I’ve been practicing Ashtanga for about 2 1/2 years now, and recently have been developing my home practice, which seems to be ever-expanding. Recently Helen asked if I would write something about Mysore style classes, which I feel strangely divided about. Mysore style teaching is definitely my favourite (I’ll explain why). Unusually, Monday’s Mysore style class is always quieter (which I do love, so I am secretly hoping not to advertise it too well).
Mysore is the Indian city where Ashtanga yoga originates from. Around the world Ashtanga is traditionally taught ‘Mysore Style’. In a Mysore class each student has the freedom to do their own practice, like they would at home, but with the benefit of support and guidance from their teacher. Teaching is individualised with students receiving new postures one, or several at a time, when they are ready to move on. Helen teaches a Mysore Style class every Monday at 730pm and the structure of the class, which is led by the student’s own practice, means it is completely open-level and appropriate for everyone.
My first Mysore class was just over a year ago when I was trying to consolidate my home practice. Prior to this I had been attending led classes, and felt a bit unsure if I would be able to remember the sequence. However, there was no need to worry. I entered a quiet class with a couple of experienced students and went through the sequence slowly in bite-size chunks with Helen, and was surprised how quickly I had remembered the postures. Now the sequence seems to be second nature up to my stop point, although I still experience memory lapse at Navasana!
There are a few things that I love about Mysore Style Classes. The first is the way they demystify self-practice. Because in these classes you are practicing leading yourself, this can help you to feel that your practice belongs to you. This confidence helps me to be more committed to practicing at home.
I have also found that developing my self-practice through Mysore Classes has helped me to be more tuned into my body. Facing challenges from pain or weakness requires physical and mental re-education, and the challenges are constantly changing. An example from my practice is that midway into primary series seated forward bends I like to yawn (a lot), which Helen (and other students) started noticing. But it’s not because I’m bored, I just breath lazily in deep forward bends, and the result is reduced oxygen to my brain! During Mysore teaching Helen helped me with the depth of my breathing, and last week with Christine I was able to spend a bit more time in deep seated forward bend focusing on using my diaphragm to breath deeply (and yes, no yawning!).
A really brilliant thing about Helen’s Mysore Style Classes is the atmosphere, as a result my Monday practice has become relaxed and thoughtful. Helen also recently started Mysore Intensives, traditional early morning practice Monday-Thursday, with full led primary series on Friday. Getting up very early and practicing before work is definitely a challenge for me, amazing and I would highly recommend the experience.
So if you are curious about Mysore Style Classes, my advice is to give it a go, with an open mind. There is no need to know the sequence in advance or to begin at a certain level, and it might just become your favourite style of class.