3 Myths of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga That Even Advanced Yogis Believe

by Jessica on May 1, 2017

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Have you seen Mysore-style Ashtanga on our schedule, and thought….what’s that? Were you scared because you’ve heard that it’s dangerous, rigid or complicated?

Let’s face it.

Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga intimidates people.  It’s practiced in a quiet room, and new and experienced students practice together.

Spooked by Mysore-style, you attend whatever class fits your schedule. By surrendering to your fears, you’re missing a chance to transform your yoga practice.

Mysore: It’s Not What You Think

“Mysore style” is a strange and wonderful way of practicing yoga: self-directed with a teacher present. When you’re new, the teacher gives you lots of guidance. As you progress, she’ll help you to refine and deepen your postures, adding new ones when you’re ready. (Note: the name comes from the town of Mysore, India where Sri Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga, taught for many years).

The end goal of yoga is to quiet our overactive minds. Ashtanga Vinyasa encourages a quiet mind through a self-directed method and a strong body with dynamic sequencing. When you learn to practice at your own pace, according to your own breath, you become the driver. You navigate your yoga experience. And it’s easier to channel your mind’s energy rather than being kidnapped by your thoughts.

Have You Been Duped by these Myths?

Let’s uncover the truth so you can understand Ashtanga Vinyasa and start practicing:)

Myth #1: Ashtanga Vinyasa requires a ton of discipline.

Let’s be honest: you’ll make more progress in any style of yoga if you practice frequently. In the classical text, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, you’re reminded to practice yoga with regularity and frequency to make progress in yoga.

Yoga becomes firm when it’s practiced without interruption for a long period of time. You see progression. Like playing a musical instrument—you practice each day. You might not see big gains until you look back to where you started. If you want to learn a song, you practice it over and over. If you want to master a posture, you practice.

Myth #2: Ashtanga Vinyasa is rigid.

The Ashtanga Vinyasa method follows sequences. You start with Primary Series, after several months or years, you may start Intermediate Series. Using sequences has advantages. Once you’ve gotten over the memorization hump, you can practice at your will.

Some people rebel at the thought of practicing the same thing every day. But when you practice similar postures, you’ll notice how your mind and body change. And you’re encouraged to see the contents of your mind. You notice when it wants to revolt and when it eases into the routine. You also observe your body in a much richer way.

You notice changes subtle changes. Your hamstrings lengthen a little bit more. You can almost get into lotus. Some ashtanga teachers are strict about following the primary series sequence. But the beauty of Mysore-style Ashtanga is that we modify the sequence for students needs. For a shoulder injury, we can modify downward facing dog to puppy pose.

Myth #3: Ashtanga Vinyasa is for the advanced.

Jessica Blanchard 9 months pregnant This is me 9 months pregnant at age 42

Anyone can try Mysore-style — beginner, advanced, old or young. Have you noticed that you wanted to skip challenging or scary postures? In Ashtanga Vinyasa you’re encouraged to practice everything and overcome fears. The sequences open your body and build strength, so when you arrive at a challenging posture, you’re mentally and physically ready.

I was afraid of inverted postures when I started yoga.  Ashtanga became a mirror for me. I learned that I was afraid of my own strength. I was flexible but lacked confidence. Ashtanga helped me to find my voice.

Ready to explore?

This is your chance to stop practicing from external cues and to learn how to go inside. The goal of yoga is to quiet your mind so that we eliminate the causes of our suffering. When we listen for external cues, it’s harder to go inside and understand the nature of our own thoughts. When you practice in a quiet room, you turn your asana into a meditative practice.

Asana helps us to undo physical patterns in our body that may be linked to mental patterns. Using asana as a contemplation will help you to learn more about yourself.

What’s A Class Like?

In Mysore-style Ashtanga you learn a little bit of the primary series each time you attend. You’re encouraged to practice every day. Mysore style is self-paced practice with a teacher  — the teacher’s role changes as you develop.

Sound scary?

It’s all in your mind.

I took my first Mysore-style Ashtanga class in 2002 in a cold church hall in Dublin. I was intimidated, but I also was curious.
After that first class I was hooked.

When you come to a Mysore-style class the teacher will teach you to breath effectively. Then we’ll teach you sun salutations. Then you might learn a few standing postures. The next time you come, you’ll start with what you remember. Then we’ll teach you more.

You learn to move according to your breath. More advanced and less advanced students practice in the room. You may second guess yourself  “Is everyone looking at me? Are they thinking how silly this person is who can’t remember anything? How stiff this lady is?” Most people are struggling with their own minds and their bodies. But they are still practicing and loving it.

Find Your Voice Through Yoga

It’s humbling to learn slowly, but a slow and methodical approach builds strength and confidence. It’s overwhelming to learn too much at once. Have patience, because soon you’ll know lots of postures.

In Mysore-style Ashtanga we encourage you to find and use your voice. We encourage to feel the effects of yoga postures, and to let us know when an adjustment works and when it doesn’t. We always listen to you and we never try to override your feelings.

If you tell us something hurts, we believe you and we’ll find a modification. We don’t believe in bullying or forcing students to do anything.

We encourage you to stay present, because sometimes yoga postures bring up emotions and feelings. We are right there with you, and will help you through any darkness that settles on your mind and body. Staying present through the darkness leads you to freedom. Sometimes we want to run away as soon as things get interesting. This is part of the yoga journey.

If you can persist, you’ll uncover deep self knowledge, and you’ll move beyond your limitations.

Ready to get started but need a little boost?

I’m offering a special workshop on May 20th: Mysore Demystified: Conquer Your Fears, Focus and Build Strength, for those who want to start Mysore-style but feel intimidated.

Head over to the workshop page here for all the information and link to sign up.

Or if you’re ready to dive in and start classes, here’s a link to our online schedule.
See you on the mat!

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