Already one of America’s top yoga studios, Boulder’s Yoga Workshop recently evolved the way it teaches Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. By switching to a traditional Mysore style and incorporating sequential courses, the new format almost forces students to develop their own practice, a rather progressive concept compared to the vast majority of America’s yoga studios.
It’s amazing how many yogi’s in America can go to a yoga class four times a week and twist themselves into pretzel positions, but have no personal practice (the ability to lead oneself through a sequence of postures without the aid of a teacher). Furthermore, since American yogis are so used to being told what to do on the mat, it is inherent that we don’t quite understand how to incorporate yoga into our lives off the mat. This is what the Yoga Workshop is recognizing and striving to improve.
The Yoga Workshop has kept a mixed level guided class during the noon hour, but has switched to the Mysore format in the mornings. On their website, they describe: “Mysore Classes are the same format as those taught in Mysore, India. Students of different levels practice together, each working individually on the series or therapeutic loop of postures that is appropriate, with adjustments and input from the teacher. This form of ‘self practice’ is at the root of the Ashtanga tradition.” Each student works on their Ashtanga series individually while senior teachers such as Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor walk the room giving individual adjustments and instructions. Not only does this format allow each yogi to flow at their own pace, follow their own breathe, and be self-reliant in their practice, but it frees the teacher to give more time and energy with individuals instead of having to lead the whole class the whole time. This way the students will be focused on their own practice, but can gather all together for support and motivation every day. The ability for each student to follow their own breathe is extremely valuable, because that is truly the goal of vinyasa yoga. To give students the proper tools to begin their own practice, there are Progressive Courses for students to work their way up and a Primary Series designed to explore the foundations of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.
In addition to the switch to personal practice, Yoga Workshop is incorporating more ways to bring a full understanding of yoga into their students’ lives. This thread of teaching entitled “Yoga in the World” includes chanting courses, more focus on pranayama, and master classes and studio talks that incorporate yogic philosophy. In keeping with the Pattabhi Jois tradition, there will be no mysore classes on full- and new-moon days as they are traditionally days of rest, and the studio will continue with the full-moon evening meditations.
So if this is intimidating to any yogis out there, don’t worry, this is a natural and wonderful progression, and it will enrich your yoga and life in many ways. First off, get introduced to Ashtanga by attending noon drop-ins that are led by a teacher. Next join the progressive sessions weekly classes that start at the beginning and move forward. Then you can do a Mysore workshop to learn the basics of self-practice. Then boom, you have your own practice, and better yet, self-empowerment. When you are ready, there are four hours each morning scheduled at the Worshop when you go in, get on your mat, do your practice, and have some of America’s best Ashtanga teachers giving you personal instruction.