Have You Tried It Yet?
Yoga means many different things to many different people. In fact, it would likely be safe to say that the meaning of yoga, like the meaning of the universe, has infinite possibilities. Some seek yoga as a form of exercise, while others practice yoga as part of a life long journey of self-discovery, reflection, and growth. Regardless of the intention, many soon learn that the practice of exploring our bodies, it’s capabilities and limitations, begin to transcend into deeper aspects of our lives. We even begin to see how they change over time.
Just as there endless possibilities into the meaning of yoga, there are quite a significant number of practice types and traditions. One well known area of yoga is Ashtanga yoga of which a very small sect known as Mysore yoga is of particular concern here. It is a new(er) form of yoga relative to the grand scheme of yoga throughout the ages, but is built on principles that seem to transcend time and space, constantly being relevant despite our fast-changing pace.
Reid J. Robison, MD MBA, is a long time meditation and yoga practitioner shares his first experiences with Mysore with us.
If you’ve never tried it, Robinson might just convince you to give it a try!
“For quite a while, the yoga studio where I practice was offering 6 a.m. classes every weekday morning and I was pretty religious about going. 6 a.m. may seem ridiculous, and it kind of is, but it was really the only time I was guaranteed to be free of other obligations. No excuses, except my self. Then one day, three of the five weekday morning classes suddenly disappeared from the schedule, with something new and curious in their place: Mysore.
WTF is Mysore? I had no idea when I first saw it. Even after getting the inside scoop, it seemed, well, boring. You mean I just go there and practice at my own pace? I can do that at home, right? Pointers from an instructor? Kinda cool, but still, I love the flow and energy and oneness of a kick butt group class. So in my unreceptive closed-mindedness, I didn’t go to Mysore for a while. A long while. I let it simmer, thinking about if this was worth waking up at 6 a.m. for. But when I tried it… like really tried it… lo and behold…my mind was blown.
One of the exciting (and habit-forming) aspects of yoga is that there is always progress to be made. The journey is never complete, yet continuously rewarding. When we are engaged in a regular yoga practice, we continue reaping the benefits, time and time again.
So what exactly is Mysore?
Let’s start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start) with a dash of yoga history! Ashtanga yoga, often called a modern version of classical Indian yoga, is a beautiful, ancient system of living that was first taught in the Yoga Korunta by Vamana Rishi. It was then imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900’s by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari, and was later passed down to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois when he began studying under Krishnamacharya in 1927. It is this man, Pattabhi Jois, the “Father of Mysore,” who developed the specifics of the practice and introduced them to the world as essentially a deeper, introspective alternative to modern yoga classes.
Let’s talk more about Mysore and how it differs from the yoga classes you might be used to. Traditional yoga classes are usually set up so that the focus is on a teacher, some poses, maybe even the music at times. Generally, participants are guided through a pre-established set of asanas (poses) and explore only the material offered by the current instructor in an environment where rhythm and sequence is already set. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a yoga class centered around flow – they’re my drug of choice. But there comes a time in your practice when you need to go deeper into yourself and into the asanas to really take your practice to a whole new level. Enter Mysore, which offers an environment where one’s focal point can shift inward in a self-paced practice within a group setting. Talk about the best of both worlds. Let’s break it down a little further.
In essence Mysore focuses on the individual’s practice. Mysore still uses the Ashtanga sequence of asanas. But! (and it’s a big BUT) instead of being led through these by a teacher, individuals guide themselves through each pose — learning about one’s mind and body, one’s limits, focusing on breath and moving to his/her own rhythm. Each asana is learned separately, allowing participants to explore each posture and the depth they can reach within it before deciding when to move on to the next.
Rarely will you hear talk of ability and achievement from a Mysore guru, as these are not the focus of the practice. So perhaps it is ironic that not only does this specific technique set the foundation for a deeper, stronger practice but it also allows for accelerated improvement and flexibility — helping people go from their first yoga class to a hard-core yogi in mere months. In Mysore the teacher is seen more as a mentor; an advanced practitioner who is there to give hands-on guidance through the individual poses, offer adjustments, instruction (and encouragement) to help each yogi get the most out of his or her practice. This method insures all students get exactly what they need out of their practice, regardless of their level of expertise or experience. Mysore is meant to be incorporated into a daily routine with days off only on Saturdays, new and full moons.
Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Anything can be achieved with practice and time.
The only way to truly convince yourself of the benefits of Mysore is to give it a try. It is so much more than just a style. If you take the time to deepen your practice with Mysore, you’ll begin to see benefits arrive not only where twisting yourself into a human pretzel is concerned, but in all areas of your life.
The father of Mysore said it best with “Yoga means true self-knowledge.” Take the leap. Go deeper. Reach farther. Allow yourself to be lifted to higher levels. I double downward dog dare you.”