I have to confess that I was really scared during my first Mysore practice. “Can you imagine a yoga “class” in complete silence, where the teacher does not lead the practice but simply observes the practitioners and adjusts postures when necessary? A class where the teacher does not demonstrate the poses, and even worse, you as every student go at their own pace!? ” SCARY!
My first impression was a weird room full of sweaty bodies, breathing in a very strange way and no music; really, nothing seemed to be happening…it was like being a real stranger in a scary world.
It’s amazing to remember the way I was judging so many things because I was a stranger in this completely new way of practicing yoga. It felt selfish and I felt left alone. My comfort zone was colourful shalas, lovely music, candles, and super smiley flexible teachers practicing on their mats…a completely different story, it seemed with this so-called “Mysore style” I was leaving to the side my practice in dreamland.
However, after several months reflecting upon my Mysore experience, my heart sensed a unique attraction to the mysterious melody created by the breath known as Ujjayi Pranayama. I was ready to embark in a passionate long-term journey. It was really inspiring to sense a pure silence that allowed the practice to transform into a moving meditation. I sensed something very pure and powerful was happening; yes in a collective manner but each one at their own pace facing their own battles.
I feel that a great number of Ashtangis have gone through similar experiences as mine, but my guess is that only the lucky curious and faithful ones are able to discover the amazing truth that lies within it. I narrate this story over and over to inspire others to give it a try and maybe find their own path.
It is crucial to understand the tools used in the practice: firstly, the Ujjayi breath, secondly, the Bandhas: Mula, Uddiyana, Jalandhara translated into energetic locks or the breaks of the dynamic flow, and thirdly, the Drishti or focal point for each pose that helps attaining deeper concentration and eventually reaching a meditative state.
Today I feel thrilled to be writing this article while flashing back to that pictorial moment of being a scared at my first Mysore practice. Already 5 years have passed and I feel excited to keep embracing my Mysore practice in a gradual approach under the guidance of my teachers Linda Munro and Gérald Disse at Ashtanga Yoga Paris.
Here my top-10 advices before starting a Mysore practice:
- Don’t be afraid. Ask your teacher whether you can start the Mysore practice. Each school has different “rules” and it is important to respect them.
- Ask for a “cheat sheet” of the sequence and put it next to your mat while you memorize it.
- Be patient, be prepared to be a beginner and enjoy the step-by-step process.
- Trust the teacher. Every school is different, but the Ashtanga Yoga method always stays the same.
- Don’t take a water bottle inside the shala. Different from doing exercise, yoga is intended to building up the endurance to not drink water during practice. The reason for this is that you’re stimulating an internal fire (agni), which detoxifies your body and mind.
- Stay at your own pace and in your own practice, don’t copy or compare to what others are doing.
- Don’t ask what pose is next. As you become more disciplined in the practice your body will completely transform. You’ll develop the strength and flexibility needed for the upcoming poses and your teacher will be aware of that.
- Do long savasanas.
- The practice is intended for self-introspection, so cut-off your thoughts and try to cultivate inner silence.
- Enjoy it and smile while nurturing immense love and compassion with yourself.
Starting a Mysore practice is a brave long journey. I can open heartedly say that practicing and teaching Ashtanga yoga continues to be an essential part of my life. It is indeed my most important tool for finding my own balance, a beautiful tool for self-introspection, self-care and love. I feel the Mysore practice has a revolutionary power to transform our inner worlds to the best of our abilities.
As in the scary Mysore practice, it is up to each and everyone to take full responsibility, not only on the mat but most importantly, off the mat. We must stand up to our responsibility of fulfilling our own duty; without waiting for the collective push to happen. We are on time, but we need to take action right away. Our world is suffering as we all do and by doing our self-practice and working on our own shadows, we are acting and gradually changing the flow of our collective unconsciousness.
Let’s plant seeds of consciousness, love and compassion in our own hearts. Let’s allow ourselves being strangers in this world and gradually find our own balanced state.
PHOTO : @camiloduque.net