’d like to share my observations about this.
1. Practicing at my own pace allows me to better coordinate breath with movement, which is one of the most important aspects of Ashtanga Yoga.
2. When I don’t have to listen carefully to the teacher’s instructions throughout a practice, I’ve found I am better able to look inward and be more mindful of thoughts, feelings, sensations and experiences that arise. The practice becomes more meditative.
3. Going through the sequence on my own allowed me to become more independent in my yoga practice. On those days that I can’t make it to class, I am more likely to practice at home with confidence.
4. Even though I have become more independent, the energy of practicing with a group has a positive effect on me and I appreciate having like-minded others to practice with whenever possible.
5. Practicing at my own pace means I can spend more time on asana that need extra attention and I can add movements that help me go deeper into a pose. I can focus on building strength, flexibility or balance depending on what I need in that moment. I can also practice good self care by slowing things down if that is what my body needs that day.
6. I find that I get more personalized attention from the teacher during Mysore Style Ashtanga Yoga classes.
7. The time flexibility in most Mysore style classes means I can spend some time meditating after I am finished with the sequence. This is my favorite time to meditate as the body and mind are well-prepared for stillness.
In terms of my fears, I found that it did not take long at all for me to learn the sequence. I used a “cheat sheet” for a while and gradually challenged myself to do more and more without looking at it. My teachers were compassionate about my mistakes – but most of all, I learned to practice self-compassion when I forgot a pose or mixed up the order.
What are the downfalls of Mysore Style Ashtanga Yoga practice?
- Most of these classes are very early in the morning and not many studios offer it in my area. However, I found that I was able to adjust to my new schedule and I even came to prefer to practice during this time of day – all this coming from someone who was never a “morning person”.
- You may sweat profusely. I learned to leave my ego at the door, bring a dry change of clothes, increase my laundry schedule, drink much more water and just enjoy the benefits of breaking a sweat at least once daily.
- You may become “hooked” and your practice may change your life in ways you would not predict. In addition to changing my sleep/wake schedule, my eating schedule was transformed. I am even more aware now of what, when and how much I consume – which in my case is a good thing. All of the benefits that come from a regular yoga practice feel intensified when I practice Mysore style.
If you have taken some led Ashtanga Yoga classes and have been considering trying a Mysore style class, I would highly recommend it. Have courage and take that first step – you may find that the benefits are well worth the risk. In Kansas City, Maya Yoga offers Mysore style classes as well as introductory and general vinyasa classes. Occasionally I teach classes and offer workshops. Check out my events calendar to view my latest offerings.