First, you might be asking yourself, “What is Mysore?” I can give you a brief explanation, but you should also check out a great post by fellow yogini Sarah to help with getting the idea. So, in my own words, Mysore style yoga class is an open practice, one in which you show up within a set of open studio hours and practice the same set of postures at your own pace. Yea, that sounds a bit scary, right? But, you’re not alone while you’re there. A knowledgeable teacher acts as a guide, instructing you in the Ashtanga primary series and introducing you to new postures as your body is ready. The big difference between showing up for a 9am Vinyasa class and showing up for Mysore is that YOU direct your practice, not the teacher in the front of the room. You memorize the series of postures, you count your breaths, you move yourself on to the next pose.
And, since my brain seems to love the top ten list and David Letterman’s tenure in the late night world is coming to a close, let’s talk about ten things that might happen at Mysore.
- You might feel intimidated at the door. I did. I try to use this blog as a platform to encourage others to face fears I’ve faced myself. So, the thing that kept me out of the Mysore room for so long (even though it’s only a 7 minute drive from my house) is that I felt like I didn’t belong there. My knowledge of the Primary series was limited and I certainly hadn’t memorized everything yet. But, thankfully, a friend reached out and encouraged me to go. Then the teacher that leads the class, Marque, added on by assuring me that beginners were welcome and followed through on that promise by being understanding, kind and informative during my first visits (and every subsequent visit). So, yogi friends, make the leap and walk through the door.
- You might see someone with their foot tucked behind their head. So, after you make that first step through the door, you might walk in and notice a student working on a pose that seems so far out of your realm of possibility that you want to turn around and exit stage left before the ink dries on the sign in sheet. Soldier on. Those poses that others are practicing are not your business. They may become your business eventually, but at the beginning of your yoga journey you may merely focus on learning the first ten to fifteen poses in the series. And that’s just fine, because here’s the beauty of the Mysore room – you’re doing what is best for your body and your ability level each day.
- You might need to ask for help. Your first few days or weeks in the Mysore room might be simply trying to remember the order of postures. You might forget what comes next, so you simply stand at the top of your mat and ask for help. If you’re anything like me dear reader, this is the part that will hold you back. You wish to avoid calling attention to yourself. You hope to blend into the wallpaper and not demand attention. But, if you’re committing to this experience, relish the joy of being a beginner and raise your hand. Often, my teacher is there to offer suggestions and adjustments BEFORE I even have to ask. And here’s the second part – you’ll need to get over that part of you that might not be good at accepting help. In non-yogic terms, I suck at accepting help. See notes above. But showing up and learning to accept help graciously is its own beautiful lesson.
- You might notice that everyone sounds a bit like Darth Vader. Fear not, young Jedi, no one in the room has a sinus issue. Everyone is using Ujjayi breath, a form of breathing in which the throat is constricting slightly in order to create an audible exhale. You too will be using this breath and the sound of the room filling with it will begin to soothe you. It reminds me a bit of the ocean or the lake, the way that the white noise of water can lull me to sleep. It helps me focus. It drowns out any negative thoughts that start to rise in my mind. Speaking of which…..
- You might begin to unfairly compare yourself to others. Because each person in the room has a different level of experience, the person on the mat next to yours may be doing things that make their bodies look light and acrobatic while
youI feel a bit like a slow moving pachyderm. My runner’s mind still struggles to remove the element of competition from my mind. This practice is not a race. Each day is a PRACTICE which means there is no culminating event that will include a finish line. So, turn your gaze back to your own mat and focus your mind back on your own breath.
- Previously tight muscles might begin to give up the ghost. The Ashtanga Primary Series is set up systematically, designed to help to unlock muscles in the body that will be used in future postures. Personally, this has been the most amazing element of my practice so far. It is therapeutic. My hamstrings and quadriceps are lengthening. My hips are starting to release.
- You might begin to relearn poses that you thought you had mastered. Simple things like the Warrior poses may begin to change for you. After practicing more – more hours, more days a week, – and after those previously tight muscles start to stretch, the poses you thought you had mastered may change. This is one of the things that keeps drawing me back to the practice – that idea that my body changes, my postures change and that I can feel the change.
- You might fall down. As you try new poses or attempt that hop to the front of your mat from downward dog, you might fall. I did. I did a full on wipeout from headstand. Even knocked over a candle on my way down (unlit, thank goodness). And though your pride may take a hit, dust yourself off and try again. I have had two significant falls in my life, both of which resulted in injury and hospital visits, so my natural state is to resist the poses that might cause me to fall. The only way to get over that fear is to keep trying. Every day. Fall down seven, get up eight.
- Your sleeping habits might change. Mysore practices often begin early. My local studio opens doors at 5am. While these practice hours are perfect for me, they are not ideal for all humans. You’ll need to be up, dressed and out the door at a dark, quiet hour. So, in turn, you may need to be going to bed at an hour when toddlers are turning in. You might need an afternoon nap. You might be suddenly living the life of a pre-schooler, but it’s worth it. I promise. Because…..
- You might lose some things. There’s the idea that yoga doesn’t “give you anything.” I’ve heard it put better, which is that yoga instead helps you “lose things.” Like what? I’ve lost some of the muscle tightness that plagued my runner’s legs. I’ve lost some of the locked feeling in my back that prevented me from twisting or back bending. I’ve lost some of the mental scattered-ness that was plaguing me over the fall and winter this year. My mind is calmer and more still, which makes the 4:30am wakeup call all the more easy to answer.
- I know there’s not supposed to be an 11, but….you might meet a fantastic community of people. You won’t be alone. There will be other people who don’t watch TV shows that come on after 9pm. There will be others who drive in that quiet darkness to roll their mat out next to yours. There will be others who can’t exactly explain how transformative this practice is for them. You’ll talk about the best way to put it in to words. I’m borrowing the words of the friend that brought me to Mysore – it just feels like coming home.
If you need someone to meet you in the parking lot to walk in the door with you, just send me a message. I’ll be there.