What is Mysore?
You may have seen the class style “Mysore ashtanga” or “self-led Mysore yoga” in your regular yoga studio’s schedule and thought
WTF is that?!
Any style of yoga with the word ‘sore’ in it, I would have my doubts too. Because the practice is often far more complex than the familiar vinyasa, hatha or yin styles of yoga, it’s often one of the least popular classes to practice, making many unfamiliar with Mysore.
Mysore yoga is a way of teaching, or moreover, a way of learning yoga. The class is not led through the typical group ‘flow’; rather instructions are given individually based on the students’ ability. The entire concept is about working at your own pace – more advanced students will have a longer more complex progression while beginners will focus on the framework first; building up their strength, patience and comfort in their own movement.
If you find yourself in a Mysore class, you’ll be aided through verbal or physical instructions as to how you can progress in your postures.
Along with your movements, Mysore focuses on asana – the holding poses. Asanas can come in a variety of shapes or positions but its main use is to incorporate meditative and calming effects into your progression. Asanas have been shown to improve flexibility, strength and balance, as well as reducing stress, anxiety and lower back pain.
Some people can feel rather intimidated by this style of yoga and feel that they need to already know the Ashtanga sequence and been practicing for some time before they attend a Mysore class. While understandable, this is a complete misconception.
Is Mysore for you?
Mysore-style practice is for all levels of practitioners. For those new to yoga, it is your opportunity to literally start your learning from scratch. You will be guided practically on a one-on-one basis by the teacher every step of the way and taught the sequence and breathing at your own pace. If you forget, the teacher will simply remind you what comes next. If you have been practicing yoga for some time and are familiar with the various poses, Mysore-style is the perfect platform for you to develop a self-practice via a well-established sequence. For students at any level, as you repeat the postures regularly under the watchful eye of the teacher, you will gradually increase your knowledge of yourself, understand where you are stiff, where you are strong and what to work on – ultimately creating an independent and personal practice.
Whether you are young or old, inflexible or weak, man or woman, type A or type B, you are welcome! All you need is a desire to learn, to trust in the wisdom of the Ashtanga method and the guidance of the teacher. Have faith that with a dedicated practice, changes WILL occur within you far beyond the physical.
Mysore-style is a safe way to learn and practice Ashtanga yoga. Remembering the sequence of postures allows you to focus internally and observe your own body as you move from one asana to the next. The entire practice then assimilates deeper into your subconscious, beginning the heavy work of self-transformation.
Taking the next step
If you have been flirting with the idea of trying Ashtanga, my advice to you is to give it one full month. Commit to it three times a week to see if this method works for you. You will no doubt encounter aches and pains. You might decide this is not for you because it’s too hard, too sweaty, too difficult, and too painful. OR…as has happened to countless other people, you might actually discover that this is what you’ve been looking for all along. Either way, you will only know after you give it a real shot. So why wait? Take the plunge and try!