New to Mysore

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NEW TO MYSORE

Mysore is a style of self-practice particular to the Ashtanga Vinyasa method. In a Mysore room, the students move at their own pace through a pre-determined series of poses. The teacher teaches each student individually through verbal cues and hands on adjustments, but does not speak to the whole class as a group. The room is largely silent. You will gradually learn the series pose by pose, from the teacher. The first week or weeks, depending on the student’s ability, the practice maybe as short as 45 minutes, or as long as 1.5 hrs. Below we’ve explained how the “Mysore Culture” at Breathe Together works and answered some commonly asked questions. New students are welcome! Please contact program leader Erika Abrahamian at erika.abrahamian@gmail.com prior to entering the room.

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Since Mysore is self-practice, can I do whatever I want?

Not exactly. It is Mysore-style self-led, which by definition means ashtanga. However, after the initial phase where the teacher is getting to know you and your body, and you are learning the series and the practice, we customize the series to fit the individual’s needs within the boundaries that the method sets for us. And always through communication with each other. Ashtanga is in many ways similar to Zen meditation. Many rules and rituals to create a container for self-transformation. At first the rules can be annoying and ridiculous (like: no water, no chit-chat, no looking around, fingers closed vs. spread in standing poses, right side of pose first, etc.), but after a while, the thinking mind quiets down and drops below the surface perhaps because there is not too much in way of ‘expression’ in the practice. The parameters are already set.

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Since I don’t know the sequence, should I start with your Full Led Primary class on Sundays?

The Full Led Primary class is fun, but also quite challenging. And it’s not challenging in the way that non-ashtanga yoga classes can often be challenging: no long balancing sequences on one leg, no intense core-strengthening sequences woven into the practice, not even that many arm-balances or inversions. What makes it quite challenging, is the combination of the intense focus, steady, unrelenting intensity, and often one breath transitions into and out of postures. If you are a steady, strong vinyasa practitioner, you will be fine, albeit humbled. If you are rather new to flow yoga, it’s not going to be an appropriate introduction to what Mysore practice (how most of us practice Ashtanga, 5 days a week at our studio) will be like for you.

So, check it out if you are curious and up for the challenge, but bear in mind that if you want to practice ashtanga, there is no better place to do it than in a mysore room.

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How is Mysore practice different then, if you practice the same sequence as in Led Primary?

For one, everyone shows up at different times, so we are not at all keeping up with each other. You practice at your own pace. Your teacher gets to observe you day after day, working on the same postures, so the two of you develop a relationship around the practice. This can lead to her asking you to either slow down or speed up your pace, use certain props or ‘strategies’ for more support, try a different way of entering or exiting the postures, a general shift in your approach to practice, a specific new pose that may help you with the one you are struggling with, etc. So instead of having to keep up to her external count, you get to spend time on your practice and go deeper. Based on your body and your practice, you may do far fewer poses than you do in led primary, or, far more.

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I looked at the sequence, and there are poses that I cannot do. What happens if I can’t do a pose?

If you cannot complete the full shape of any given posture, even with modifications, when appropriate the teacher will give you alternative postures to work on in order to better prepare the body and the nervous system for the given pose. It is not ‘traditional’ to stray from the sequence in this manner, and at Breathe Together, we encourage you to cultivate consistency in your practice before troubleshooting with creativity. This kind of extra work is only done under the guidance of the teacher. All of this said, a big part of this practice is its power to humble us when we come up against our limitations and observe our reactions to it all.

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I thought Ashtanga was just for the young, fit, and advanced yogis. I’m curious, but I feel intimidated. What do you suggest?

In our mysore room, the age range currently is from 20 years old to 70. We have students who started their yoga journey in that room with us, and we have many experienced practitioners and a growing number of teachers from different styles of yoga. We have new mothers, our first pregnant woman, devoted fathers, retired folks, night workers, dancers, triathletes and runners. In other words, it’s a lot like what you would find at any other, random yoga class. What makes this practice unique is that each and every one of the students are often working near their own particular edge, more or less with the same set of poses. What is often intriguing about this practice is the reactions that it elicits, and they often have more to do with the person who is making those assumptions than the practice itself. So if you come to the mysore room, and your first reaction when offered a modification is: ‘I am not doing it right, because it does not look like my neighbor’s pose,’ well, then, maybe the practice is already teaching you about yourself. The trick is to use the practice as a mirror and regard all that it brings up as precious information that can be used to lead a healthier, happier life. The only requirement for practice is a sincere willingness to learn.

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I feel like Ashtanga is cliquey, and it’s intimidating to step into the clique. What is your advice?

Ashtanga practitioners often build a strong bond, because they often practice together in the early morning hours, most mornings, and share in each other’s many trials, tribulations, and small victories on and off the mat. Community or sangha is a big part of the practice. It can feel quite intimidating to be on the outside of any group or community, but if the practice is working, any person in the community is often happy to include the genuinely curious, and help in any way they can. After all, we’ve all been there.

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If there is no talking, how will the teacher teach me?

Though the teacher doesn’t talk to everyone at once, when needed, she teaches through verbal cues.

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Do I have to be in the room for the 2 hrs and 45 minutes posted on the schedule?

You can, and some people do. But most come and leave as their practice and their schedule dictate. If you are new, expect to be in the room for about an hour and fifteen minutes.

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Why do some people do some poses that my teacher doesn’t ask me to do?

They are either on a different series or, the teacher has asked them to supplement with other poses in preparation for something they are working on. Also, depending on the student’s practice experience, particular body and circumstances, and other, non-tangible factors like the way they practice, the teacher decided where in the sequence they should stop, and move to the finishing poses. In time, as the body and the mind shift, new poses are introduced and allow time to integrate.

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How often should I practice?

To start, three days a week is ideal. Anything less than twice a week will feel like starting over every time, and can, in the long run lead to injuries. Over time, the students will increase practice days to five or six days a week.

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How should I approach the practice if I’m out of town?

The beauty of Mysore style is that it trains you for practicing anywhere, anytime, without really needing much. When travelling, if you can not find the time and space to practice on your own, seek out a local ashtanga studio and just show up. Be sure to let the teacher know of any injuries before your start your practice. Also remember that practicing a little every day is better than having long practices, but on fewer days.

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What are moon days and why is there no class on those days?

In the ashtanga tradition, because we practice 6 days a week, we observe the new and full moon days as days of rest. Most practitioners tend to get quite attached to the physical practice, due to its rigor, ritual, and transformative power, and so moon days are a good way to examine our attachment to asana practice and perhaps opt for sitting meditation, or, sleeping in. For the list of all moon days, click here.

What you should know before coming to mysore practice:

  • Try to be as empty of food or drink as possible.
  • If possible, contact the teacher before coming and let her know that you want to start.
  • The best times to show up are at 6:00 or 7:45. If those times don’t work for you, just show up and the teacher will be happy to meet you.
  • Come into the room quietly, and wait in the back until the teacher comes to you.
  • Allow 10 minutes to come and observe. In this time, don’t stretch or lie down, but rather sit and watch how the teachers teach, and how the students receive the teachings.
  • Commit yourself to at least 3 sessions in one week to get a feeling for how the practice is taught. Ideally, you want to commit for three months at three times per week.
  • Do not bring your phone or water into the room.
  • If you are going to concentrate on one thing, let it be your breath.