What is Mysore Yoga?
Introduction to Mysore Yoga
Mysore yoga is a student-focused, highly individualized method of teaching Ashtanga Yoga. It was developed in — and is primarily taught in — the city of Mysore, India, from where it got its name. The practice is deeply steeped in the tradition of Ashtanga Yoga and emphasizes the teachings from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Mysore differs from other methods of teaching Yoga in its unique class set-up as well as its focus on direct teaching to students.
History of Mysore Yoga
Mysore yoga was developed in Mysore, India. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is considered to be the father of Ashtanga Yoga, in that he popularized this style of vinyasa asana practice. Vinyasa translates to movement with breath and Ashtanga Yoga, from which Mysore is derived, translates to “Eight-Limbed” yoga. The limbs refer to Asana [Posture], Pranayama [breath control], Yama [moral codes], Niyama [self-purification and study], Pratyahara [sense control], Dharana [concentration], Dhyana [meditation], and Samadhi [absorption into the Universal]. The first four limbs are considered to be externally cleansing and the latter four are considered to be internally cleansing.
In a Mysore setting, the Ashtanga sequences are taught with three main focuses: Asana, Breath, and Gaze. The sequences are taught incrementally rather than all at once. That is to say, a student will learn portions of Ashtanga series little by little in order to facilitate the commitment of the series to memory, as well as gradually building the strength, flexibility, and discipline that is required to progress in the series. There are six total series in Ashtanga Yoga: Primary, Intermediate, and Advanced series A, B, C, and D. Each series is intended to be fully developed before proceeding to the next.
What to Expect in a Mysore Room
A unique aspect of Mysore is the way it is taught. Students are welcome to come in to the Mysore studio anytime in a 2.5-hour window, where one or more teachers will provide individualized teaching, alignment cues and adjustments to each student. Students practice the series at their own pace and with emphasis on the series that is most useful to them. Beginners are taught asana from the primary series and only move on when the teacher or guru believes them to be ready. Thus, the emphasis is on truly familiarizing oneself with the asana, breath, and dristi (gaze) as well the individuals’ unique strengths and weaknesses in their practice.
Students of Mysore Yoga
Anyone interested in experiencing an individualized practice and/or the philosophies of the Ashtanga lineage of yoga and can practice Mysore Yoga. The practice is excellent for beginners because the teachers dedicate a lot of individualized attention to each student. It allows beginners to become familiar with the asana practice, cultivate their own sense of self with relation to the yoga, and ultimately practice something unique to them and their abilities. It is also great for intermediate and advanced students for similar reasons. Intermediate and advanced students will receive cues and adjustments to their practice that would benefit in their progression to new asanas or further series. Beginners may start with shorter and fewer practices, while intermediate and advanced practitioners could practice for longer periods of time every day of the week. This practice is suited for anyone who enjoys individualized teaching, a personal practice, and a community of like-minded people!