Thousands of students from all over the world journey every year to the home of Ashtanga in the city of Mysore, India.
In a Mysore class the focus is on learning the Ashtanga sequence of poses to develop a ‘self-practice’. Students practice at their own pace while the teacher assists them with individual needs and introduces new poses when it is appropriate.
‘Modern’ yoga classes where everyone is guided as a group came about when yoga was adapted to a familiar western format like an ‘aerobics-class’. In India, yoga was originally taught on an individual basis, teacher to student, because we all have different bodies, minds and needs.
Here’s 10 reasons why Mysore classes work far better than group classes. Read on further for what to expect at a Mysore class and some answers to common questions.
- It will transform your body. With regular practice, a Mysore class gives you time to explore how your body works, and where your tendencies lie, allowing you to go deeper. You move with your own breath without having to ‘keep up’ with a class and you can explore what’s possible with that amazingly talented body you have.
- It will transform your mind. In the west we think listening to a teacher guiding a class is relaxing because we have ‘tuned out’. This level of relaxation is much like ‘tuning out’ watching TV. You’ve checked out for a short time but your mind is no better developed for the experience, in fact it’s just become more prone to distraction and more likely to seek entertainment through external sources. A regular Mysore practice encourages you to take responsibility for your own mind by doing inner work: learning to focus, calm the mind, eliminate distractions and continually be in the present. It’s a very powerful mind management tool within a physical practice.
- It’s less competitive. With everyone practicing at different levels, it discourages competitive behaviour and encourages open mindedness, respect and understanding. When everyone is doing the same practice the temptation to look and compare can be overwhelming, often leading to pushing too hard resulting in injury or giving up in defeat. In a Mysore room, everyone is focussed on their own journey and no one cares what you are doing. Difference and individuality are celebrated daily.
- It will deepen your yoga practice. Guided classes are great to initially learn the vinyasa (how to move with the breath) but if you want to deepen your practice you really must embark on your own individual journey. There will be obstacles that are holding you back or behaviours that are pushing you too far, often both within the same practice! The space, time and individual advice of the teacher in a Mysore class will help you to understand those obstacles and behaviours and learn how to overcome them.
- It’s a moving meditation. Once you know the sequence you are free to focus on the breath, gazing points and posture as points of stillness for the mind. You can truly ‘go with the flow’ without interruption from a teacher and immerse yourself in your practice as a moving meditation.
- Flexible start and finish times – In a Mysore class you can arrange your start time within a 2 hour window, subject to availability.
- It sets you up for the day. While everyone else is on their 2nd coffee and struggling to drag themselves to work, you will be vibrant, alert and focussed. You’ll have the jump on all your work colleagues and so will be much better placed to defend yourself against workplace stress, toxins and politics than those who hit the snooze button. All the systems of your body will be functioning better including the nervous, digestive and circulation system boosting your immunity and keeping you healthier and happier.
- It’s like a private class without the cost. In a guided class the teacher can only get around to so many students while focussing on talking and guiding. In a Mysore class the teacher can spend the time with you on your individual needs and challenges. You can ask questions and get the assistance you need. You get many of the benefits of a private class without the expense.
- You can practice as a couple/family/community. Mysore classes are available to everyone. That means that couples, families and friends can practice together, regardless of different levels of practice. Mysore classes create an encouraging community of like-minded individuals.
- It’s yoga to go – once you learn the sequence you can do it anywhere. Of course you need a teacher to objectively assist your practice most of the time but you never have to worry about being able to get to a class while you’re away from home. Just roll out your mat (or find a nice bit of carpet) and start saluting the sun.
- Wont I find it hard to remember the sequence? You’ll do it in no time at all. At first it will feel a little awkward but so do all new adventures. Pretty soon the practice will be almost ‘automatic’ like learning to drive. And if you don’t remember, so what? Everyone who is in a Mysore class started right where you are. The teacher is there to help and our community is friendly and supportive so just do your best.
- Aren’t there more experienced people in the room? Yes and why not cultivate the attitude that that’s a great thing rather than something to fear? Yoga is about self-development on every level. That includes overcoming jealousy and insecurities. With an open mind, you will see what is possible and be inspired countless times. It’s important also to remember that yoga is not about who can do the hardest yoga pose, it’s about the quality of the mind while you are doing any pose. Only you know where your mind is at. No one can compare, it’s a personal journey and everyone started once where you are.
- Isn’t it hard to get up in the morning? It depends on whether you are prepared to prioritise your health and happiness. It’s all in your mind and once you create a habit of being an early bird, it’s easy. See our Tips for starting a Morning Mysore practice to help you on your way. The benefits of an early morning practice are worth the effort. The world is quieter so there’s less distraction, the air is cleaner, your mind is calmer without the days events filling it with stress and worry, you have more energy and will be more likely to get through your day in a happier frame of mind.
- How often do I need to practice? Some people start with a daily (6 day a week) practice right away and some start 2-3 times per week and build from there with it eventually becoming a daily (6 days) practice. The more often you practice the greater the benefits, and naturally over time you will want to practice more and more often because you can see how good it is for you. There is great power in a daily ritual of yoga. The important thing is to just start.
- What can I expect in my first class? For your first class you will be given plenty of help with the first part of the sequence. You may only do a few poses to start so it’s easier to remember and then gradually more poses will be added. The more often you can practice the easier it is to remember the sequence. You will then finish with some seated postures. If you would like to start with others at the same level you can join our Beginners Intensives.