I’ve practice yoga alone most of the times, since the very beginning - I started with private tuitions with a lovely teacher who used to give me “homework” to do by myself in between sessions. I occasionally went to yoga classes, but mostly I was alone or with my teacher. My first Mysore practice was in London back in 2003, in a big room with over 40 people. I was visiting London at that time, so I was only there for that one class. I knew the practice – more or less – but I felt highly intimidated by the size of the room, the large number of people there, each of them working quietly on their own practice, the loud sound of ujjayi breathing filling up the room. They all seemed to know very well what they were doing, and to me – they all looked like very advanced practitioners! Not much really happened in that room on that day, I virtually received no adjustments, maybe a couple of verbal cues, but there was something special about the experience, which left me with a strong longing to find out more about that way of practicing Ashtanga yoga. But no mysore practice was available once back in Holland. Practicing with a few friends in a heated room, just wasn’t the same.
In 2005 I finally made it to India. It was in Kovalam, South India, that I first met my Italian teacher Lino Miele. A minimum of 1 week was required to practice there. I had the time so I decided to try. That Mysore room was even bigger – the first group of students were starting at 4:30 am (!!!) and by the time I arrived to practice 3 hours later already nearly 100 students had finished their own practice… I couldn’t believe it. I waited until a spot became available and Lino called my name. Then I walked in the room, unrolled my mat, and started my practice. I was a little shaky, like being under exams, but also over excited about the intensity of the room. Lino was very present to each student, like he knew each person very well, and his 5 assistants were offering a lot of adjustments and help in various poses. There was not a dull moment that morning, my attention was split in between sneakily looking around trying to figure out what was happening around me, and my breath when taken deeper in a pose. I lied on the floor to take rest at the end of the practice, happily exhausted and totally soaked, with a deep sense of being alive and in love with this practice. There was something magic in that room….
A month later I was in Mysore – the real one. In the city that gave the name to this practice, with the teacher that dedicated his whole life to teach this method: Krishna Pattabhi Jois. His daughter Saraswathi and his grandson Sharath were helping him during class. While I had already met him in London on 2 previous occasions, this experience had a different flavor to it. I was practicing in his own home, in “the” mysore room, and I had committed myself to return every morning at 6am for a whole month of intense daily practice. And it was intense indeed, physically mentally and emotionally, but one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, as I began to really understand this system and the way it uniquely worked.
First of all, there is the discipline – it takes some commitment to show up on the mat every day at the same time, 6 days per week! Particularly on those days when I really didn’t feel like it, when the back was hurting, or when I was just too tired to get up. But the discipline paid off, as I started to trust myself, rather than doubting I was going to do it. I somehow become responsible for my own practice. Excuses were just no longer good enough.
Progress was really fast and visible – and it’s not about “getting more poses”, but moving every day deeper into wherever you are. The daily repetition of the same sequence really allowed me to see myself clearly, reaching also those corners which I had often avoided. And by some magic, this translated into becoming able to do things they seemed at first impossible. As the mind becomes more flexible, so the body begins to let go of long held tension and to open up in these ridiculous shapes we put ourselves in…! The heat in the room, the group energy, together with those unexpected adjustments from the teacher made me accomplishing things I would have never considered possible.
And there’s this amazing connection with the teachers, which builds up day after day, practice after practice. They say in a mysore room you get a private class in group settings. I never really discussed things with Pattabhi Jois or with Sharath, but somehow they was there for me and knew me, knew my practice – not my name! – but knowing my practice they knew very intimately my strengths and my weaknesses, my fears and my ambitions. They knew when I needed help and support, and also when I needed to be challenged or ignored. It’s a very unusual type of relationship, but a very special one. While I’m just one of the hundreds of students they see in a day, they could really see me. And I could only trust and surrender each time I felt them walking towards me (and keep breathing)…
There’s also a very unique bond with the other students in the room, we don’t know each other, I’ve never spoken to some of them, but I know their breath so well, we’ve been sweating next to each other, caring for each other space, aware of each other practice without being distracted by the other. As I recognize the struggle, the frustration, the joy of the others, each moment being different, I acknowledge the support I also receive from the others, which helps me to go through my own difficult moments of practice. This is the power of Sangha - it’s so much easier to practice in a room with others than home alone!
Once I was back in Holland, again I missed so much having access to a Mysore room. I cultivated my practice over the years in the hard way, that of practicing alone most of the time, and having to plan time off every year to travel to my teachers and practice with them abroad. Because practicing with the teacher is the foundation of the Ashtanga system - Parampara is knowledge that is passed in succession from teacher to student. It is a Sanskrit word that denotes the principle of transmitting knowledge based on direct and practical experience, rather than books or videos.
The dharma, or duty, of the student is to practice diligently and to strive to understand the teachings received. The perfection of knowledge – and of yoga — lies beyond simply mastering the practice; knowledge grows from the mutual love and respect between student and teacher, a relationship that can only be cultivated over time. The teacher’s dharma is to teach yoga exactly as he learned it from his teacher and experienced directly. The teaching should be presented with a good heart, with good purpose and with noble intentions. The shala becomes then a safe space for practice, where trust and knowledge is cultivated and nourished every day from both the teachers and the students.
So if you do have access to a Mysore room – and you do, because we offer 3 Mysore Program at Delight Yoga and there are many more nowadays in the Netherlands and beyond – take this opportunity and go practice there! If you are new to the concept of self practicing under the guidance of a teacher, you can join an Ashtanga Mysore Beginners class or join the Introduction to Ashtanga Mysore special class. You will then be given the details of how to work in a mysore room and you’ll be taken individually through the foundation part of the sequence which you can start to memorize. But of course you’re always welcome to just join the regular Mysore Program with no previous experience. It is an all levels practice and everyone is welcome!
These are some suggestions on how to prepare for a Mysore Program:
It is useful (but not necessary) to go to an Ashtanga Led class first. In the led classes you hear how to move with the breath in and out of each pose. In your mysore practice, you’ll be asked to pay attention to each movement, each breath, and smoothly connect poses with the prescribed amount of breaths & movements
Check out the practical information at the bottom of this page for a complete overview of the small things which you want to know before coming to mysore practice
you can also start with the online Step by Step Ashtanga for Beginners videos, which you can find in our online library