Monday, 11 May 2009

How to take a Mysore ashtanga yoga class

I've wanted to start a Mysore-style Ashtanga practice for a long time. This is the traditional way of learning Ashtanga. However, it's a little intimidating. As Yoga is Youth puts it, a Mysore "class" seems like total chaos. I know the beginnings of primary series, but I'm not at all sure of the etiquette of something that's less class and more open house. So when Anna Wise of Ashtanga Yoga London announced an introduction to Mysore weekend, I was all over it.

While I already knew the asanas we learned, I feel ready to enter a Mysore class. Because the best tip I can give, having just taken the workshop and not gone to a class yet, is to just show up. It would be helpful to email or call the teacher ahead of time and tell them what state you're in (total beginner, been doing led Ashtanga for years, whatever) and find out what time within their practice is a good time for you to show up, but that's just courtesy. Most teachers will let you drop in on a class as it works for you, at least the first few times.

Most classes are listed for several hours, but you don't go the whole time. Instead, you think about how long your practice is likely to be (for a beginner, maybe 30-45 minutes; as you do more of the series your practice gets longer) and what time you need to be finished, or what time you can start (most classes are first thing in the morning), and you show up at the time that's convenient for you. Try not to come in as a practice session is ending - the teacher will be tired and the other students will be winding down.

What will happen when you get there? If there's space, you'll just put your mat down (if you do Ashtanga regularly they recommend you have your own mat, but most places have them to loan if you're just starting out) and begin. If not, you'll join a probably informal queue and wait until those who have come before you have gone in before putting your mat down in a space on the floor. Then, just begin with Sun Salutation A. The teacher (and assistant, usually) will keep an eye on you, offering correction as needed. You do as much of the series as you've been "given" before doing closing postures and relaxation.

That's it. Seems scary, and I'm still a little intimidated but I'm planning to bite the bullet and go for it later this week. Let me know if this inspires you to try it for the first time, or if you're an experienced practitioner and have other advice.

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