Aug 14, 2012

Ashtanga & Mysore: More FAQs by Elise Espat

You're Ashtanga curious. Here are some tips on how to get started and what you can expect.
  • Observe a Mysore class before beginning practice for the first time.  You'll be able to see what the teacher/class/space/other students/method are like before making any kind of commitment.

  • Commit to at least one month of practice.  It is easy to show up once when you feel "good".  It is even possible to show up for a week.  But in the span of a month it is much more likely that you won't always feel like going to practice.  You'll be really busy one day with a lot on your mind, or you'll be sore, or tired, or want to sleep in, or go to brunch, run a little late, etc.  It is important to realize that it isn't about every day feeling like rainbows and sunshine.  It is about showing up no matter what.  After a month of facing all these different flavors, you'll have a sense of whether or not you want to continue to do this practice. 

  • You do not have to know the primary series or anything about yoga to join a Mysore class. Although you will be practicing to your own breath, your Mysore practice will be highly supervised by the instructor. You will be taught individually one posture at a time. Your first classes will be short and will eventually be around 90 minutes. Slowly as these postures integrate, more postures will be added by your teacher and you'll continue to refine previous postures and techniques.

  • All ages, shapes, body types, genders, ethnicities, etc. are welcome to attend. You don't have to be strong or flexible or a dancer or a gymnast. The only requirement is an enthusiasm for practice.

  • The Mysore-style of learning and practicing is different than most other types of yoga practice because:
    -it is made of a set series of postures which you practice daily
    -you develop and maintain a practice over time
    -the student-teacher relationship is very important
    -students practice with one teacher
    -it is less about catering to what we are accustomed to and more about challenging ourselves to experience everything with grace
    -Students can take their time, work at their own pace, and are encouraged to marinate in certain postures if there is a therapeutic indication

  • There are six series of postures in the Ashtanga yoga system. Primary series is called yoga chikitsa which means yoga therapy. This practice tones, increases flexibility, and detoxes the body and mind. Everyone starts their Mysore practice by gradually learning and practicing the primary series.  It takes as long as it takes.  Anyone can practice. 

  • You can arrive to practice any time that is convenient for you within the designated practice times as long as you are finished before the end. For example, if your practice is 35 minutes long, you should begin before 8:55am if class ends at 9:30am. So, no, your practice isn't 3 hours long and you do not have to arrive at the beginning of the Mysore class.

  • Bring a clean towel, a yoga mat, wear clean clothes, take a shower, be barefoot, and arrive on an empty stomach. Do not drink water or other liquids during practice.

  • Ashtanga yoga is a daily practice. Really, if we are talking the full spectrum of practice, it is 24/7. In terms of being on a mat, students practice 6 days per week. Saturdays or Sundays are a day of rest as are the first three days of the menstrual cycle (called ladies' holiday). Moon days (full or new moon) are also a day of rest. If this isn't possible for you at first, do what you can.

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Originally published March 2010 at Ashtanga Yoga Brooklyn. 

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