Mysore-style yoga is the backbone and heart of Ashtanga practice. In this style of class each individual practices the Ashtanga sequence independently according to their own level and natural pace. The instructor monitors the room and gives each student one-on-one guidance in the form of physical adjustments in the postures to correct alignment or experience the posture more fully. New postures are taught when the teacher sees that student is ready. The room is generally silent, except for the sound of ujjayi breathing, however verbal instruction or advice may be given when needed. These classes are true “all level” classes where everyone from a complete beginner to very advanced receive support and instruction pertaining to their own level. Led Primary Series classes involve the teacher verbally guiding the entire class through the primary series as a group. Students who have not yet learned the entire primary series are encouraged to attend the class and simply practice as much of the sequence as they have been taught. It is also an “all level” class.
The Benefits of Learning Mysore-Style
In order to experience the maximum benefits of this practice, one should ideally commit to practicing the sequence that their teacher has prescribed to them five to six days per week, taking Saturdays and the New and Full Moon days as rest. While it is not an absolute requirement to attend class every day, it will provide the most benefit. As a minimum, one should try to commit to at least 3-4 days per week of practice in the beginning.
On top of the prescription of daily or regular practice, new students are also sometimes daunted by the fact that the sequence practiced is the exact same every day and students are expected to learn how to remember and practice the sequence independently.
Some wonder why they should come to class, when they could just practice the same thing independently every day at home for free.
There are numerous benefits to this form of learning, which have been lost in the modern trend of practicing yoga by attending various styles of verbally led classes at various times.
The Ashtanga Vinyasa method is particularly deep and powerful, and the Mysore method is the safest and most sustainable way to learn and integrate it because it enables the student to learn one posture at a time on an individual basis. In this way each student can progress at their own pace, learning the particularities of the sequence and postures in a way that suits their own body and mind.
An experienced teacher of this method will apply different teaching techniques to different students, depending on their individual nature. Each student receives maximum benefit from the system in this way. Students develop independence and self-reliance while at the same time also developing their own unique long term relationship with the guiding teacher. This style of learning is meant to be a long term commitment on the part of both teacher and student.
The Ashtanga sequences are designed to restructure the body, nerves and mind in a systematic way. Each posture and vinyasa sequence has its own effect. When practiced every day, this sequence will effect a change on the very structure and framework of the body/mind. Over time, and when the practitioner does this daily, the new body/mind structure that emerges will stabilize. When the teacher sees that each student is ready to integrate a new posture, then a new posture is given. In this way, slowly but surely the Ashtanga sequence reshapes the
student, one step at a time.
It is important to have an experienced teacher monitor and direct this process. An over-eager student may try to bite off more than they can chew. Too many inputs all at once can overwhelm the body/mind and instead of shifting in a stable way, it can break down. Other students may be hesitant to try new things and will need the teacher to guide them forward to experience the benefits that they are ready for. A good teacher will be able to see the student’s current capacity to integrate, and will direct the process accordingly. Daily practice is ideal. The restructuring effects of the practice are competing against deeply ingrained negative habit patterns in the body/mind. Daily application is necessary for the new patterns to take root and eventually eradicate the old, unhealthy patterns. Daily practice of the same sequence independently and silently also has a very positive effect of concentrating and focusing the mind. Yoga practice then becomes a tool to help remove distraction from our lives, instead of increasing it – as the modern trend of spontaneous practice in different styles of creatively imagined sequences designed to entertain the student tends to do.
This style of learning suits those who wish to truly undertake a deep and long-term exploration of the layers of body, breath and mind via commitment to systematic process and method. For the dedicated practitioner, Mysore style Ashtanga gradually reveals and transforms all the physical and mental tendencies lying below the surface of conscious awareness, rather than providing yet another form of distracted entertainment. This is deeply challenging, and even more deeply rewarding to one who undertakes the journey.