Exploring different lineages of yoga is like traveling to diverse parts of the globe: There is always something new to gain from the experience. Why keep returning to Italy when Croatia, Malaysia and New Zealand beckon?
That’s how I feel about the different “countries” within the yoga community. It’s why I have not “settled” into one lineage of yoga, and perhaps never will. Each lineage offers something different and beautiful. I enjoy exploring them all, then integrating the biggest take-aways into my personal practice and teaching.
While I gravitate toward hatha and vinyasana, and my practice has been evolving into one that is more meditative, I am returning to India in January for a month in Mysore — and a month of ashtanga yoga.
In my fourteen-ish years of practicing yoga, I’ve never done a pure Mysore asthanga practice before. I’d always been a bit turned off by the set sequence and repetition, not to mention the “hard-core” yogi vibe from its practioners. But when the opportunity arose a few months ago to study at a shala in Mysore, I got curious. Why not try it? And test this pre-conceived judgment I’m so quick to make? Could it not benefit me still? And what better place to learn it than in India?
I went back and forth on saving this introduction to Mysore for my first practice … in Mysore. Sometimes it’s sublimely awesome to walk into a situation green. However, I decided to contact a yogini here in Chicago for my first practice, just so I could dip my toe in the waters before jumping into the Ganges — metaphorically speaking.
I reached out to Alexia Bauer. I’ve practiced with her off and on over the past year, appreciated her direct teaching approach and knew she taught the Mysore morning classes at Moksha. So I emailed her earlier this week with my story and desire to begin learning the ashtanga sequence. She was happy to help me out. (Has there every been a yoga teacher who’s said “no” to a student with an eagerness to learn?)
I walked into my first Mysore practice with a little hesitation. As I unrolled my mat and began stripping off my winter layers, I observed the students around me. The yogis were in their own little worlds, breathing and moving at their own pace, all at different stages of their sequence. Some were working through standing poses. Others were on the floor, binding. Others were contorting their bodies in a way that is still foreign to me. It was pretty cool, this unstructured yoga ballet, if not a little intimidating. Here I was, clueless on how to begin. Oh, and in walked Daren to begin his practice as I awaited Alexia’s instruction. It got a tiny bit more intimidating when the owner and director of the studio joined this yogic ballet.
Alexia came over to me with a smile and got me started. She spent the next 1.5 hours bouncing between me and the other students, guiding and adjusting. A lot of the sequencing was familiar to me from her evening classes, which was comforting. It’s the memorization that got me a little tripped up, however. That will take practice, practice, practice. And I haven’t even started the Primary Series, yet!
It’s a great feeling to be so new at something. I am a beginner. Again. While I do feel like I’ll be walking into my first practice in Mysore with a thin layer of foundation, I anticipate that it will probably be torn to shreds immediately. Regardless, this little bit of Mysore confidence helps.
I got a hug from Alexia before leaving and the following sequence to continue practicing:
Surya Namaskar A (x 5)
Surya Namaskar B (x 5)
Prasārita Pādottānāsana (A, B, C, D)
… looks like I’m going to have to do some major work on my Sanskrit, too.