The first time I took a Mysore class I felt at home and fell in love with this practice! I connected with my breath in a powerful way that morning. I felt completely energized and grounded! It was my 2nd day of Yoga Teacher Training and I learned that taking lots of classes outside of this 30-day intensive would not be the smartest thing to do for my body. I’d practice enough 6 days a week for the next 28 days. However, I didn’t want to wait, so I took one or two classes a week during my training. At the time, I had only taken two Ashtanga-based classes which I felt really drawn to. One of the students had mentioned that I would really like the morning Ashtanga classes if I liked this class. It turns out that the teacher, Heather Serna, just happened to be my newest co-worker.
In the meantime, I started researching this type of Yoga I’d never heard of ~ Ashtanga Yoga. What I found was Traditional Mysore Style Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. The more I found out about this practice, the more drawn to it I became. I began to understand why I connected so deeply with it. I love the honor, commitment, spirituality, strength and flexibility this practice builds on and off the Mat!
Mysore Style Ashtanga has 6 series of poses with each series containing 60 to 70 asanas. Although each series takes between an hour 1/2 to 2 hours to perform, on your first day of class, you learn about 10 to 20 of the poses, depending on your experience with Yoga. Each day you return, you perform the same series of poses. When you have memorized the poses and are able to perform them with a certain steadiness and ease, your teacher will give you another few poses. In other words, each student builds up to the entire series at their own pace. As the students practice at their own pace and up to their given poses, the teacher gives each student personal instructions and/or adjustments. It is like having a private class in a group setting. Every Friday is a led class where the entire class (as do classes in the entire Ashtanga community worldwide) performs the primary series in unison at the directive of the teacher.
The practice calls for 6 days a week (Saturday is the day of rest) unless it is a Full or New Moon. Women are advised not to practice the first three days of what I call the Full Moon Cycle (Ashtanga is not conducive to allowing the outward flow in our bodies that our cycle requires. The practice requires drawing energy in, up and then holding that energy in). Obviously, the more you go, the faster your practice grows. The idea is that when you memorize the series of poses, you are able to connect with your breath as you synchronize the movement of your body with your breath (Vinyasa). I felt at home in that first class because in 2012, I began my quest to add Yoga into my Life by starting my days with 3 mindful sun salutations, each series begins with 5 sun salutations. Between rest days, moon days, my recurring GUILT cycle and just plain tiredness, my personal practice is almost half of the primary series and up to a 4-day a week practice. Though I must admit I’ve been in a funk since Thanksgiving.
Ashtanga Yoga is a spiritual practice which emphasizes the Eight Limbs of Yoga found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In fact, Ashtanga means 8 limbs. The 8 limbs of Yoga, and the entire Yoga Sutras, are a pathway to enlightenment (samadhi, bliss, nirvana). It is a guidebook on how to live a Life of peace; a spiritual guide. This practice emphasizes the spiritual aspects of Yoga more than I’ve seen in any other style of Yoga. It is the spiritual aspect of Yoga that has always interested me. I guess I had not found the teacher who could help guide me in that direction until now…
Traditional Ashtanga honors a lineage going back to Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888-1989) “The Father of Modern Yoga.” It was Krishnamacharya who taught K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) the method which is still taught to this day at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India. The great living guru (teacher) of this beautiful tradition is Pattabhi Jois’ grandson R. Sharath Jois. Sharath is my teacher’s teacher.
Honoring my teacher and those before her in the opening chant of my Mysore practice…
K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji, an affectionate name for a teacher) pictured below.
Teaching Traditional Mysore Style is not like any other style of Yoga. There is no certification class you can attend. You become authorized or certified to teach when chosen by the Institute in Mysore. Authorization requires the Ashtangi to have practiced at the Institute in Mysore, India 1 month per year for 4 years minimum and by having reached a certain level in their personal practice. Authorization to teach may or may not happen, however many Ashtangis practice throughout the world and travel to Mysore for the honor and beauty of the tradition. I emphasize the word traditional, as I have found many wonderful teachers of this amazing practice who have not been authorized. If you’re a sucker for tradition like me, then that might be of interest to you. I got lucky! My teacher, Heather, was authorized by Sharath! I’m so thankful the Universe brought 1 of the 6 authorized (or certified with even longer personal training) teachers in Florida into my Life…
Some days I can lift my head off the floor, some days I can’t. Depending on how much GUILT I’m storing in my shoulders! LOL Backbending, my nemesis!
Here is a video of the Primary Series fast forwarded to 10 minutes.
If you’re interested, here is an amazing video about practicing in Mysore & Ashtanga.