Mysore Myths, part 1

There have been a few issues recently that have made me very, very grumpy. Hrrumph! Blogging fingers ACTIVATE! Stay tuned because this is just the beginning.

Queen of the East Village recently wrote a fabulous ode to the humble Mysore-style teacher here. I’m thankful for this blog post because sometimes I would love to remind travelling yogis everywhere of who it is who stays home and keeps the home fires burning (shala space/practitioner base) while we wait for your return.

More on that later. But first…

“Mysore-style is not for beginners.”

At Ekam, Mysore-style is for beginners, and I have gotten rid of any and all ‘beginner’ labelled classes. I’ve stopped targeting classes to those who brand themselves ‘beginner’ when really they are just uncomfortable or inconvenienced with being outed in a yoga class as either inflexible, weak, unbalanced, or all three at the same time. I also consider it a form of molly-coddling and generally patronizing to the practitioner. One thing Mysore-style classes clearly demonstrate (if I could get people to come) is that we’re all beginners. But you can’t be a ‘beginner’ until you take that first step and get on your mat!

Lately, in this New Year’s Resolution/Goal setting season, I’ve received emails asking if I do privates, or if I run beginners classes, workshops, boot camps, etc. I DON’T because:

  1. I don’t like the intention/expectation behind ‘private’ classes; you/your practice is not so special that you need me to personally watch you do it. I’ve run so many ‘private’ Mysore-style classes and I can assure you, it’s uncomfortable for both teacher and practitioner. An ashtanga practice is a self-practice, not a one-man/woman show.
  2. Short workshops/weekends/camps are simply a short spurt of activity usually followed by a lengthy down time wherein the student searches for their next yoga fix. One leaves these sessions thinking they’ve ‘learned’ something, but if they don’t have the self-discipline of a daily practice there’s nowhere to invest what they’ve ‘learned’.

Both of these situations ignore the fact that ashtanga vinyasa is a daily, personal practice. And the only thing that reinforces a daily practice is a daily practice. So my response to inquiries about private classes or beginner workshops is to come to Mysore-style classes! Especially for those with no experience. Mysore is an effective combination of both a private session and a workshop. The teacher gets to work with practitioners personally, and the practitioner receives benefits from other practitioner’s experiences, as well as reinforcement of the practice in a group setting. This traditional method is hundreds of years old and it wouldn’t be around today unless it really worked. In the past few years of maintaining a Mysore-style shala, I have developed a profound respect for this method and the practice. It keeps me honest as a teacher and a practitioner. As long as you get on your mat, it will work for you, I promise!

After a few weeks in the Mysore-style self-practice setting, I encourag new practitioners to start attending weekly led classes; usually around the time they reach paschimottanasana. Led classes feel like a wonderful vacation after a week of hard work. But again, the daily practice has to be there for the method to work. For those who attend only led classes once or twice a week, ashtanga can feel a bit brutal and unrelenting. The beauty comes is in finding harmony between the two.

The inspiration for this blog came from here. Love the meme!

About these ads

2 comments

  1. I have been practising at mysore classes since 2010. I had been thinking about going to the mysore classes for some time but was uncomfortable about it. My teacher introduced an introductory class, 1,2 or 4 week options that was at regular mysore time, 6;30 to 8:30 to which the already practising students also came….beginners mind.The first week we were all led through the sequence of asanas with detailed instructions and corrections.As well my teacher imparted some of the philosophy at the core of the Ashtanga practice and for me this was invaluable. The second week,regular mysore classes wih led classes Friday and Sunday began and we worked independently receiving corrections and new asanas from our teacher when he saw we were ready.

    The number of people at our shala seems to be growing and I believe it is directly related to these introductory classes.It gives new students an opportunity to see if ashtanga is for them in a safe environment, time for their bodies and minds to adjust to the early mornings and a chance to see that they are able to progress.There is no coddling but there is support.

    I am a fifty seven year old woman, living in northern Canada where the winters are cold and dark.Getting up at 5:30 in the morning to drive to the shala is all about commitment. Mysore style pratice is for anyone that commits to it.

    My thoughts from my experience anyways….

  2. i think being 57 and living in ‘canadia’ are probably the biggest challenges to any practice (i’m from Maine in the US and i sympathize)! awesome to hear that you made the leap, and keep making it.

    i do advise beginners to come at 6am (it’s not so dark here in RSA) so i can work more closely with them. I do think the single biggest factor to people not doing mysore is the time, the benefits of an early morning practice are hard to see through sleep-filled eyes.

    thank you for your post!

    s

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s