Mysore developing a personal practice

My first encounter

I first experienced the Mysore practice in 2009 when Joey Miles started teaching in Leeds. I was very familiar with Ashtanga Yoga but had never encountered this self-practice method. Having heard great things about this way of practicing I turned up at 7 am on a spring morning for my first Mysore experience. I remember how quiet the Shala was, the teacher was not talking or giving instructions; all I could hear was the sound of yogis breathing through their practice. I was blown away. I left after finishing my practice feeling uplifted and calm, almost like I was floating. I never looked back.

What is Mysore practice?

The term Mysore itself derives from the city in Karnataka, South India, from which Ashtanga derives, and where the late K. Pattabhi Jois (the developer and codifier of the Ashtanga system) maintained his yoga shala, since inherited by his grandson Sharath.

Learning Ashtanga the ‘Mysore’ or ‘self-practice’ way means studying with a teacher but, instead of following a class with everyone doing the same thing, you practice at your own pace to the sound of your own breath. You are in the shala with a group of other yogis practicing side by side but doing (perhaps) completely different postures. The teacher is there to give you individual feedback and hands-on adjustments to enable you to develop a personal practice. The teacher will add a new posture when adequate ability is demonstrated in the previous posture. Through repetition you slowly learn the sequence and as your practice becomes longer and your stamina increases you learn to understand each posture to a greater depth.

What I love about the self-practice method

The Mysore practice gives me a framework and the discipline to keep going. I’m not naturally disposed to be self-motivated so the set sequence of the Ashtanga Yoga series makes it easier for me to stay on the mat. When I practice in the morning before my day begins I find that I am calmer and more patient during the day. I love that the practice does not tie me to being in a particular place at a specific time. It gives me freedom to practice when it suits me. I practice in my living room, on a piece of grass in the park, in a tiny hotel room if I’m away from home or in Shalas across the world.

I love teaching Mysore because it gives me the opportunity to give personal feedback and to see each individual students develop and blossom. In a self-practice class the relationship between me and the student changes as I no longer place myself above them. The practice – together with the students’ own ability to listen and respond accordingly – becomes the teacher.

Here is a clip of me teaching Mysore:

Why practice Mysore style?

Practicing Mysore style encourages you to take responsibility for your own practice and to become very aware of your breath and body. You internalise the practice by committing it to somatic memory, and you build a sense of the practice coming from you, from within, rather than being imposed from without. Furthermore, many discrepancies or bad habits that accumulate when practicing for a while, can be detected and therefore rectified.

You do not need to know the full Ashtanga sequence to come to a Mysore class. A willingness to learn is the only prerequisite.

If you want to know more details about the Mysore practice come to my ‘Mysore for everyone’-workshop at Kula Sunday 3 May 2015. Or else just turn up for class on Wednesday mornings at 7 am at Yoga Kula.