Ashtanga is considered by many “the classical form” of yoga; I prefer to call Ashtanga “the grandfather of yoga”. Ashtanga has these references because it was the first time yoga asanas were used in a sequence form with a breath-with-movement emphasis, developing the term “vinyasa”, which means breath with movement. I don’t call it the classical form because asanas were known for centuries before Krishnamacharya developed the Ashtanga sequences, but this practice is the foundation of what westerners understand to be “yoga”.
Ashtanga is a set sequence, and there are progressions in the sequences from 1st series (also referred to as primary) to 6th series. I personally thought doing a set sequence every day was lame and initially planned to move on from the practice after I learned the 1st series, but my love for this very specific practice has only multiplied through the years. Let me explain how I make sense of this transition….
- When you have some repeated poses (set sequences), the body awareness and depth in the poses becomes deeper and deeper. This correlates with the layering process that yogis already know exists once involved in a practice and self-discovery.
- These series were intricately designed to create a balance in your body through a completely balanced practice. Trusting the sequences and working through the practice as intended allows for one’s personal misalignments to surface and worked with.
Additionally, this is a full body work out. Each time you practice primary series you will strengthen, lengthen and develop your asana practice and body from your head to your toes, leaving no part behind.
- Once one is capable of doing the practice without a cheat sheet or worrying about “what’s next” there’s an absence of thinking that is not found in forms that are not a repeated sequence. This ease of the mind allows the meditation aspect of yoga to be prominent in the practice (as well as the deeper layering as mentioned earlier). There have been times when I have dragged myself onto the mat, tired and unmotivated, and before I knew it I was halfway through, muscle memory and the breath simply took over.
- Noting on the last point, this practice is designed to be vinyasa, every movement is with the breath. That alone is deepening the meditative aspect, developing a steady pace, and allows for insight into chi movement/strength that would be required for more advance postures.
- You’ll always have a sequence in your back pocket! You can go about your yogi way if you don’t want to continue being an “ashtangi”, but once you know the practice you can utilize it at your own convenience. This could come in handy when classes are unavailable or in moment of “too tired to come up with a sequence for my class”
- This practice is the foundation of yoga as we know it in the west. Not knowing Ashtanga is to me similar to not taking a history class while in school. If you’re a teacher or just LOVE yoga then experiencing Ashtanga seems very logical.
- On a side note of that, experiencing it once will give you a taste, but the principles of Ashtanga, which are the foundation of yoga asana practices, will take some time to become intimate with on the level that can develop from this practice.
Now I’m to a second point, Mysore. What’s that? Well, Mysore is the name for a specific style that is Ashtanga’s original format (it’s also just the name of the town where it was developedJ). “Mysore” indicates that the class does not have an instructor giving verbal commands to guide the class; led classes that we are used to be not how this vinyasa is typically practiced. So what is it!?
It’s a practice where the students come in with the guidance of a teacher and start practicing the sequence (everyone starts with primary) with their own breathing rhythm. Everyone has his/her own pace. The teacher instructs through giving students physical adjustments and will communicate specific instructions for students with their personal practice.
I know, this sounds weird and almost like a waste of money. I was there too. When I started, Mark Cain was the only teacher in town and he would do every other week led and mysore. I would mark my calendars to ensure I only went on the days that were led for a while. Eventually I started doing the exact opposite, only wanting to come on mysore days. J How did this transition come about?
Once I was not terrified to miss a posture or do something wrong (that’s my own ego), mysore became the way I was able to deepen my practice. I was able to go at my own pace, holding poses that are harder for me for longer and really developing my “flow”. Additionally, I was able to get more assists because instead of focusing on commanding movements, Mark was able to just move around the room. The meditation aspect developed stronger once mysore was my practice. And it will do the same for you if you give it time.
Which brings me to another point, in Ashtanga there’s typically lots of adjustments. Adjustments do not mean that you’re doing anything wrong. Rather they are tools that a teacher can utilize to get you deeper into the pose. My adjustments are moreso about trying to get your muscles to relax and lengthen. I like to give a lot of adjustments, but if you only come once I might not give you as many because I’m watching your practice and seeing your alignment more in the beginning. The adjustments and instructions deepen when the practice deepens, and the practice deepens with practice!
For this class, if you want to come and watch please feel free to grab something to sit on and observe. There are multiple resources online for cheat sheets and youtube videos as well as DVDs from famous Ashtangi’s such as David Swenson and Kino MacGregor. I have cheat sheets that students can utilize as well. Nee also teaches an Ashtanga for beginners class where she is leading the class verbally through the sequence at a soft pace. If there is a demand I would be happy to teach a led class on a night during the summer, but the fall and spring semesters might be more difficult for night classes.
So, let me go over the class format
5:30 am doors open
5:45 am group chant (Ashtanga has a beginning chant)
7:30 am doors close
You don’t have to be there at any given time, but we have to be gone at a given time J. If the demand for the mysore sessions to go a little later is present then we can start keeping the doors open until 8:30 am, so please give me feedback or info on barriers you may have.
The practice takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes if you’re going through it breathing with each movement, even the micro-movements. It can take longer or shorter, but I would try to come by 6:30 am at the latest. Just come into the practice room, lay out your mat and begin your practice and I’ll come around and give adjustments and answer any questions, offer guidance, etc. And as a side note, when you first start you are not expected to do the entire first series, we typically just do half until we develop the strength and stamina to go further. So don’t look up the poses online and get freaked out thinking I’m going to make you do all of them perfectly before you leaveJ. It’s not that at all, in the beginning one would start with just the warm up, (Sun salutations) and then build up with a couple of new postures when the teacher seems they are ready (when they aren’t looking exhausted or in a bit of struggle). However, now with the internet and the way the west has developed yoga classes it’s different, and that’s fine too.
When it comes to payment, I accept cash, check, or PayPal. Trade and/or scholarships can be arranged on specific bases. However, the Ashtanga mysore program is much more individualized, giving everyone adjustments and specific instructions is individualized and tailored. It brings a different set of requirements of the teacher than a typical class with the teacher giving verbal commands to an orchestra of yogis. With that being said, really discounted prices for a class can difficult.
When you’re new you’ll be getting more attention from me, which takes me away from others. So to maintain some stability and equality it just needs to stay in a form of payment per class. Once it develops some things may change, but for now this is where we are with having a mysore program in Fayetteville, AR. I’m only making this point because I know that in yoga, and especially at Be One, there’s a culture of paying what you can and monthly subscriptions for the classes. The Ashtanga morning mysore is not included in the monthly programs, but as mentioned before, scholarships and trade can be worked out individually.
Prices are $12 a drop in, or $80 for a monthly pass to Mysore. This evens out to be $10 per class. Let me remind you that this practice takes longer than average classes, 1.5 hours versus 1. If anyone has any comments or questions please email me or message me on facebook. Kt.firstname.lastname@example.org Kati Street.