Q: “How does Mysore style Ashtanga yoga differ from other yoga classes?”
A: In a Mysore class, the student is taught the Ashtanga sequence individually and gradually. Each student practices what they have learned independently, to their own timing, honoring their personal obstacles. The instructor is available to work with students one one one as needed, offering instruction, support, and guidance.
Q: “Do I have to know the Ashtanga sequence in order to attend a Mysore class?”
A: No, you can be completely new to Ashtanga and still attend Mysore. In fact, you can be completely new to yoga and it would still be ok. This method is very accessible to beginners as you are taught the practice pose by pose and are allowed the time and space in integrate the information as you go.
Q: “Can I drop in like in other yoga classes?”
A: You may drop in at anytime if you have an established Ashtanga Mysore practice. If you are new to Ashtanga and the self-practice approach, we have designated Mondays to new student drop ins. After that initial class, a commitment is required to continue. Because much of this method is dependent on the memorization of the sequence, I have found that a minimum of 3 classes per week allows for steady progress in memory as well as allowing the body to acclimate to the practice. Less than that, and you end up having to relearn each time you attend.
Q: “How long is the class?”
A: The teacher and room are available during the entire time allotted for class. You may arrive as late as one hour before the end of class as long as you complete your practice by finishing time. The duration of your practice will depend on your personal pace and how far into the sequence you have progressed.
Q: “I heard that you have to be very advanced to practice Ashtanga. Is this true?”
A: No, people of all levels and abilities can practice Ashtanga Yoga. In fact, Mysore style classes are very well suited to beginners and those with unique needs, because it allows for more individual attention.
Q: “Do I really have to practice every day?”
A: Ashtanga yoga is considered to be a lifestyle. In this way it is a daily practice, just like brushing your teeth. An essential part of that daily practice is to incorporate a day of rest - one per week. We also rest during moon days which occur approximately every two weeks. And ladies must rest 2-3 days during each menstrual cycle…. With all of this you end up with a 5 or 6 day per week practice. The regularity of practice provides the framework for understanding fluctuations and their causes. You will learn how to adjust the dynamics of your practices while at the same time honoring the method. All of that being said, I have found that, especially in the beginning, consistency is more important than frequency. If you know you can absolutely commit to 3 times per week and maintain that, you will experience progress and your body will acclimate to the practice. This is better than any random schedule.
Q: "Why is there no class on moon days?"
A. The Ashtanga Yoga lineage is deeply rooted in Indian culture. It honors the natural influences of the moon. Just as the moon affects the waters of the earth, it also affect our bodies which are 70% water. By resting on these days, we honor that energy and our relationship to nature.
Q: "Why should women not practice during the menstrual cycle?"
A: This practice uses certain tools - like the postures generally and the “bandhas" (energy seals or locks) specifically - to direct the flow of energy or “prana” through the body. The menstrual cycle is by nature a downward flow, so to reverse this would not allow the natural process to cleanse the body as it should. I recommend rest on 2 -3 of the heaviest flow days and then for the remainder to avoid inversions. It is another way to honor the natural influences on our body’s life force energy.
Q: “Why do we chant?”
A: Chanting can be considered to be mental yoga. As we do our best to accurately repeat what we hear, our mind is stimulated and becomes focused. the sound vibrations also have a beneficial affect on our mental energy. Studies have shown other physiological benefits such as steadying heart rate, lowering blood pressure, boosting endorphins and metabolic processes, etc. Ashtanga is a lineage rooted in the parampara tradition, that is on knowledge being passed directly from teacher to student along with deeper intention. The Ashtanga opening chant honors and offers gratitude to the lineage of teachers that make it possible to take benefit from the practice. It also names Patanjali in particular, honoring his contribution to yoga. If you feel uncomfortable chanting, it is no problem. You may silently listen along.
Q: “Do I need to do anything special before I come to practice Mysore yoga?”
A: Ashtanga yoga should be practiced on an empty stomach. Try not to eat at least two hours prior to class, though 12 hours of fasting is recommended. Also, please try to refrain from drinking during class. Hydration is very important so prepare your body by regularly drinking lots of water before and after practice. Drinking during class counteracts the process of building heat in the body and therefore decreases the detoxifying effects of yoga - and can make you feel a bit sick. Refrain from wearing perfumes that could affect your fellow practitioners and keep your mat and gear clean. Respect each other’s practice and the sacred space.