It has been a long time since I have practiced in the Mysore method of Ashtanga yoga – the method that captivated me early into my yoga journey. I fell in love and with one-pointed concentration, I practiced. Mysore is a moderated self practice (and also a city in India) where you repeat the same sequence of postures each time you practice. Those postures are given to you by your teacher as your body becomes ready. Over time you memorize the series and while the ordering remains the same, the practitioner changes and hence, the sessions are all different.
There was a small, dedicated Mysore group in Ithaca and we practiced together for a couple of years. I would do the primary series across the room from my first Ashtanga teacher – and her teacher would moderate the session. I devoured everything Ashtanga, I had a full-size poster of the primary series mounted and then hung in my house. I practiced 6 days a week and my body changed. My reactions to life changed. My ways of eating changed.
But then, our Mysore community disappeared from Ithaca in large part because the studio owner began moving toward teaching other methods of yoga and he stopped offering Mysore practice in the early mornings. These were replaced by open studio time for self-practice – there was no teacher in the room but you were able to use the space for only $5. A small group would attend, some would be practicing Ashtanga and others would be there doing their own set of poses based on what their body needed that day. This too was enjoyable – to be practicing in a community of individuals who were defining yoga for themselves.
After a longer time, I was the only person still regularly attending open practice, my Ashtanga teacher had moved away and many of the other practitioners were more interested in taught vinyasa classes.
I followed. The love I had for asana began to shift to music-lead classes that flowed to the rhythms – not of the breath but the instruments. I was also taking a significant amount of Iyengar classes because that was the studio owner’s new passion. I kept searching for a practice that had enough energy around it to return me to my roots. I settled on Anusara yoga as a blend between alignment-based postures and joyful positivity. I made myself – as best I could – love Anusara.
When I moved to the West Coast, I was out of yoga shape. I felt too old, with too many injury-based special needs to return to Mysore. It can be an intimidating method.
After the baby, the morning hours when Mysore is traditionally offered were not logistically viable.
Now…I have found a studio across the river that is bikable, drivable, Max-able that has Mysore daily until 10am, last arrival at 9. I CAN DO THAT! And so I did. On Friday, after a couple of emails back and forth with the teacher, I showed up to my first Mysore class in 5 years.
When I arrived I was told by the teacher-owner that a master-teacher was leading the class that morning. A woman!! I had never had a female Mysore teacher. I rolled out my mat in the back right corner and did my 5 Surya Namaskar A & B. The teacher encouraged me to go further with some of the standing poses. I practiced through rotated extended side angle, and to be honest I cant be sure I did the sequence correctly, but what fun it will be re-learning the series.
What struck me the most was the breathing and the sound of bodies transitioning between postures. No music, no inspiring talk – just authentic practice.