Sunday, April 3, 2011


6. Remember Why You Practice
It's been helpful to articulate and then re-articulate why I practice Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in the Mysore style. This why is not inorganic and inert, and has grown, evolved, expanded and deepened over the years. I have the sense this depth and breadth as a result of the practice is an infinite process that will never finish, complete, or close itself off.

This process of examination and re-examination is what keeps me energized and interested, so I recommend finding ways to lean into your own interests, Yoga and otherwise, so that you can bring them back to the Mysore room with vigor and vitality.

Some people lean so hard into other pursuits they end up leaning away from Ashtanga Vinyasa, which is okay. Just be clear when that happens.

Personally, I want connection and intimacy, with myself and my own breath, and with other people who want the same.

I find most other systems of Asana-related Yoga to be overly pedagogical: a teacher stands up front and inspires while we make different shapes. This can be fun and inspiring, but ultimately our experience is only transmuted and reframed by our own deep practice. This deep practice has to be one’s own practice, and one’s own practice thrives when aided and abetted, not by an inspirational figurehead delivering sermons from the mount, but rather someone who nudges, pokes, and grunts at you in various ways and on a daily basis.

The Mysore-style setting is profound because we do our own deep practice with each other.

7. Discover Why You Teach
I can often see in others flickers of what I consider samadhi or delighted absorption. Sometimes a detail helps someone reframe their experience of self to a deeper one. Often this is the result of ridiculously mundane verbal cues, physical taps, or even base grunting.

These experiences are infinitely rewarding for me.

I also love talking about this shit, so it's nice to have a community of people with whom to discuss the nuances of the philosophy.

My point is that it might be helpful to know why you teach.

8. Do Your Own Practice
This is the trickiest aspect to hosting a daily morning Mysore practice. I do 6-9 a.m. at Portland Ashtanga Yoga; I have spent time in Japan hosting a program that ran 7-10 a.m. In Encinitas, Tim has opted for 7-9 a.m.

In other words, if you start a morning program, you will most likely give up your morning practice.

I have friends who practice at 4 a.m. before their Mysore classes, and I have acquaintances who rise at 2 to begin practice at 3. So it is possible to commit to a daily morning practice and teach Mysore-style.

Personally, I found it thrilling to practice at 4:30 or 5, though the resultant asceticism became a merit badge, and turned early practice away from upasana or devotion and more towards self-gratification. My hermetic tendencies ran rampant. To wake retarded-early to practice meant I could say no to a social life. The sense of not needing anyone or anything is intoxicating, and I thrived on this sense of power and control over my life, and in fact over life itself.

Still, that period ended, and in fact was only possible during a period away from Tara and Rowan. I enjoy hanging out with my family and participating in my culture (in other words, fulfilling my dharma), and so while I've explored early-morning practice, I'm not currently served by it. I want to put my kid to bed at 8, and not the other way around.

This was just my experience at that time. I suspect now an early morning practice would be different, simply because I would only practice early if it’s that or no practice.

Without the energizing presence of a Mysore community around it, my physical practice has changed quite a bit. It's softer, slower and often bears a different flavor of intensity.

This is a detail to be prepared for, and will be a shock if you still require come-to-Jesus asana practices.

9. You Must Hate Money
Perhaps your financial issues are sorted (employed spouse, inheritance, investments), but it can be lean times in the beginning. Mysore programs are like gardens and require daily, consistent, patient effort. Even then, you might perhaps end up serving four or five people.

I’ve heard it said to expect roughly 10 people per year, and that’s if you aren’t a total mouth-breather, have a good location, show up consistently, and tell people about it. So 4 years, 40 people.

The leanage enters the picture when you start up your studio or program and realize it’s difficult to balance banker’s hours with a daily Mysore program … and your own practice. This means a “career” can be a challenge to maintain.

It is the 21st century, though, and there are tons of off-site, reduced hours and telecommuting jobs that can pay well and require less than the traditional 8 hours per day. Plus there are many smart yoga teachers who seem to handle their finances in a smart way; Pattabhi Jois himself definitely enjoyed the prosperous aspect of his studio.