Mysore Ashtanga – open to all (& open all hours!!)

Clive Bratchell left his first Mysore class exhilarated: “I felt so alive when I finished I wanted more.  8 years on, the more I practice the more faith I have in the method.  This is something special and there’s no wonder it’s so popular around the world, it sells itself really once you have started.”

Here Clive answers the questions he’s most commonly asked as a Mysore Ashtanga Teacher:

What is the difference between Ashtanga and Mysore Ashtanga?

Both class types use the Ashtanga system.  Ashtanga is a structured, flowing style class and is led by a teacher who talks you through the poses, breath and focus.  The term Mysore Ashtanga simply refers to a self-practice class of the same method as taught in Mysore, India.

Why practise Mysore Ashtanga?

Mysore Ashtanga is a highly accessible practice that anyone can do.  It is a scientific method designed in a particular way to cleanse body and mind.  It helps you develop strength, stamina, suppleness and stability.  Both in terms of fitting your practice into your life and tailoring it according to how you’re feeling – you only ever need go at your pace.

But the rewards go far beyond that – while at the beginning it tends to be all about the physical body, over time the mind also benefits – stress levels drop away, the things that used to worry you take on less importance.

As you practise more and more the urge to ‘conquer’ a pose drifts away, your practice stabilises and you lose the desire to compete with yourself and others.

What should I expect in my first class?

On your first class you are taught the starting poses one-to-one with the teacher.  Ashtanga is a breath based practice so you are shown how to move and when to breathe in and out – Sun Salutation A (6 poses) and usually B (2 more poses than A). This is normally enough for a first class.  You come back the next time and do your best to remember them.  Over time you’ll master each pose you are taught, adding on more and more poses until you have enough for a practice that will bring you health and stability.

Do I have to remember all the poses?

Not all in one day!  Everyone learns at different rates and different ways. If you are starting the practice it is beneficial to remember the poses in the correct order with the correct breath, but as these are taught to you slowly there is no need to cram it in your head like you are studying for an exam – you pick it up over time and with repetition.  We all forget a pose sometimes and that’s one of the things the teacher is there for, to jog your memory if necessary.  A useful technique I used when I started was to have the practice cards by my bedside and study them before going to bed.  You can buy laminated practice cards from the studio for you to reference.

Can I ask questions during a Mysore Ashtanga class?

Yes, one of the beauties about this style of yoga is that you can ask your teacher things that you are unable to in a flowing led Vinyasa or Hatha yoga class.  Your teacher can give you specific guidance for your body or modifications for areas of difficulty: how to build strength, flexibility, where to put your hand/foot etc.  We are also there for more philosophical discussions and to help you through some of the inevitable ups and downs of your practice.

Are the classes really 2 or 4 hours in length?

The classes are as long or as short as YOU want to make them on that day. A minimum practice would be about half an hour – Sun Salutations A & B, some seated breath focus and a little rest at the end is sometimes plenty. Once you have built up your practice most people are on the mat for an hour and a half.

As Mysore classes aren’t led, students don’t need to arrive at the class start time and stay to the end – people arrive and leave when they want to, staying as long as they need to complete their practice on that particular day.  This is the unique beauty of Mysore – flexibility and control over your own practice, both in terms of ‘what’ and ‘when’.

I am a beginner to yoga, can I come to a Mysore Ashtanga class?

Yes, you will be very welcome whoever you are and whatever you have done before. Take a leap of faith and try it!

Are there a lot of hands-on adjustments, I have heard this is the case?

We’re here to support the student in a non-judgmental, safe environment. Part of this process is communication through verbal and hands-on adjustments.  They’re given to the student when necessary, either to help deepen a pose or to show the student direction of stretch or just give physical or mental support.  They are totally optional – students should always have open communication with the teacher and we’re not offended if you ask us not to adjust any or all poses.  The support required can change day to day.

Is there chanting?

Chanting is always optional. We do chant at the beginning of our practice, it is the same verse, mainly to honour our teachers and the people that brought yoga to us. Chanting also has the physical job of beginning your warm up, ensuring your body and mind are ready to start your practice.

Can I practise with an injury?

Whatever the injury, if you want to practice, come to class and chat to your teacher before you start moving.  There are many ways to still practice with an injury (even broken bones!) and your teacher will know what you are able to do and help start the healing process, this may be just some simple seated breathing exercises.  Use your judgment and reach out to us for a chat then together we can figure out the best course of action to get you back to full strength safely.  Yoga is a healing practice so often helps speed recovery.

Can I practise if I am pregnant?

Yes, tell your teacher as soon as you know and they will advise you what you should do. Fundamentally, pregnancy is no barrier to continuing your practice, you will just need to be aware of how your body is feeling each day and bring modifications into your practice as you progress with your pregnancy.

Can I practise when I am menstruating?

This is very much up to you, although it is generally recommended that deep twists and inversions are not taken on these days. Every practitioner is different and this is the perfect opportunity for you to listen to your body and accept what it is telling you.  In Mysore Ashtanga these are called Ladies’ Days!

Should I shower before practising?

Yes please!  It’s courteous to everyone else in the room 😊

Mysore Ashtanga classes run Mondays to Saturdays (except on Moon Days) at Red Hot Yoga with extra long durations classes on Fridays.  Click here to find this week’s schedule.

If you’re keen to learn the foundations of Mysore Ashtanga join Clive at his forthcoming  Self Practice Mysore Beginners & Refreshers courses running in June & August – click here for details.


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