Do I need to know the Ashtanga sequence to start a Mysore practice?

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The short answer to this is no. Starting a Mysore practice is actually the best way to start learning the sequence.

I know it can be intimidating at first, to think you will be stood on your yoga mat all alone with no one telling you what to do. Thankfully that feeling will quickly disappear once you realise you aren’t alone. The teacher will always be there to support you, give you a helping hand and maybe a gentle reminder about which position comes next.

In fact Ashtanga yoga was traditionally taught only through the Mysore style self practice. (Now if you are asking yourself ‘What is Mysore class?’ Please check out my first post!) Students learning Ashtanga would be introduced to each posture one by one, only as the teacher believed their body and mind were prepared.  In this way most people starting a Mysore practice would have no idea of the postures in the sequence unless they had been introduced to them by their teacher.

So the question is, why would you even want to stat a Mysore practice in the first place? Well that one is easy to answer!

Firstly: Training the body, freeing the mind!

You are training your body to remember movements that will become almost subconscious. This frees you up to focus on your breathing, dristi (point of focus) and bandhas (Internal locks in the body). All of this is what equals a meditation in movement a.k.a. ‘A Yoga High’ one of the primary objectives of Ashtanga yoga. Of course this is much easier to achieve when you don’t have to listen to a teacher’s voice.

Secondly: Listening to your body!

You have as much time as you need to go through the postures, maybe spending more time breathing into areas that feel tight, or working a bit longer in a preparatory position before trying the full thing. Freedom is the key word here! Freedom to listen to exactly what your body is telling you and giving it exactly what it needs.

Thirdly:  Adjustments & personal tips!

You get more adjustments and personal one on one time with your teacher! Adjustments are a central part of an Ashtanga practice, the gentle adjustments you get in each position help to coax the body into opening gently. It’s like a cross between a massage and a trip to the chiropractor. Not only does this open the body you also get to experience the deeper feeling of each posture as you can focus on the sensations rather than exerting effort. A Mysore practice also creates a space in which you a free to ask the teacher questions and receive personalised tips e.g. how to improve flexibility or strength or how to work on your breathing! Whatever you can think you are free to ask!

Fourthly: Freedom to practice alone!

Last but not least and possibly one of the greatest benefits of starting a Mysore yoga practice. It gives you all the skills and confidence you need to go off and practice on your own and with a sequence that can be easily modified to suit your mood and energy.

For more on this, check out the video below from anatomy expert and Mysore teacher David Keil.

So who’s in for Mysore class?

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