Ashtanga Mysore: Whether you’re 18 or 88, it may be for you!

Cory General Leave a Comment

I frequently receive questions about how things work in the Mysore room — where we practice daily the Ashtanga Vinyasa method of yoga. There are many misperceptions and quite a bit of false information out there in the yoga world about this practice, so I thought I’d try and provide some clarity.

You may have noticed on Flow’s website there is a “Mysore” page where you can submit your application to the program. We don’t reject applications, rather we use this to gather some basic preliminary information about you, your yoga experience and your intended commitment. Most importantly, we use it to schedule your first day of Mysore so we can know when to expect you and make sure we have time and resources just for you.

Yes, it’s a commitment. At Flow we attempt to lessen that a bit by offering a 2-week intro option, but beyond that it’s a 3-month minimum commitment. This is purposeful because we, as a community of practitioners, put a lot of time and energy into cultivating the community through study, practice and teaching. As such there is a deep appreciation for the practice and a recognition that it takes time for that to develop.

On your first day, after a brief discussion about your practice, we’ll get you started with samasthihi and surya namaskara A (sun salutation). We will guide you through it — you don’t need to know anything coming in — this is the ideal way to learn Ashtanga. After five or so of those we may then move you on to surya B. And then likely wrap up with the last three seated postures and rest (śavasana). Your first few weeks will be more about you learning the sequence of postures and the basic forms and less about the nitty gritty of alignment. Our aim will be to keep you safe and support you in this process of settling into the rhythm and routine of a daily Ashtanga practice. We’ll add new postures purposefully and slowly so as not to overwhelm you. It’s a gradual, cooperative, partnership-based process that varies from person to person. We work from the traditional Ashtanga Primary Series using props, modifications of the postures to tailor the practice to you. The more regular you are with your attendance, the stronger your relationships (to the community, the teachers, the practice and yourself) will grow.

The Ashtanga method is based on three principles:
(1) posture – the physical embodiment; (2) breath – the means of accessing your energetic body and deepening concentration; and (3) drishti (looking place) – a means of lessening the distractions of the world around you and honing your attention inward.

We use this as a foundation for working with you to develop your practice. This allows for the progression within the series (or sequences) of postures that we implement as a framework for the movement practice. This is a process that unfolds differently for everyone and is offered without expectation other than to show up. Our time together is so valuable and serves to help us build, together, on this foundation.

As teachers we draw from a toolkit of techniques to provide guidance, including verbal, demonstration and touch-based assistance. The relationship between student and teacher is built gradually and based largely on communication. Students are encouraged communicate with us to let us know what is and isn’t working for you. . One of our intentions as teachers is to provide unspoken support through simply being present and aware of what is going on with you from day to day. This particular aspect of the Mysore student-teacher relationship isn’t often spoken about, but in my experience — from both sides — it is incredibly valuable and meaningful. There will be days when you will not receive any direct attention from the teacher, but you (and the teacher) will leave feeling the benefit of the connection made that day. Again, this is purposeful, so that you have the opportunity to move and breathe and settle deeper into your experience without interference — yet another incredibly valuable aspect of practice amongst the devoted energy of the community.

I hope this is a helpful bit of information for those that may be interested in exploring the Mysore practice. As the title suggests, through patience, persistence and communication, this practice can be established for anyone that is willing to commit!

*Thank you to my good friend Jen René for her read and edits.

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