For anyone who has been to a studio where they practice Ashtanga yoga, you may have heard the term Ashtanga Mysore style. It isn’t your typical yoga class and it differs greatly from a more common Ashtanga led class. So what is Mysore style Ashtanga yoga?
Ashtanga Mysore style is how ashtanga yoga is traditionally taught. In a Mysore class, each practitioner flows through the set sequence at their own pace following their own breath. At first, this can seem intimidating for a beginner. And yet, with time it slowly becomes a more internal practice.
Not all yoga studios teach Ashtanga yoga, and not all offer a Mysore program so you may have to do a little research and find an Ashtanga yoga shala that offers it.
Ashtanga Mysore style is a style of yoga that requires some discipline as there isn’t a teacher there to guide the class. Yes, the teacher is present, however, they don’t lead the class. And this is where the true magic happens. Ashtanga yoga Mysore style classes are a wonderful place to bring our attention to our breath and our body and so it’s not surprising that this type of practice has thousands of dedicated practitioners all around the world!
Definitely check out my detailed guide for Ashtanga yoga beginners if you are new to Ashtanga yoga and looking for more information.
I will cover the following in this article:
My first Ashtanga yoga Mysore experience
I still remember my experience at my very first Ashtanga Mysore style class.
It was a 6:30 am class.. I didn’t sleep very well the night before as I was rather nervous. I got up, got dressed and it was pitch black outside and raining. Note that this was February in Glasgow!
So I walk to the studio, go inside, everyone arrives, we walk into the class, chant, do the practice and I walked home.. again in the dark!
Obviously, more than that happened!
But it was such a weird experience! There I was at 6:30 in the morning, practicing with other people, and yet even though I was in a room full of other people I hadn’t actually spoken to anyone!
And that was it… I loved it!
And after that, I was back again almost every day. Back to that Mysore room, practicing and breathing and sweating with this blooming community at Ashtanga yoga Glasgow with my yoga teacher Cathy Moran, Authorized level 2.
How does an Ashtanga Mysore class work?
As a general rule, an ashtanga yoga Mysore class has a yoga teacher who is there to hold space and offer verbal and most times hands-on adjustments to the students in the class. The students flow through the practice at their own pace and beginners can use a cheat sheet to help them remember the poses.
Also, there are generally a lot of hands-on adjustments in an Ashtanga class. These can help to prevent any injury or correct alignment, or help the students get deeper into the pose.
You have the option of stating you would prefer to have no hands-on adjustments and that is perfectly ok!
I know I absolutely love receiving adjustments. And this is something that is worth pointing out. Ashtanga yoga teachers who offer Mysore-style classes generally have been practicing Ashtanga yoga for a number of years. And so this means that Ashtanga yoga teachers are rather experienced and knowledgeable.
And so receiving a physical adjustment from such a teacher can really help transform you practice.
Of course, not all teachers are great at physical adjustments! And so if you find a yoga teacher that you resonate with, then that is a yoga teacher to hold on to!
Is Ashtanga Mysore suitable for beginners?
As a general rule, Ashtanga Mysore style is suitable for beginners. Beginners are encouraged to attend Ashtanga Mysore classes as that will help them understand the practice and get the attention they may need. Some studios even offer introductory workshops for complete beginners.
I have been teaching yoga for just under a decade, and each time I have had beginners attend my Mysore program I make a deal with them. I tell them to try it out for a month, as by that time they will have memorized most of the poses and they will have gotten a sense of what this type of practice is.
If they attend a Mysore class just once it is easy to feel overwhelmed and give up. Commitment is key. Also, a good way to familiarize yourself with the pace of the class is to attend a led class when possible. This can help tune into the vinyasa method and may even improve your Mysore practice.
The main reason many beginners give up is that the Ashtanga practice is physically demanding and this can be rather tiring. And so if you are about to attend an Ashtanga class know that you will get tired and you will most likely sweat.
But don’t let that put you off. The yoga practice is tailored to all levels of practitioners. Indeed, beginners or those with injuries can use modifications.
The 8 reasons Ashtanga Mysore style may change your life
1. You move at your own pace
In Ashtanga yoga, we link the breath to the postures. And so each breath links with a movement or equal duration. And so when doing the sun salutations, we inhale and raise the hands up, we exhale and fold forward. We inhale and lengthen the spine and we exhale and step back and lower to low plank etc. We each breathe at our own pace and so we aim to do this during our practice.
2. You focus on your breath
In the world of yoga, we sometimes get lost in trying to achieve. We have all been there. And yet, by not focusing on the breath it could be argued that we are doing acrobatics rather than yoga.
In an interview I saw that David Swenson said:
It’s my basic belief, and the premise to my teaching is that all yoga really comes back to the breath, otherwise it’s simply just a type of gymnastic exercise. If that were the case, the greatest yogis would be circus performers and gymnasts.
3. You will be invisible in a room filled with people
This is a fear that most beginners to Ashtanga yoga have. “But everyone will look and me!”. And yet, once you step into an Ashtanga yoga Mysore class, you will notice that everyone around you is so lost in their own Mysore practice that your presence becomes energy that also helps motivate them to continue going.
This was my experience in my very first Ashtanga Mysore style class all those years ago.
With time, this is something that everyone gets to experience. A place where you get to do your practice in silence, surrounded by other people who are there doing exactly what you are, day in and day out.
4. You can modify the practice
Indeed, although Ashtanga yoga is a set sequence of poses, modifications are given. This is true especially for:
- Beginners whose body may not be strong and open enough
- Those with an injury
- Pregnancy and post-pregnancy
And so your teacher will be there to help you out in any way you need. And this is the reason why it is very important to practice Ashtanga with a yoga teacher, especially if you fall into one of the above categories. They will help support you and motivate you throughout your yoga practice.
5. Individual class in a group setting
This is one of the key benefits of Ashtanga Mysore-style classes. You may be in a room filled with people, however, the teacher gives each and every student individual attention, without disrupting the flow of the class.
And also an Ashtanga Mysore-style class is a great place to ask your teacher any questions, as they get to really see your practice and give you any tips you may need.
6. Beginners and advanced practitioners practice together
I try to travel to Mysore India every year to practice with my teacher, Sharath Jois. And this is where you get to experience the beauty of practicing in a room filled with people of all levels, all ages, and all abilities. And yet one complements the other.
I have practiced with a relative beginner to my left and a very advanced partitioner to my right.
And all the time I was flowing through my practicing feeling motivated by each and every person I had around me.
7. You will hear your thoughts during practice
When a yoga practice becomes as familiar and second nature as Ashtanga yoga can be, you may find your subconscious finding the time and space to resolve issues you may have been avoiding that day. Most times you may be unaware of this happing until perhaps savasana when all you feel is your heartbeat and suddenly the answer you have subconsciously been searching for pops into your head.
8. You may form lifelong friendships
And this is true as you through this practice you will meet many like-minded people. Whether at your local studio, on a retreat, or even online.
There are growing Ahstanga yoga Mysore communities forming all around the world and these tend to be very nurturing spaces. Several Ashtanga studios offer special events such as ‘Ashtanga and chai’ or ashtanga yoga retreats. And these are especially special as they are an opportunity to get to know your fellow practitioners better and help form a blooming community where everyone can feel welcome.
Where does the name Mysore come from?
Mysore is the town in the South of India where Ashtanga Yoga became popular and where the Pattabhi Jois started teaching. Each year hundreds of Ashtanga yoga practitioners travel to Mysore to practice now under the guidance of Sharath Jois.
What are the best Ashtanga yoga books?
There is a growing number of books written by some respected and experienced Ashtanga yoga teachers from all around the world. If you would like more information then you may like my article, where I list the top Ashtanga yoga books out there: The 23 Best Ashtanga Yoga Books 2020 (Beginners & Home Practitioners)
What is the best yoga mat for Ashtanga yoga?
You may find this video of mine helpful: