I’ve been posting some new classes and after rereading I thought to myself how does anyone really now what I’m talking about? I keep saying Mysore like everyone has this clear understanding. I use the word to describe something, a style of practice and if you practice in this method you understand what goes on in the Mysore room. One way to learn about it is to observe a session or class however the best way is to participate.
The Mysore Room is the Yoga Room and the *Shala is the Yoga Studio. Mysore is a city from which the practice originated and also where yogis in the Ashtanga method go to practice with their teacher. It’s a pilgrimage to the source. A Mysore session is where you get to do a self paced practice. That’s after you learn the sequence in the Mysore room under the guidance of your teacher. Your teacher also gives out the new poses and will let you know when it is time to add on to your practice. This applies to all levels of practitioners. There are hands on adjustments, verbal cues and lots of learning. New sensations, sweat and sometimes the mind is on overload. Your practice is your own and you are instructed in the asana (poses). The count sounds funny and instructions are brief. Sanskrit is used for the names of the poses mostly. For a first timer there are a lot of new things happening. First timers get instructed, then they get to be independent, but they are not sure that they want to be. The mind is more active for someone new to the mat. Students are instructed to breathe, to let the thoughts go, come back to the breath some more and to come back to doing the vinyasa. The vinyasa is the coordinated movement with the breath. Last week someone asked me what I practiced and I said, “Ashtanga Yoga”. They remarked, “Oh is that the one with the breathing?” I was pleased and replied, “yes, yes, it is.” and continued to explain that she had given it a perfect description.
The Mysore room is also a place where the teacher can teach you in a semi private way. The teachings are built off where you left off the last time you practiced at the Shala. Many times we get in our own way and we opt out. We leave too early, we try to do it on our own. We don’t trust that this method will work or that we will ever learn what to do. That it’s too hard. Yoga is not easy however in the Mysore method you only are instructed to do what you can do. There is support of the teacher, support of fellow practitioners and a shared energy that helps on the journey. Anyone can practice this Mysore method of Ashtanga Yoga . . . you just have to want to do it.
*Shala is a Sanskrit word meaning, “home, abode”. A Yoga Shala is a ‘place of yoga’. It is a gathering place for students of Traditional Yoga to practice, share, experience and grow.
I have been thinking a lot about what keeps people coming back to the practice. Truth be told, I have been thinking about why I continue to do so too. What makes us continue with the things that we struggle with and how do we deal with the journey that is not always an easy one, be it mentally or physically. I am reminded that this asana practice is a tool for me to stay balanced and let it be the hardest thing I do so that life off the mat is met with equanimity and joy. When I looked for things to be easier, I was mistaken. The effort keeps changing and the only limits are the self imposed limitations in my mind. Even with physical limitations practicing yoga is about settling the chitta and not how the asana turns out. The practice is our blueprint. I come back time and again to the dedication, determination, discipline and devotion that is required to us to have a long time journey with the Ashtanga practice which Sharath has spoken in conference time and again. I also come back to the fact that I have faith in something bigger that myself and see the transformation effects of the practice in myself and others I teach. There is trust and with trust there is love. We need to take care of the temple.
I remember being at the juice bar and having conversations about this with people who have been exposed to the method, who say “oh yeah, I’ve done Ashtanga Yoga, but I do ______ now.” (insert whatever you like here.) They wanted to know why I do it every day. Instead of coming up with an explanation that would not be easily understood in a brief encounter, I said “It’s what I do. I practice daily just like I brush my teeth.” In reality I never understood why runners could run everyday without a big explanation but that I got on my mat and did my practice created a “WOW” effect only because it was a daily *sadhana.
*Sadhana means daily spiritual practice. It is the foundation of all spiritual endeavor. Sadhana is your personal, individual spiritual effort. It is the main tool you use to work on yourself to achieve the purpose of life.
There is certainly a honeymoon period with the practice that can be as little as a month to years. So what happens after the honeymoon? What happens when you feel something, a new sensation or even pain. Do some people get bored and leave. You blame it on the room, on the teachers who give too much attention or not enough. I can seriously say that every day I learn something on the mat no matter where I am and no matter how much attention I get. It could be a simple shift in an emotion or thoughts that are easy to let go of or I can see what I am holding onto. When people say that they don’t have time and have lots of excuses, my thoughts go to the fact that life somehow makes room for the practice if we want it to.
So herein lies the question to be answered in one or two sentences for inspiration. Please email to firstname.lastname@example.org
What keeps you coming back to the mat?