What is Mysore?
Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient system of Yoga that was passed down to our teacher, Pattabhi Jois, through intensive study with his teacher, T. Krishnamachrya, who himself received the teachings of Ashtanga Yoga from his Guru, Mohan Brahmachari.
These teachings are said to originate from a non-extant text called the Yoga Korunta which is commonly attributed to the sage Vamana.
Mysore style is the traditional way of teaching Ashtanga Yoga, named after the city in south India where Guruji, as Pattabhi Jois is affectionately called by his students, taught for many years. In Mysore class, practitioners are taught a set sequence of postures in one-on-one instruction. Postures are introduced one at a time, following the traditional sequence of asanas designed by Guruji, but taught according to each student's individual needs.
Breath is the basis of the practice. Indeed, postures are merely a conduit of breath. Through instruction in vinyasa, or a system in which breath and movement are bound, practitioners are taught how to yoke their breath and movement together, so that their inhalations and exhalations fuel their postures. This type of methodical practice results in a process of internal cleansing that paves the way for the cultivation of mental focus and calm. To that end, students are instructed to gaze at specific places in each posture. These drishtis, or gazing spots, stabilize and still the mind.
These complex aspects of the postures and practice are taught and assimilated gradually by practitioners. Repetition is the underlying mechanism of the practice. After students are initially taught a sun salutation or a posture, they repeat the posture until it is committed to memory in its proper sequence. This method allows each student time to practice and memorize what they have learned before adding more. In this way, students are taught to self-practice—that is, to practice independently and at their own pace while surrounded by the energy of other practitioners in the room. The unique approach of self-practice within a group setting is particular to Mysore style practice, allowing students to progress at their own pace, while still benefitting from the energy of a community of practitioners who are engaged in the same process.
Since class is not led in the sense that the teacher works with individual students rather than instructing all students at once, the atmosphere is quiet and focused. Focused energy encourages practitioners to develop deeper concentration as they advance their yoga practice. Mysore’s unique blend of group practice, one-on-one instruction and independent progress guides students to cultivate a focus and concentration that is the basis for sitting and meditative practices. Ashtanga Mysore is often referred to as a physical practice that is meditation for the restless, a moving meditation which may ultimately prepare us to sit comfortably in stillness.
Mysore practice allows us to both engage in and come to terms with radical transformation in body, mind and psyche. It offers a methodology in which to experience the interrelation of body and mind and provides a mirror to reflect ingrained patterns of thought and movement. It equips us with a way to consciously re-pattern our bodies and minds.