Mysore Style

Mysore, named for Mysore, India where Sri K. Pattabhi Jois lived, is a self‐paced class allowing students to receive individual instruction while learning the Ashtanga yoga practice. All levels are welcome from new beginners to advanced practitioners looking to deepen their understanding of the practice. In the beginning, new students receive more attention. As they become familiar with the practice, they are allowed more independence, getting adjustments and assistance only when needed.

HOW IS MYSORE STYLE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER LED CLASSES?

Since Mysore class is self‐paced, students are not limited to the pace and rhythm of a led class or an instructor. While led classes are a great way to learn about the breath and vinyasa, Mysore‐style is where you follow your own breath to deepen your focus and meditation skills. In a led class, you may just skim over a new or difficult pose, but the Mysore style provides a unique opportunity to work one‐on‐one with the teacher to progress and experience the benefits of yoga practice. The Ashtanga system is notcomplete without incorporating both styles of learning. Typically, Ashtanga is practiced six days a week, with 1‐2 of the classes being led.

 

DO I NEED TO KNOW THE SEQUENCE BEFORE COMING TO A MYSORE STYLE CLASS?

Absolutely not; the Mysore class is where students are meant to learn the series! The teacher will guide you through the series pose‐by‐pose; teaching Surya Namaskara A first and leading each student through the practice based on their personal needs.

 

 

Read more about why I teach Mysore-style Ashtanga below……

 

I teach Mysore-style Ashtanga.

The reason I teach Mysore is because through the experience of practicing this methodology I learned an enormous amount.

I learned the Ashtanga postures and sequencing through Mysore-style teaching, but I also learned concentration, self-motivation, determination, and surrender. I learned about what it means to link breath and movement and how the space within is a window to the link between breath and the mind (as emotions and thoughts). I learned what it means to be simultaneously inspired and intimidated by something, that neither emotion will help you be anywhere but where you are — but, that being content where you are, is how you grow to be something better. I learned how to be disciplined and show up (even when it was the last thing I wanted to do) and to take rest (even when it was the last thing I wanted to do). I learned, and am continuing to learn, a lot about life and more than I ever wanted to learn about myself. I learned the answers really are within us, but sometimes you have to forget who you are to remember them.

The reason I learned and continue to learn so much is because the Mysore-style teaching method works.

I had previously realized that the Mysore system works as I had felt the benefits and seen them in others. Still, it wasn’t until I put this method of teaching and learning into the context of modernizing pedagogy and more integrated curriculum that I got any clear idea as to why it works.

In Mysore-style Ashtanga, the traditional teaching method of the Ashtanga-vinyasa system, students are taught some part of the same series of poses (actually 6 series, well 7, guruji said 7th series is parenthood. These series are taught in order, one on one, by a experienced teacher, over time.  This means that students with differing levels of physical or mental aptitude/limitations,  who have been practicing Ashtanga for varying lengths of time (some may have practiced for 15+ years while another student may be showing up for his/her first day), all practice side-by-side. Students show up anytime during the allocated class time as long as they finish their practice by the ending time so there is often a quiet and peaceful flow of students in and out of the room. Each student practices the series as they have been taught it, independently, while the teacher walks around, interacting with students individually, giving physical and verbal adjustments as needed, and teaching new postures when a student is ready to advance in the series.

This style of education gives clear parameters of how to learn, you show up.  There is a set progression or framework within which this learning occurs, the Ashtanga sequences or series as passed down by Sri K Pattabhi Jois and as relating to Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  But the bottom line is,

Ashtanga meets the student where he/she is and engages them in a journey of learning that is appropriate for their success.

This occurs mainly because Mysore is mostly self-directed. And this is an important and defining factor that leads to a unique dynamic between teacher and student, a dynamic where the teacher’s main function (and goal) is to create a space for student learning instead of imposing a preconceived idea of what that learning should look like. The teacher can guide, but the teacher does not dictate or direct. This dynamic is reflected in #2 of the 3 Emerging Pedagogical Trends as listed in  A New Pedagogy is Emerging.

2.    An increased sharing of power between the professor and the learner. This is manifest as a changing professorial role, towards more support and negotiation over content and methods, and a focus on developing and supporting learner autonomy.

Sri K Pattabhi Jois, the codifier of the Ashtanga system is often quoted as saying, “Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory”.  Now, most likely he was not just referring to 99% being the physical practice, but rather, the greater practice of daily yoga. However, without getting too far into what is a popular Ashtanga debate, the main point on any level is that “productive” learning is ultimately achieved through doing, through experiencing, not through purely thinking and memorizing. I was reminded of this while reading Everything you know about curriculum may be wrong. Really.

In athletics this is very clear: the game is the curriculum; the game is the teacher. And each game is different (even as helpful patterns emerge). Knowledge about the game is secondary, an offshoot of learning to play the game well. As I learn to play, knowledge – about rules, strategy, and technique – accrues, but it is not the point.

So, it would be very foolish to learn soccer (or child-rearing or music or how to cook) in lectures. This reverses cause and effect, and loses sight of purpose. Could it be the same for history, math, and science learning? Only blind habit keeps us from exploring this obvious logic. The point is to do new things with content, not simply know what others know – in any field.

“The game is the teacher!”

And later,

So, suppose knowledge is not the goal of education. Rather, suppose today’s content knowledge is an offshoot of successful ongoinglearning in a changing world – in which ‘learning’ means ‘learning to perform in the world.’

This idea that learning is an ongoing process in a changing world and that, in turn, education should be less about knowledge and more about ‘learning to perform in the world’ is an important point to make and one that is shared with the Mysore system and highlighted within Ayurveda.

Another important factor of the effectiveness of the Mysore-system is the level of interest of the practitioner. As traditionally Mysore is practiced at the wee hours in the morning (I wake up at 3:30am to teach), either we can assume that all Ashtangis are completely insane, or there is some level of propulsion by passion (or perhaps more aptly, both are true). For some this passion is perhaps initially sparked by the simultaneous intimidation and inspiration I mentioned earlier, as well as seeking something true. But for the propulsion to continue to practice, day after day, when obstacles arise, when illness and injury arise, that motivation must result from successful learning, from finding something true, and subsequent positive transformation.

So with that, such passion results in natural achievement. This because in this format, students (humans) are engaged, self-directed, and results are clearly their own fruits to bare (although to be perfectly honest, we can acknowledge that with any experience of true learning or inspiration, it was less about the our achievement and more about our story of who we are getting  out of the way for a minute so that the light could shine through).

We learn what we like because we then think about it and remember it, or use it. Optimally, we think about it so much we start to use it in many aspects of life, which creates a growing knowledge web.  Following this line of thought and as seen through the Mysore system, I can glean that our job as teachers is to engage students in such a way that they are inspired to like what we are teaching until their own process of discovery and learning inspires them further. Then further inspiration leads to further learning.

Later, in Everything you think you know…  says,

Video games are especially startling from the perspective of conventional views of curriculum and instruction. According to the standard view, I should never be able to learn and greatly improve at the games since there is no formal and explicit curriculum framed by knowledge, and – even more puzzling – no one teaches me anything! I shouldn’t learn but I do. In games (and in life), I begin with performance challenges, not technical knowledge. I receive no upfront teaching (or even manuals any more in games and other software!) but I learn based on the attempts to perform and feedback from trying – just as I did when learning to walk or hold a spoon. How is that possible? Conventional views of curriculum and instruction have no good explanation for it.

and

What else might follow from thinking of performance, not knowledge, as the aim of education?
I can safely say I had never thought of Mysore- Ashtanga as being anything like a video game, but the parallel here is as accurate as it is unprecedented.   I whole heartedly believe this evaluation of education is not only accurate and the future for successful learning.
I would however shy away from the term “performance”.
As progressive as carrying out such action can be, I still think this term has a sense of stagnation within time, a connotation that seems in contrast to learning being an ongoing process in a changing world. Performance also seems to allude to (at least in my mind, but I was a dancer) the idea that the ultimate purpose is for those observing as much as those preforming and seems to undermine sharing the power between teacher and learner. Because of such associations, I would the replace the use of “performance” with the concept of “active practice”, which indicates ongoing participation and an equality of participates.
Perhaps, I come to this wording once again because of all that Mysore-style Ashtanga has taught me, one of the most important things being, that you practice. That you actively engage in practice, on and off the mat.