What is Ashtanga Yoga and Ashtanga Mysore Style?

by Catherine Haylock

People come to yoga for different reasons. Some want a more toned body; some are looking for more meaning in their lives or choose yoga to help with stress; others are just curious. There are numerous reasons why we start with yoga.

I remember when I started. I just moved back from New York and have not quite settled back into my life in Switzerland yet. I had a lot of time on my hand. In a newspaper, I saw an ad for a yoga workshop. I was curious and found myself in a massive hall with at least a hundred people, a rose petal stuffed in one of my nostrils while trying to breathe past it – not really what I was looking for…

I searched for another yoga teacher in the yellow pages (yes, before the internet, we used the yellow pages 😉 There were no yoga studios in Zurich back then, nor was yoga a popular thing to do. I found a yogi from India teaching a class. My aunt used to do yoga when she was young, so I convinced her to come with me. His yoga studio turned out to be a backroom of a restaurant. We were the only students, and he sat on a big pillow and shouted instructions at us – this wasn’t a success either…

A few weeks later, a friend heard of this new yoga teacher teaching in an actual yoga space. This was when I stumbled into my first Ashtanga Yoga class, and I was instantly hooked. I loved every aspect of it! You have to work and sweat and balance strength with flexibility. I just knew this was it; this is what I was meant to do. Ashtanga yoga has been a constant companion in my life since then, and I love what this practice taught and still teaches me.

When you start with Ashtanga Yoga, your muscles are sore, but you feel great! With time your body starts to open up, stored feelings and emotions can be set free, and life just gets better along the way as we change how we perceive ourselves and others.

What is Ashtanga Yoga
Where does Ashtanga come from
What is Ashtanga Mysore Style self-practice
What’s the difference of Ashtanga classes and Ashtanga Mysore classes
How does Mysore Style work online

What is Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga is a physically demanding yoga style, flowing from one posture (asana) to the next. There are six series in Ashtanga Yoga. The first series can be already challenging.

The primary series focuses on cleansing and detoxifying your body; misalignments will be adjusted, and old injuries can heal. Ashtanga primary series is a set of postures practised in a particular order.

Ashtanga Yoga is a practice that will make your body and mind strong. A Yoga style that anyone can practise, regardless of age or body shape. Work with an experienced and qualified Ashtanga teacher. They can guide you toward the postures (asanas) and modify them so the practice works for your body, whether you are dealing with injuries or experiencing stiffness in your boy. All you need to bring is an open mind for a new adventure and curiosity to explore your body and mind.

Where does Ashtanga come from

It is not known how long this system of asanas has been passed on verbally, but we do know that hundreds of years ago, Vamana Rishi was the first to write down the Ashtanga Yoga System on palm leaves so-called “Yoga Korunta” manuscript.

The Yoga Korunta was found by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, discovered in a library in Calcutta and has been teaching his student Sri K Pattabhi Jois since 1927.

David Williams was one of the first Westerners introduced to the system by Pattabhi Jois. He brought it to the West. But it was in the 90ies when celebrities like Madonna and Sting started practising Ashtanga Yoga and made it world known.

The Ashtanga Yoga series

Ashtanga Yoga has six series, each with its own benefits:

  • Primary series (Yoga Chikitsa) will cleans and detoxify your body, misalignments will be adjusted
  • Second series (Nadi-Shodhana) is for cleansing your nervous system
  • Third, fourth, fifth and sixth series (Sthira Bhaga) bringing strength, stability and steadiness

What is Ashtanga Mysore Style self-practice

Mysore Style is the traditional practice method of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga system as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois†, his daughter Saraswathi Jois and his grandson Sharath Jois in Mysore, South India.
In this form of practice, each person goes through the set sequence of Ashtanga Yoga at their own pace, making it a self-practice. As the student is familiar with the sequence, the movement can become a moving meditation, giving you inner calm.

The teacher is also present and will assist you one-to-one when necessary. It’s like getting a private yoga session within a group environment. This allows you to shift your focus within, resulting in a practice that is at once dynamic and meditatively still.

The sequences in Ashtanga Yoga are fixed and don’t change. You always start with the sun salutation A&B, followed by the standing sequence and then move into the series. After backbending, you do the finishing sequence.

Each posture is built on the previous one. Once you master a posture, the teacher will move you on to the next one until you can do the whole series. After that, you will be moved on to the next series. Primary series is already demanding and requires dedication towards the practice. So be patient with your body and let the practice grow on you, and you will experience a happier and better life.

The beauty of the Mysore Style is that each student works independently at their own pace/breath and level within the group. The teacher is always available and will work with you on your difficulties individually.

This style of teaching makes Ashtanga accessible to all levels of students.

I created a practice sheet for you with the primary series of Ashtanga Yoga on it. Have a look and belief that one day you will bend in those directions too.

What’s the difference of Ashtanga classes and Ashtanga Mysore classes

When I teach guided Ashtanga classes you can expect me to demonstrate postures and guide you through the practice. We all do the same postures at the same time. I will show modification to postures which you can adapt.

This is a great way to get familiar with the Ashtanga sequence and its asanas. You will have time to work on postures as well.

My Friday morning class I offer is an Ashtanga Mysore Style class. You go through your set of postures at your own pace and I will teach you the postures and give you assistance if necessary individually.

How does Mysore Style work online

Best is when you can set up your camera so the teacher has a side view of you and your whole mat. When you have questions you can write them in the zoom chat and I will answer you within the chat as well.