You’ve probably heard of Bikram and Nidra for sleep. Maybe you’ve even heard of yoga for kids and puppy yoga. But have you ever heard of Mysore yoga?
Well, you should! The Mysore method harnesses the traditional way of teaching and practicing Ashtanga yoga, to give you a super personalized approach without the price tag of private yoga lessons.
Each year, this unique yoga method has thousands of people flocking to its birthplace from every corner of the globe to learn and reap its benefits.
But what is it and why is it so important? That’s what we’re here to answer.
In this article on Mysore yoga, we’ll discuss:
- What are the origins of Mysore yoga?
- What is Mysore yoga?
- Who can do Mysore yoga?
- What are the benefits of Mysore yoga?
- Where can I practice Mysore yoga?
What are the origins of Mysore yoga?
Mysore yoga takes its name from its birthplace – the beautiful city of Mysore, or Mysuru. Situated at the foothills of the breathtaking Chamundi Hills, Mysore is the southernmost city in the state of Karnataka, India.
Here, the Mysore method was created by Indian yoga guru K. Pattabhi Jois, who devoted his life to developing Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga from the 1940s onwards, for which he used the Mysore method to teach.
While Jois’ reputation has been damaged due to disappointing findings of sexual misconduct, the credibility of the Mysore method itself has remained intact – with yogis from all over the world still traveling each year to study and reap the benefits of the Mysore method.
So, What is Mysore yoga?
Firstly, rather than a style of yoga, Mysore yoga is better understood as a method of teaching yoga. So, in theory, the method can be used to teach a fixed sequence of any yoga style. However, it is most used with Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga.
In contrast to the usual teaching method where all yogi students follow the directions of an instructor in unison, in a Mysore class, each student is following their own yoga sequence at their own pace, while the instructor wanders around and gives advice and adjustments.
In some Mysore classes, the teacher may sprinkle in some “led” sections, wherein they lead the group through the same series at the same time before they then break up into their own exploration of the sequence.
As a wise yogi has written, the simplest way to think of it is as one-to-one yoga but in a group setting.
This might sound a little strange – but it is actually how yoga was originally taught. Yep, traditionally yoga was designed to be taught one-on-one…not in groups.
This was to allow the yoga teacher to observe the student’s every movement, breath, ailments and so on, and from this ‘prescribe’ a sequence of asanas and exercises based on their individual needs.
Like the yogi version of a personal trainer – sounds pretty good, right?
What’s a Mysore Yoga Class like?
If you’ve ever seen a Mysore class on a studio schedule, the first thing you’ll probably notice is its long and early timings. Traditionally, Mysore is practised in the early mornings often starting at around 6 am and usually lasting for 3 hours.
But don’t let this scare you off. Unlike other styles, the arrival time is much less stringent, with students free to come and go as they please. Because in Mysore yoga, each yogi is following their own sequence at their own pace, there is less pressure to turn up for a particular start time.
In Ashtanga – the yoga style associated with the Mysore method – asanas are performed in a fixed sequence. Some yogis in the class may have done their homework and pre-learnt this, but many will also turn up as total beginners. As mentioned, classes often feature ‘guided’ sections – and the instructor is always there to help.
After arriving, students will then begin to practice their own portion of the Ashtanga sequence, as the teacher will walk around to room offering assistance and hands-on adjustments to each student individually.
Mysore yoga is also characterized by a distinctive breath regulating technique known as ujjayi breathing – a powerful, rhythmic, soundful breath that actually has a warming effect on the body.
During the class, each student will be prescribed an individual yoga routine according to their needs and ability. For less experienced yogis, their sequence will usually be much shorter and lower intensity than that of seasoned yogis, usually starting with the sun salutations.
As a student’s strength, focus, flexibility, and – most importantly – confidence improves, they will then be given additional asanas by their instructor to add to their personal sequence.
Related: Why You Need Gravity Yoga + 5 Easy Gravity Yoga Poses
This ritual of being rewarded additional asanas by your teacher as you progress is a beautiful part of what makes the Mysore method so traditional – echoing the Indian custom wherein the yogi guru gifts the wisdom of each asana onto the student to guide them along their yoga journey.
Who can do mysore yoga?
One of the best things about Mysore yoga is that it’s accessible to everyone.
As everyone can choose the intensity of their workout during the session, it means that any ability level can turn up to any Mysore class and not feel out of their depth, or under-challenged.
The beauty of following your own sequence at your own pace also makes Mysore yoga particularly suitable for beginners – offering the perfect environment for self-exploration, making mistakes, and allowing you to take as much time as you need.
6 benefits of Mysore yoga
The benefits of the Mysore method are bountiful.
As well as having the same physical and emotional health benefits of Ashtanga yoga (read them here), Mysore also has some unique benefits that aren’t found in other teaching methods.
Here’s a roundup of our favorite four:
#1: Faster Improvements
One of the best parts about Mysore yoga is that you will likely see your ability and confidence improve quicker than if you attended ‘normal’ yoga classes.
This is because Mysore yoga offers so much one-on-one teaching during the group session – meaning you have a professional yogi to monitor and correct your every move throughout your session, helping you perfect your form and optimize your practice.
#2: Reduced Risk of Injury
A huge benefit of practicing Mysore yoga is the reduced risk of injury, compared to other yoga styles.
The risk of injury is reduced in Mysore yoga for two reasons. The first is that your practice is tailored to ability and the build-up is very slow, with beginners only given shorter and lower intensity sequences.
This is different from ‘primary led classes’ – where teachers call out directions and asanas that all students are expected to follow on demand.
The second reason is that every student receives much more assistance and hands-on adjustments in a Mysore class, so there is a greater opportunity for the instructor to correct incorrect alignment and other risk factors for injury during the class.
#3: Personal Exploration
All forms of yoga are about introspectiveness, personal exploration, and discovery.
However, in many primary led classes it can sometimes distract you from following what your body or mind is telling you because you’re so focused on following the directions or movements of the instructor on cue.
By allowing you to go at your own pace, do your own personalized sequence and receive personalized teaching during the class, Mysore yoga reminds you not to worry about anything that anyone else is doing.
Instead, it deeply encourages you to use your practice as a process of self-discovery and personal exploration by focusing on your own body, breath, and spirit.
Last but definitely not least on our list of Mysore yoga is that it fosters the development of self-sufficiency and self-confidence in your yoga practice.
This again is down to the unique hybrid of one-on-one teaching in an unguided, group setting. As the teacher goes around and gives you advice, they are helping you to help yourself.
That is, by teaching you one-on-one how to notice mistakes, correct them and otherwise perfect your practice – they are equipping you with the knowledge to then be able to notice, correct and perfect these things on your own.
Where can I practice Mysore yoga?
Thankfully, you don’t have to travel to India to experience the Mysore.
Many yoga studios include Mysore yoga in their timetables, so best to do a search on your chosen web browser for Mysore classes near you or ask your local yogi Facebook community page.
If nothing comes up, try calling your local Ashtanga Yoga studios – these will likely use the Mysore teaching method, and if not, can probably point you in the direction of somewhere that does.
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