Monday, October 11, 2010


It's a varied path to a Mysore-style ashtanga yoga practice. Where do you fall on the continuum below?

1. Sporadic led or guided evening classes.
You go to class when you feel like it and when you have the time.

2. Consistent led classes.
You make the time to hit class a couple times a week.

3. Scheduled led classes.
You go to class on a set schedule, for example, every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.

4. Scheduled morning Mysore classes.
You start attending morning Mysore class on a set schedule, like every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

5. Daily morning Mysore classes.
You hit class every morning but moon days and holidays.

Generally, one's priorities change depending on the seasons and states. 

People tend to bail on classes during the dog-days of summer and during holidays.

More than just the weather, the seasons of life also affect one's capacity for the ashtanga yoga practice. I find young adults have a difficult time committing to a schedule, mostly because generally their life-stage is characterized by heavy flux.

Also, your capacity for yoga will vary depending on your state. For example, just have a baby, move to a new city, undergo a massive relationship meltdown, or catch mono? 

If you're somewhere between items 3 and 4 above, you may be considering attending a Mysore class. I resist strong-arming people, but at a certain point, after you've exhausted the led class setting as everyone does, a Mysore class is the next stage in practice.

So here's a FAQ regarding morning Mysore classes for those of you considering it.

How is a Mysore Class Different from a Led Class?
In a Mysore-style class, students generally practice an established, predetermined sequence of poses from among the various ashtanga vinyasa series.

They proceed at their own pace, which will depend on their unique situation that morning, and they will follow their own length of breath.

Depending on their current physical conditions, they will address problematic areas by remaining in poses longer or repeating them.

The instructor is available one-on-one for physical assistance and suggestions for scaling, and can therefore meet each student where they are at that moment.

Why Is It Called "Mysore?"
This style, an individual practice set amongst a like-minded group, originated in the south Indian city of Mysore, and was maintained by Pattabhi Jois, among others.

It's Not Called Mysore Because It Makes You Sore?
It's not called Mysore because it makes you sore.

I've Been to Some Led Classes --- Do I Have to Remember All the Poses?
Don't worry, you will remember more than you think. Trust me. Just make an honest effort. Relax. Do less. Try to show up consistently.

For a short period of time, you will make a concession to transition to a Mysore class from led classes. You'll relinquish an entire, familiar sequence for a usually shorter yet more profound practice, one that is entirely internally generated.

You'll move to a finishing sequence when you lose the thread of the practice.

This is either physically --- that is, you're trembling, shaking, exhausted, and quite obviously spent --- or, more subtly, when you no longer remember what comes next. Which usually means you don't know where you are now.

These terminal points differ for each person.

So you'll stop when you're quite clearly tapped out. For those not on the verge of cracking, I'm available to help guide you through those unfamiliar parts of the sequence.

Given consistent effort, you will very quickly learn the sequence that is appropriate for your current conditions. 

It's my hope, of course, that you eventually remember the sequence of the primary series poses.

We have print-outs of the sequence (a.k.a. "cheat sheets"), but they tend to become a distraction or worse, a laundry list.

I've Never Been to a Led Class --- Can I Show Up, Too?
Turn up off the street and we'll start in a more traditional style. I will show you surya namaskar A and B and perhaps a few more poses. Then you will sit down and breathe. Finally, you will lie down.

Each time you return, you will be taught another pose in the sequence, usually one or two poses per day, until you hit your first major road-block.

What Time Can I Arrive?
Doors open at 6 a.m.; you can arrive at any point until class ends at 9 a.m. If the door is locked, stand on the sidewalk and jab the button until I come out to let you in.

I'd prefer everyone start by 8, but if you have to choose between arriving at 8:30 or no practice, show up at 8:30.

Do I Have to Get Up That Early?
Listen Buttercup, it's time to rip off the band-aid. If you want to deepen your practice beyond the more mediated led classes, and take the benefit of the intention of a like-minded group --- I tell you, some morning Mysore practices are like stepping into a jet-stream, whoosh, you're off, and you don't do the practice, the practice does you --- if you want to deepen your practice in that way, you have to fucking get up in the morning.

How can I break this to you gently? "I don't do mornings" or "I'm not a morning person" are bullshit. Despite what your mom told you, you are not a unique snowflake. You, as a member of homo sapiens, are a diurnal mammal, which means you're hard-coded to be wired in the morning and tired in the evening (If the opposite is true, you've got other issues).

We're not even talking crack-head early, either, which I rate as a 4:30 a.m. wake-up, so I'm sorry I'm not sorry. We're all adults, and adults know how to prioritize their interests and their energies to meet deep needs.

What If I'm Not Flexible in the Morning?
To paraphrase a quote I saw posted at Vancouver Ashtanga, you're never too dirty to take a shower. Wait to be flexible enough to take a yoga class and you'll wait 'til death.

Morning practice is a ritualized way to welcome the sun into your day and into your life. It also re-establishes a vital psychospiritual balance and, as B.K.S. Iyengar calls it, an "equipoise."

On a purely physical level, consistent morning stretching eventually allows you to perform movements requiring considerable flexibility with little or no warm-up.

Do I Have to Go to Work All Sweaty?
The delightful environs of Yoga Pearl also include luxurious showers, organic soap, and towel service. Prasad Cafe features raw cheesecake, Bachelor bars and other brekkie items.

Failing that, you can always go with baby wipes or, as I used to do in my heathen "corporate" days, simply lather on the deodorant during the car ride to the office.