Ashtanga yoga is learned in what’s called a “Mysore Style” class where you develop an individualized practice with the support and guidance of a teacher who, if certified, has spent decades steeped in the tradition and engaged in serious practice. This was the teaching method of late Yoga master Sri K Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, South India, hence the source of the name “Mysore Style”. In a Mysore style class you memorize the Ashtanga sequences by learning one posture at a time in a manner similar to learning a traditional chanting or music practice in India. As you repeat and master the postures within the given sequences, you gradually increase your knowledge and create an independent, mature personal practice.
A Mysore style practice is developed slowly over days, weeks and years. Through discipline and intelligent practice you come to understand the breathing system and gain the necessary freedom to express a great variety of postures. And as you develop your postures you gather the mental strength and agility to concentrate your mind. The study in a Mysore class occurs in an traditional manner, a one to one exchange between the teacher and student, an exchange centered around uncovering the Self by way of sharing in the ever renewing tradition that has been passed down. The study also happens in community with others who engaged in the same important discipline and discovery as you are. Inspiration and friendship are generated in Ashtanga yoga Mysore rooms where people share daily in a serious, vigorous and enthusiastic study of yoga.
In the class the instructor is there to teach you the postures by means of verbal and hands-on adjustments and help you learn the proper vinyasa protocol for each posture in each sequence. And also the Mysore style class is structured so that your learning can be adjusted according to your individual needs, according to your age, state of health, level of life responsibilities, strength and flexibility and other relevant variables. The class setting provides the proper circumstances for you to receive the individual attention needed to create an ongoing practice that suits you. Daily you find your own rhythm and pace, you are able to go into your own internal mental space and this creates an atmosphere where important reflection and self study can happen. The Mysore style class is not structured like a typical yoga class, it’s more like receiving a private class in a group setting, you practice amidst the sounds of breathing and amongst others who are working at their own level and their own pace, focusing within themselves along side you. At first the apparent disorganization, the heat and powerful vibration of a group of people keenly striving can be disorienting and even seem intimidating or cause fear, but once you get your bearings and have familiarized your self with what is happening in the class. you’ll find that you fit right in and you’ll love it, you’ll find you can’t imagine doing your daily practice in any other way.
To me perhaps the greatest gift of the Mysore style class is that I get to practice independently, to discover yoga on my own with minimal interference from anyone else. I explore the postures and the breathing for myself in my own way, with my own rhythm and pace. But also I’m not alone, I practice in a group and ride the powerful, collective energy in the class and thus I routinely tap resources within that I can’t access alone. I also receive the benevolent guidance of a teacher who has sacrificed nearly everything to learn and to live yoga.