Mysore Style: Making Ashtanga Yoga More Therapeutic

Ashtanga Yoga has gotten a bit of a bad rap.

Notorious for repetition and memorization of a set sequence of poses and the “strength” of the practice, it is—when practiced mindfully in Mysore style—a deeply personal exploration customized to enhance all the layers of one’s being, foster independence, and promote self-actualization.

Mysore style is the traditional way to experience Ashtanga Yoga. And though it is a set sequence of poses, the practice is truly individualized for each student, from beginners to advanced. Practitioners learn at their own unique pace, in their own unique way while in a group setting with a teacher who offers one-to-one support.

The practice begins with Sun Salutations A and B, also known as Surya Namaskar A and Surya Namaskar B, followed by a standing sequence. Following this, the practitioner progresses through one of six series followed by a standard closing sequence.

The six series are:

  • the Primary Series: Yoga Chikitsa, Yoga Therapy;

  • the Intermediate Series: Nadi Shodhana, The Nerve Purifier; and

  • the Advanced Series (a through d): Sthira Bhaga, Centering of Strength.

The primary series includes standing asanas and seated postures. Each posture reflects something about our internal state. Some days you have trouble with balancing postures and notice similar trouble juggling all the different things in your life. Another day you’re not as flexible as the day before, and may find you’re also less fluid in your thinking or actions, or resistant to stretching yourself to a new experience. In any case, Pattabhi Jois gently reassures us, “Do your practice and all is coming.”

So how is Mysore style individualized and therapeutic? Mana Takai, seasoned practitioner and teacher of the Primary Series, shares how Mysore style is therapeutic in her own life, both as a practitioner and as a teacher.

As a practitioner, I’ve gained a quiet mind and more sensitivity to sensation, feelings, and energy. Most importantly, I’ve gained more kindness toward myself.

As a teacher, being present with students as they move through their practice showing up every day with dedication with all the other demands of their lives, has a profound effect on me. I love witnessing the students as they become self-empowered, seeing each individual’s unique process of continuous growth and learning.

Mana leads the Mysore Room at Be Here Now Yoga Healing and Wellness in Washington, D.C., and clearly sees the therapeutic benefits in her students’ lives. She sees them “become stronger physically and mentally while also finding calm and stillness amidst life’s challenges” as well as “how the practice fosters their acceptance of what is, true independence, and enhanced well-being all around.”

For folks new to Mysore style, Mana totally understands that there may be curiosity and a little fear. Mana assures:

I was afraid to try my first Mysore class too! When I heard of Ashtanga, I thought it was super-strong practice. But instead I found that this practice brings strength, but also calmness and softness. I was also worried about remembering the sequence. But with practice, you easily remember. And the instructor is there is support you, so there’s no need to worry. I’ve worked with teenagers as well as people in their 70s. Mysore is for everybody. Just try for a few weeks. Then decide! Some of the benefits are—

  • a personal practice that you can take with you anywhere,
  • familiarity with your postures that makes the practice meditative,
  • awareness of your personal growth over time, and
  • a strong relationship with your teacher and personalized support and modifications.

If Mysore style is a personal practice, you may wonder, “What exactly is the role of the teacher?”

Mana offers: I hold a safe space for students to do their personal work in and around their unique strengths and challenges. I also help by giving modifications, and a structure in which to practice so the practice feels challenging yet easeful. And I give all students my sincere respect and love, whoever they are and wherever they are in their journey.

Curious? Now you can find Mysore-style Ashtanga Yoga at Be Here Now Yoga on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The studio is at the Eastern Market Metro, close to the Navy Yard in Southeast D.C. BHNY’s down-to-earth approach makes all styles yoga accessible to every body in a safe and welcoming space. The sign by the door says it all, “Welcome to our home. We love and accept you exactly as you are!” So whether the practice is new or familiar, the studio is a perfect welcoming place to try feeling a Mysore practice in your own body.

Originally posted on Yoga Therapy Link: