The Mysore program is open to all who are willing to make a commitment to regular practice. Regular practice should ideally mean daily practice. We ask that new students commit to coming at least twice a week to start.
The best way to learn how things work is to experience it first hand. You are welcome to start once you are willing to commit and have made an arrangement with the instructor.
The second best way is to observe the class. You can discuss your situation with the instructor as well. Please feel free to email the instructor, to make arrangements.
FAQ for beginners and new students
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+Mysore-style Ashtanga Yoga? What's that mean?
Mysore is a city in Karnataka in the south of India. There, Pattabhi Jois developed and popularized this particular yoga method based on the techniques he learned from his teacher, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. The KPJAYI in Mysore is considered the primary institute of this style of yoga, and Pattabhi Jois's grandson, Sharath Jois, teaches there as the head teacher of this lineage.
Mysore-style refers to the particular class format popularized by Pattabhi Jois where a group of students are practicing at the same time but asynchronously, at different speeds and different places in the series. Mysore-style is our primary method of instruction, but we also offer a group guided class where everyone practices together once a month. At the KPJAYI now in Mysore, there are two guided classes each week, and Sharath primarily teaches in the synchronous guided manner when he teaches large groups on tour worldwide.
Ashtanga Yoga is what Pattabhi Jois told his first Western students what he was teaching them when they asked for the name of the method. This name caught on. Typically when we see the name "Ashtanga Yoga" on a menu of yoga classes it refers to the sequence(s) of postures taught by Pattabhi Jois with the vigorous sun salutation and vinyasa transitions, in other words, the outer form of the practice.
aṣṭāṅga yoga literally means eight-limbed yoga which refers to the practical method codified in ancient times in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The eight limbs of the method are
- yama - ethics
- niyama - personal observances
- āsana - seat for meditation; physical equipoise.
- prāṇāyama - control and extention of breathing and vital energy
- pratyāhāra - discipline of the senses
- dhāraṇā - single-pointed concentration
- dhyāna - continuous, unwavering concentration. Meditation.
- samādhi - absorption and union with the object of concentration. Leading to Oneness
By Ashtanga Yoga, Pattabhi Jois meant he was teaching an approach to a comprehensive yoga method consonant with Patanjali (patañjali).
We say Mysore-style Ashtanga Yoga or just Mysore for short to emphasize the Mysore-style format, as opposed to guided group. However, like Sharath and Pattabhi Jois since the early 2000s, we do teach guided group classes to compliment the main Mysore-style classes.
+Is the class really three hours long?!
Whereas the typical yoga class these days is a fixed event where the group practices synchronously, the Mysore room is more like a study hall or a one-room school house. The room is dedicated, consecrated even, to yoga practice and everyone is practicing basically the same technique, but individually, at each their own time and speed and adapted to their own individual capacity and need. So, the room is open to practice for the full listed duration, but each individual person's practice will start and finish at different times. Your practice will likely take around 30-45 minutes for the first few days, and it will likely grow to something that takes 60-120 minutes. Students should feel free to show up at any time as long as it fits within the boundaries of the class. New students should show up between 6:15 and 8:45 on weekdays.
+I don't know the series at all!
Perfect!! It’s always best to start things from the beginning. Follow the advice in the next point:
+If you have had no Mysore-style experience…
Please feel free to come by during class times to get a sense of how it works in person and meet the instructor. If you are interested in trying it out and developing a practice, please make a booking by calling or emailing to arrange a time for your first practice. No booking is necessary for your subsequent practices. We ask that all new students commit to attending at least five practice sessions.
+If you have had prior experience with the Ashtanga series, but not in a traditional Mysore-style setting...
The traditional, Mysore-style way of practicing is quite different than what is done elsewhere. To reap the full benefits of this method it is best to start practicing from the beginning even if you already have had experience with the external form of the Ashtanga series. Unless you already have the series or a large chunk of it memorized, we will teach you from the beginning, one thing at a time, as if it was your first day. There will be a lot of repetition; treat this as a time to attend to the internal and meditative aspects of the practice. With your prior experience, you will likely proceed quickly through the series according to the traditional method, but you will have the added benefit of learning to practice in sync with your own inner pace, with your attention directed inward, and with more specific attention to the energetic fine details of the practice. As with other new students, we ask that you commit to 10 classes or a month of practice in order to join the regular Mysore classes. You are also welcome to try out the Monday morning intro class first.
+If you have an injury or other special condition...
A fine learning opportunity! Please be sure to talk about it with us. We can develop an approach to work with you, by emphasizing certain points of attention or physical alignment and by tailoring individual poses for maximum benefit. The practice is done on your own, at your own pace, and everyone’s poses and practice routines are individualized, so a Mysore-style practice is a perfect way to work on unique conditions, injuries, and weaknesses.
+If you’re[too] stiff and/or weak to do yoga...
You should do yoga. You have everything to gain! This practice meets you where you are. No matter where that is. We like to see people change and develop. Teaching flexible, strong people is kind of boring for us.
+If you’re lazy and/or easily distracted...
This is more difficult… Yoga is discipline; yoga requires discipline; nonetheless it’s also a way to build discipline through positive reinforcement. Each time you show up, each step or vinyasa you do, should feel like a little victory that makes you feel better today and prepares you to do even more tomorrow. And if you miss a day or have an exhausted practice, well, better luck tomorrow!
+What's with the chanting?
You may notice some students chant silently or softly before and after their individual practices. We also guide the group through these chants as a part of the led class, as per the tradition, and we typically introduce the opening chant to new students on their first day.
Traditionally, a sort of ritual invocation is used at the beginning and end of yoga practices gives the practice a sense of framing. The opening chant is actually two mantras from the nondual tradition of Shankaracharya which is invoke an "attitude of gratitude" and a sense of intention. The closing mantra is a Vedic mantra which dedicates the practice to widespread or universal well-being.
Chanting is not required, by any means. Feel free to give it a pass, respectfully. For those who are interested, additional chanting instruction and discussion of yoga theory are occasionally offered.
+Is this religious?
To paraphrase Reverend Lovejoy, short answer: no, with a but. Long answer: yes...with an if.
The short answer: No. No religious views or practices are required or excluded, except that:
- There is a certain code of conduct based around respecting your neighbors, yourself, your teacher, and the order of the room.
- It may look religious (there's an altar! people chant a dead language and make prayer-looking positions!) because the manners of our Indian teachers, Hindu Brahmins of varying levels of rigor, rub off on us even though they insist it's not at all necessary.
+What's the long answer? Is this religious?
The long answer: Yes, with a specific understanding of religion.
The ultimate aim of yoga, traditionally speaking, is Oneness. Oneness with the divine, with the eternally true, with the cosmos. In that sense, yoga is not different from any other tradition of practices and views which seek union, and in that sense the tradition of yoga that we're working in is unabashedly religious.
As mentioned earlier, in the Mysore room the teachers and many of the practitioners may display certain manners and rituals that have been gleaned from the lineage. Inasmuch as these habits interest you as ways of nurturing connections to yourself, to your community, to your world, and to the cosmic and spiritual dimensions, you are invited to try them out or to ask about them. But if you don't feel any resonance with these things now, please just leave them aside. And if you already have certain religious observances that resonate with the yoga, we encourage you to continue cultivating them and that resonance.
This is because yoga, like other religious trajectories that see the ultimate beginning and end as radically non-dual, sees all practices and beliefs simply as means to achieving the eternal and universal whereas specifics of practices and beliefs conditioned by time and place. In a sense, anything goes, as long as it works. In the Mysore room, practically speaking, we defer to the harmonious functions of the room and to the practical authority of the teacher in deciding what works.
Today, most yoga students aren't thinking much about ultimate ends or the Big Cosmic Questions. These questions have some pull, but usually at a great distance or set in brackets, to be tackled much later. And to others, these questions don't make much sense at all.
Instead, most people begin practicing yoga for what the tradition would consider to be secondary benefits: physical well-being: flexibility, strength, and poise; and discipline: to try to do this practice every day cultivates the steady exercise of willpower as well as the acceptance of life's ups-and-downs.
A more subtle level of secondary benefit may be appreciated from the very get-go, or it may take a few weeks, months, or even years. As we practice regularly and observe the ups-and-downs of our mental will and clarity over time, we may begin to notice the underlying topography of our mental landscape. Our perceptions and intentions tend to swerve according to certain patterns, as if our minds had an inherent slope. As we set ourselves to better understand our shifting internal topography, and maybe even learn to ride it better or smooth it out, we may begin to become suspicious of the egoic self.
We go on learning that the shifting landscape of our egoic self is closely linked with our physical bodies, but we feel that we must also appreciate that consciousness is something else besides that. It is our conviction that this line of inquiry ultimately must lead back to the big spiritual question, or to the primary purpose of yoga. We also feel that to advance in this inquiry we must submit to a tradition where people have gone further than us, and so we adopt manners of acting and thinking that entail forms of religion.
We welcome you to make your own inquiries into these matters.
+I want to learn more of the mental/spiritual/religious stuff.
We regularly offer guided practice of Sanskrit chanting and discussion yoga philosophy. It will be announced to regular students, or you may inquire within. (!)