What is Mysore-style Ashtanga Yoga?

Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga is named after the city of Mysore in Southern India, where Shri K Pattabhi Jois - the founder of Ashtanga Yoga - lived and taught his whole life.  Pattabhi Jois and his guru Krishnamacharya developed the Ashtanga system based on their study of ancient yoga texts which Jois then went on to teach at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (now KPJAYI) until his death in 2009.
Mysore-style differs from the typical “led class” in that students are taught the Ashtanga series individually within a group environment.  This means that each student receives personalised instruction and works at a pace that suits them, making it the safest way to practice yoga.

I’m a beginner, can I practice Mysore-style?

Yes!  Mysore-style is the best way to start your yoga journey because you’ll receive one-to-one instruction within the group setting.  All newcomers learn a very straightforward, flowing sequence known as “Surya Namaskar” (the sun salute) followed by some seated breathing exercises and finishing with a relaxation. Your first practice will be between 30 and 45 minutes depending on how much time you have, and thereafter it will grow at a pace to suit you.  Book your one to one beginners intro here.

Do I need to know the Ashtanga sequence to come to class?

No, it’s completely fine to come to class if you don’t know the sequence or if you’ve been taught it before but have now forgotten.  The teacher will guide you through and may suggest that you repeat certain postures while you memorise the sequence.

Yes! Don’t worry if you can’t touch you toes, as long as you are breathing you can practice yoga.  The beauty of a Mysore-style class is that the teacher will teach you individually at a pace to suit you and your body, and over time you will become stronger and more flexible.

I’m very stiff, can I still practice yoga?

At Astanga Yoga London (AYL) we want our classes to be accessible for all.  We run a free community class on Thursdays from 12.00pm to 1.30pm and offer concession prices for our evening classes.  Click here to find out more about our community class or get in touch to discuss concession pricing.

I want to practice yoga but classes are too expensive, what can I do?

It’s best to wear clothes that allow you to move comfortably but aren’t too baggy so the teacher can observe your movements clearly.  Shorts or leggings and a t-shirt or vest work well.  It’s also likely that you’ll sweat so bringing a towel is recommended.

What should I wear to my first class?

Traditionally Ashtanga yoga is practiced six days a week, with rest days taken once a week. Rest is also taken on a full moon and a new moon (moon days).  The idea is that by observing moon days, we become more in touch with the cycles and rhythms of nature. In addition, in India many festivals occur on full moon and new moon days so these days would be taken as holidays.  You can read more about why we don’t practice on moon days here.

Why is there no class on moon days?

Women traditionally take the first three days of menstruation as “ladies holiday” from practice.   The reason for this is that engaging moola and uddiyana bandha create a strong upward flow of energy, which is contraindicated to the downward flow of energy that occurs whilst menstruating.  It’s a personal choice how many days (if any) you choose to take for ladies holiday. Some women prefer to begin theirs on the second day of menstruation, or to miss two or four days rather than three.  It’s important to do what feels right for you.

Why don’t women practice when they are menstruating (ladies holiday)?

If possible try to practice on an empty stomach.  If you practice in the evening avoid eating at least two hours before practice.  Food in the system can create discomfort during your practice. If you suffer from low blood sugar or feel you need to eat have something small like half a banana or some nuts and dates.

Can I eat before class?

Ideally you should avoid drinking any liquids at least 15 minutes before class and whilst you are practicing.  During the practice we are creating internal heat to purify our system; water has the opposite cooling effect.  It also becomes a distraction to the practice if we are always stopping to take a drink.  If this is a challenge for you, try to cut down the amount of water you drink during practice gradually. This does not apply if you are practicing while you are pregnant, in which case it is fine to drink water during practice.

Why shouldn’t I drink water when practicing?

Yoga is part of the spiritual practices of India where chanting is very commonplace.  Chanting at the beginning and end of the practice helps bring our focus to the present moment and acts as a “container” for our practice.  The chant at the start of the class gives thanks to the yogic tradition and the teachers that have come before us, and in particular to Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras.  The closing chant asks our leaders to be just and for a peaceful world.

What’s the significance of the opening and closing chants?

It’s traditionally advised to practice six days a week.  This might seem like a big commitment initially. In the beginning, I would suggest committing to something manageable for you and sticking with it.  Three days per week is a good place to start. Gradually over time you may wish to add more days to your practice schedule. Remember - if you’re short of time, you can modify your practice accordingly and do some sun salutations at home.

How many days a week should I practice?

If you already have an established Ashtanga practice, it is recommended you don’t practice for the first 13 weeks of your pregnancy.  After this time you’re welcome to come back to class and I will help you to modify your practice accordingly.  I also recommend reading “Yoga Sadhana for Mothers” by Anna Wise and Sharmilla Desai.  Those without an existing Ashtanga practice prior to pregnancy are advised to wait a minimum of three months postpartum before beginning a practice.

I’m pregnant what should I do?

Yes, you are very welcome.  Let the teacher or assistants know at the beginning of class if you do not wish to receive any adjustments or if you would prefer not to be adjusted in a particular posture.  You don’t have to explain your reasons and you will not be asked to. You can also let the teacher know subsequently if you would like to begin receiving adjustments.  Additionally, if you feel pain from a hands-on adjustment you receive from the teacher or assistant, let them know.

I don’t want to receive any adjustments can I still come to class?

Personally, I’ve always found it helpful to continue with my practice, albeit with modifications to accommodate the particular injury.  Continuing to move keeps the blood flowing and helps to aid repair, provided you’re not exacerbating the condition. If you have an injury it’s helpful to communicate this to your teacher, as they will be able to advise you on how to modify your practice.  Ultimately while we are breathing we can practice yoga, and at times a simple seated breathing practice might be sufficient.  If you have an acute injury, or have had an operation, always seek medical advice before returning to practice.

I have an injury, should I still practice?

I’ve started practicing intermediate series, why should I practice primary series on the last practice day of the week?

Primary series is the foundation of the Ashtanga system.  It is “yoga chikitsa” or yoga therapy.  Everyone - no matter what series they practice the rest of the week -  practices the primary series weekly, and with its grounding nature it’s the perfect way to end the week.

Why do I have to wait for the teacher to teach me a posture (asana) before I practice it?

One of the reasons Mysore-style practice differs from other styles of yoga is because you practice with the same teacher up to six days a week.  Over time, the teacher gets to know you, your practice and lifestyle, and a relationship develops.  Collecting asanas is not the goal of yoga practice.  A good teacher will observe your practice and teach you the next asana when they feel you have developed a certain amount of stability and comfort in your practice.   They will recognise your patterns and habits and teach you at a pace that keeps your practice safe and sustainable over the long term. If you have any questions about your practice you can always discuss them with your teacher.