Friday, August 06, 2010

Mysore style

Mysore style, what is this?

Mysore is a city in the South of India (see picture). In the early fall of 2008, I was so lucky and I could visit this city, but not only. I also practiced Ashtanga yoga there in the shala of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Saraswati his daughter and Sharath his grandson.

The shala was situated first in Mysore, later they moved to Gokulam close to Mysore.

This is probably the reason why the method how people learn and practice the Ashtanga series is called Mysore style.

Mysore style is a special method how to learn the six Ashtanga series and how to practice them.
1. One asana is learned after the other.
2. The asanas are shown  by a teacher.
3. The yogi/yogini practices according to his/her own rhythm, also when practicing with others in the same room. The teacher usually go from one student to the next to give adjustments.

I saw how this method was taught during my stay in India.
Newcomers, who had never practiced Ashtanga yoga were there. Saraswati showed them each single pose, one after the other. As soon as one pose was somehow acceptable, the student got the next pose. Adjustments were given. The Ashtanga yoga students progressed rather fast. I had not the feeling that they had to wait an eternity till they got the next pose. Many people could only stay for a limited time in India. That way the students learn the series easily by heart and know what asana they must practice next.

Already students of Ashtanga: Usually it is said when a student (beginner or advanced beginner or advanced) is able to perform an asana he/she gets the next one. This is also true for advanced students. But when can one say that an asana is mastered? There are criterias for each pose, but it is more or less the decision of the teacher. I got pashasana, the first pose of the second series, before I was able to drop back into urdhva dhanurasana from standing position. Some asanas belong together and are also taught together.
I had heard (before the trip) that students were stopped at an asana even though they practiced much more asanas with their teacher somewhere in the world. Nobody wants to be stopped. Live is not fair. It is smart not to get angry because of this.
I feared that I could be stopped at supta kurmasana. But somehow I could hook the fingers (this is the criteria to be allowed to go on, the feet needn't to be crossed) and I could practice the entire first series (which I liked very much of course).

Mysore style has 3 huge advantages:
1. Each asana is shown to the student, he/she learns the asana correctly (if the teacher knows how to do it and knows how to show it, but this is another topic).
2. Mysore style also means that the Ashtanga yoga student practices according his/her own rhythm his/her own breath. That way the yoga meets the needs of the student.
3. The foundation is set with this method to prepare the yoga student to practice alone.

Led classes: How we usually learn the Ashtanga system in the Western world:
Most people learn Ashtanga yoga in a led class (or even from books and CDs/DVDs). So it was in my case, too. I went to a led Ashtanga class. Often a led class only covers the first part of the first series till navasana. That was it. I had to learn the second part of the first series via books. There was no other possibility. The classes are often crowded. Even when they  are not crowded the teacher will not be able to show each student the asana in person. This is why many Ashtanga students do not know how to perform correctly some asanas. An example: Virabadhrasana A, the hero pose. Even beginners can go as deep as it is supposed to be. The lower part of the thigh of the front leg is supposed to be parallel to the floor. Most students (and teacher) stand very high, too high. Then the asanas is easy, ok easier and not as it is supposed to be. The students simply don't know how to do it. They were never taught how to do it correctly. Too many asanas were learned at the same time without any feed-back or correction.

However: There are many methods how to learn and each method might have advantages and disadvantages. And often there is no choice. To learn yoga is a process. Perfection does not exist.

Once a week a led class is recommended. In Gokulam the led class was offered on Fridays and for the students of Saraswati on Saturdays. Today I will switch on the CD by Sharath. It will be exhausting, I'm looking forward to it. This shall be my led class for this week.

Sri K Pattabhi Jois:


Anonymous said...

Very interesting post! I am currently taking Moksha Yoga - hot yoga - here in Canada and am loving it. Interesting to read how ashatanga is taught in Mysore -- am wondering if it is taught this way throughout India as well.
Well done!

Quentin said...

At Mysore, would Saraswati or Sharath approve advancing from SS-A to SS-B for someone that does not float the feet back or forward? Same for jump rather than float?

And in binding did you say just touching the fingers or toes would be good enough for giving the next asana?

and are the adjustments harsh or painful?

Tamil Home Recipes said...

Good blog is yours.

Ursula said...

Thank you. :)