Mysore style yoga is a particular way of teaching yoga within the Ashtanga Yoga Tradition. It is named after the place in India where the founder, Sri K. Pattabhis Jois lived. It’s rooted in the tenet of “Parampara”, the passage of knowledge or teaching from teacher to student. The Ashtanga lineage is very specific in its sequence where the teacher assigns you your practice according to your ability. The sequence is intelligently designed, with each posture meant to prepare you for future postures in the series. As the student gains strength, stamina, flexibility and concentration, and dedication, additional postures are added to the practice.
See below for a look at the primary series.
There is often hesitation, anxiety and questions surrounding this style of practice. Here are some common concerns that crop up for new practitioners.
Self-directed yoga... but I want to be lead! The class is not lead as a whole but rather all instruction is one on one within a group setting. Students practice their own portion of the Ashtanga sequence of asanas or postures and at their own pace. You do not have to know the sequence before you enter the Mysore room. The beauty of memorizing the sequence is that your practice becomes your own. You can take it anywhere. There are no interruptions in breath wondering what is coming next because you already know. Stilling the mind comes with repetition; slowly over time the practice becomes a moving meditation.
The same sequence? Ashtanga yoga asks the practitioner to repeat the same postures, with practice comes strength, flexibility, stamina and focused concentration. And don’t worry if you forget the sequence the teacher is there to help!
2 hours, you are kidding me? Mysore classes can be looked at as a time slot where practitioners are able to come and go within that time, silently entering and beginning or ending their practice. When you first start the attending Mysore expect to be in class for 45 minutes. As time passes and postures are added some practitioners will take 1.5 hours to complete their practice.
Silence. There is no music within this class and the silence can be striking at first, occasionally you may hear the teacher whisper something to a student, but the dominant sound is the collective breath. Silence can also be a teacher. Stilling the mind can be a difficult task, once you know the asana (physical posture), you know where to look (drishti) and you know the breath count it allows space for internal reflection.
Is there a limit to how many questions you get to ask?! Yes you are only allowed to ask three questions per class! Just kidding! The teacher is happy to help with any injuries, modifications or questions. No matter how many times you ask! It is not an expectation that you know the sequence when you first enter the Mysore room. The teacher will have your back and slowly guide you though.
I just got adjusted; I must be doing it wrong? In the Mysore room the teacher will be moving from student to student offering adjustments. An adjustment does not mean that you are doing anything wrong. There are no mirrors within the studio so the teacher serves as the student’s eyes, assisting and helping them with alignment to prevent injury and to possibly assist students to do something that they may not be able to do by themselves.
Community. There is something about a Mysore community that is hard to describe but can easily be felt. Everyone is on the same path, breathing, sweating and showing up. All coming together to make themselves a little bit better, and to support each other.
Here are some testimonials as to how a Mysore style practice has benefited member of YCL’s community.
“The practice provides me with much needed stability. Even though it is hard and challenging and changing every day, I find that it keeps me honest and makes me a better person.” CW
“It’s fun. It’s humbling and rewarding. I find I make healthier choices for myself and my family. It models a healthy lifestyle. I love the Mysore room because I never feel alone in my struggles and love to hear and see others celebrating the work they put into their practice.” PL
“For me, Mysore has become a way to cope with recent changes in my life and everyday life challenges. The struggles in the asanas and the process working through them I can use when faced with anger, joy, pain and anxiousness. It has helped me be a better and more patient mom and compassionate and less judgmental person.” AH
“I've had a love of Mysore style yoga practice ever since I started going. I find it's a calm and inviting space where I get support and encouragement from like-minded people. Ashtanga yoga has taught me how to look inside of myself to cope with challenges in life. It's a constant in my life when everything else seems to be changing. It has grounded me and has helped me find my inner peace and consciousness. I've definitely noticed a change in my practice since moving... not having the yoga community, the Mysore class, has been hard. I think about you all daily as I practice at home. I'm hoping someday I can build a community here with the same love and support that Yoga Cold Lake offers.” KC
“I get on my mat and observe. I then try applied the lesson learned to my life. Hopefully making me a little better person then I was before. It is Because the asanas are always in the same order that I can observe the fluctuation of my mind and observe what is happening with my breath and work on keeping the drishti when every ounce of me is pulled in others direction. The Mysore room for me is important to help me with processing. From assistance in guidance from the teacher on asana and letting go of the emotion that arise during practice. The community gives that energy and that breath that is like a metronome to my practice. It energizes me or calms me. It makes me accountable but mostly it is people that understand the struggle and benefits.” AA
“My practice is my time to get in touch with myself. The daily repetition really allows me to notice changes from day to day in my body and in my mind. I feel more stable and calm when I practice, even when the rest of my life is crazy. I fell in love with the Mysore room because I got one-on-one attention every class to help with the areas I needed help with. I love led classes too and it’s amazing to notice the changes in crazy poses we do once in a while because of the strength and flexibility I build in my daily practice. I keep coming back because of the people and energy in the room. Even if I come exhausted or sick, I just start breathing and I am amazed how much I can do with the breath around me. I’ve learned so much watching others face their fears before me and come out the other side. It helps me to know that if they can do it, so can I. And I love cheering on people (quietly!!) when they accomplish something because I’ve either been there too or will be in the future. We are all walking this journey together, some in front and some behind, but we are all there together.” KJ-H
Make Mysore part of your practice. The hardest part is getting in through the door!
Note: In light of the recent #metoo stories please see Kino MacGregor's thoughtful response below.