I have always taught Yoga in “Mysore Style” classes. Way back in 1994 when I was first assisting Peter Sanson it was in his “Mysore” classes in Gisborne. I have always thought that this was a more traditional way to teach and much better for the student, because they are getting individual instruction. I love the way I can have absolute beginners, advanced practitioners and everyone in between in the same class. I don’t have to modify things to make them easier for beginners or find ways to challenge advanced students without putting others at risk or making them feel inadequate. Since opening an Ashtanga Yoga studio in Wellington in January 2000 at which all the Open classes are taught “Mysore Style” I have felt that there is among practitioners of other styles of Yoga some lack of understanding about what “Mysore Style” is and how it works. This can often be a block to them coming and trying Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga out.
The first thing people notice when they first come to a “Mysore Style” class is the noise, or rather the lack of a single voice running the class. Instead there is the sound of the breath and if there are already people practicing they all seem to be doing different things. This is a little intimidating because people wonder “how will I know what to do”. If they stay, they will soon realise that they are given individual tuition. In our case myself or one of my assistants will come over and explain a little about Ashtanga and in particular the method of Vinyasa or “breathing and moving”. Usually they will be told how we want them to breathe as they practice and asked to sit and practice the breath for a count of 20 breaths.
First timers in a “Mysore Style” class are then shown, individually the first Sun Salutation, Suryanamaskara A. Depending on their fitness and flexibility, this may be broken down into its individual components first, and then strung together, or shown in its entirety. Either way, they will then repeat this simple sequence until I can see that they can achieve the basic flow of it without continuous verbal instruction, or until I can see the person is getting tired and has done enough.
This is how things progress. In each “Mysore Style” session beginners are asked to do repetitions of a small amount rather than doing more than they can reasonably remember each time. This allows people to work at their own pace and to develop their asana practice slowly and carefully. It encourages people to take ownership, to take control of their practice and in the process take back control of their bodies and through that, their lives.
For a couple of years now it has been suggested to me that I need to get some video content up on my web site. I have never wanted to make a video of me practicing as I feel that Te Aro Astanga Yoga is about the people who come and practice there, the students, not about me or about my practice. Besides which, it sometimes seems to me that social media and the web are inundated with pictures and videos of beautiful people doing amazing asana practice in exotic locations. A video of a skinny, hairy, spotty, old, white dude doing yoga at home ( I never practice at the beach, or on mountain tops, or in temples) is not really needed.
Earlier this year the idea came to me to see if we could create a video that would demystify “Mysore Style” a little for those who have never practiced this way. To see if we could somehow convey the energy that is created in a class that is dominated by the sound of the practitioners breathing rather than the instructors voice. Then I remembered that I have a film maker who regularly attends Open sessions at Te Aro Astanga Yoga. This is Fatimih Linz (http://stellerfilms.com/) and when I approached her with the concept, she was very encouraging and when I asked if she would like to make the film, to my delight, she agreed. We then got Olivia Richardson and Aidan Rasmussen involved as creative assistants. Without their input and continued positive attitude to the project it would never have happened. It has, and on Sun. 10th Sept. we premiered the short film at an open fund raising event at Te Aro Astanga Yoga. We are now ready to publish, so here it is.