As much as I love summer, I have also love the energy of fall. Personally, I’ve never quite been able to get myself off the academic calendar, and September always feels to me like the right time to start something new.
This seems to ring true on the yoga scene, too. We all seem to return to a more normal routine come September — summer vacation is over, kids are back in school, travel dies down, temperatures start to cool and the pace of living gets back into its usual rhythm. All of this makes it the perfect time to double down on your yoga practice.
That’s why I think September is the perfect time to consider starting a Mysore style practice. I know how intimidating starting something new can be, and starting Mysore can be especially scary. I so vividly remember the first time I went to a Mysore class. I was in grad school and already familiar with Primary Series, though I hadn’t committed it to memory, and I dragged my sleepy butt to the Metro at five in the morning and studied my Primary Series cheat sheet in an empty train car under florescent lighting. I arrived at the address and couldn’t even find the front door. Finally I was let into the building when someone came out, and went to the wrong yoga studio before realizing the Mysore studio was in a dingy basement. I walk in, a little bashful about my incompetence, and it smells funny, looks serious, and is totally intimidating. Somehow I made it though practice, and never stopped going back.
But I realize now that this wasn’t the most welcoming experience for a beginner. Ever since I started teaching Mysore, I’ve made it a goal of mine to make sure students’ first experiences with Mysore aren’t intimidating like mine was.
The point of this story is that there’s no perfect way to start practicing Mysore, and there’s no perfect time to start practicing Mysore. But I believe that the secret to anything is just to begin. I went that one time, and here I am all these years later. Open yourself to the possibility of something unfamiliar and new and wonderful happening in your life.
When should you consider Mysore style yoga practice?
When you are a beginner. No prior experience required. We like a clean slate to work with. New students have fewer bad patterns, so your teacher can begin teaching you the Ashtanga method without it being influenced by previous experiences with other styles of yoga. New students are taught Ashtanga one pose at a time, piece by piece, and together we build a sustainable practice.
When you are experienced. Think you’re the most advanced person in a class? That will never happen in Mysore. After ten years, you’re still considered a beginner. There’s a depth to this practice, and we are uncovering it one layer at a time. I may be biased, but I truly believe the best way to advance your practice is with Mysore style. Here’s my biggest problem with group class: the teacher teaches to the middle of the group, so to speak. There’s really no other way to safely teach a group class, but that means the students on either end of the experience spectrum — beginners and advanced yogis — are less likely to get the instruction they need to take their practice to the next level. In Mysore, the postures are taught to you as an individual. Mysore style practice is designed to keep you on the edge of your seat — just when you start to get comfortable, your teacher will throw you a curve ball and there you are working your edge again. The repetition and individualization built into the practice ensures your progress. There is no better way to take yourself to the next level than by surrounding yourself with people who are already doing it.
When you are injured. Mysore style teachers are highly trained with a minimum of ten years of practice under their belts. The Mysore method asks you to practice 5-6 days a week. That means that, at some point, we’ve all practiced through injuries. Or maybe a better way to say this is that we’ve practiced around injuries. And because the practice is taught to the individual, we welcome students who are injured. You go at your own pace in Mysore practice, making it easier to work within the limitations of an injury. Your Mysore teacher’s goal is to make the postures fit the person — not the other way around. So come as you are, and let the practice help you love yourself just the way you are.
When you are looking for a more personalized experience Do you love working with a teacher who knows your name? And knows your practice? Mysore style is firmly rooted in consistency — consistency with style of practice, consistency with a time of day, consistency with a teacher. Heck, some students have been practicing in the same exact spot for years. But you know what’s waiting for you on the other side of a consistent practice? Anything you want to go for. There’s simply no better way to advance forward than committing to practice and being consistent with it.
You need a nudge to commit. Look, we get it. Life is busy and there will ALWAYS be things pulling you away from yoga. Let community pull you in. Your teachers and your co-practitioners will keep you accountable. They have that effect on people. My favorite catchphrase is see you tomorrow. We’re all more likely to show up when we know someone is expecting us in the Mysore room the next morning.
You adore practicing in a community There’s something powerful about practicing with a community — even if the community is just one other person. Community holds us accountable. Community helps us believe that change is possible. In a community, you are practicing with people who are already doing it. People who have already gone through it. People who are silently supporting you, without anyone saying a word, there is a collective voice encouraging you: You can do it. Belief is essential, and it grows in a communal experience.
You like safe spaces. Mysore rooms are places that support our practices. The teachers are skilled and offer you help. The community is all going through it too. Mysore rooms are places where you can fall, laugh, cry, yell, and keep going. Mysore style practice allows for you to have your own experience. You aren’t going to be told what to do pose by pose, minute by minute. This allows for you to have your own experience. No one is going to tell you what to feel in a pose. No one is going to read you poetry and try to manipulate your feelings. Good or bad, your experience is yours to have. We will provide the safe space, but the experience of yoga will unfold to each person individually.
You like results. There’s no doubt about it: a daily Mysore practice will yield noticeable change in your yoga practice in a small amount of time. Repetition is built into the practice. You practice postures until you become proficient at them, and then you practice them some more. It might seem boring at first, but anyone who has practiced Ashtanga will tell you, it’s never the same thing twice. You can practice the same postures several days in a row, and each day it will be a completely different practice. The repetition that is built into the practice allows for things to change quickly. It won’t take long for your body to change, your mind to steady, your quality of breath to improve. Because we practice the same postures on a daily basis, it doesn’t take long for things that once seemed impossible to become possible.
The best time to begin was yesterday and the next best time to begin is tomorrow. Wherever you are, begin.
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