What Type of Class is Best for a Beginning Ashtangi?

Via Kate Bartolotta
on Jan 23, 2013
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mysore meme

Should Ashtangi beginners go to a Mysore-style class or a Led Primary class?

I posted the above photo on my Facebook wall earlier today and was amazed at the discussion that ensued. I was inspired by Kevin Macku’s comments about Mysore-style classes in his recent article:

On an added note, there’s a subset of Ashtangis that have a specific practice you’ll see called Mysore. This is for advanced students only. Think of it as a club, complete with secret handshake and everything. When you’ve been taking enough Ashtanga classes to get in to Mysore, your teacher will let you know.

It was interesting to see some of the comments from those who felt Mysore was better than a Led Primary class for a beginner. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about (and have kept reading anyway) here’s the deal:

A Mysore-style class is an Ashtanga class in which students go at their own pace and receive instruction and adjustments one on one.

A Led Primary class is more similar to any other style yoga class you’d take, where the instructor guides the entire class through the each of the postures.

But typically, those students who would be in a Mysore practice are not just looking for a little one on one time to up their game; it’s about being committed to a practice. A Led Primary class might be a once a week thing to help keep your home practice focused, but for many Mysore adherents, it’s a way of life. Some people feel that Mysore is better for beginners because of the one on one. Some people felt it would be a better fit for those who are already fairly established and committed.

And the discussion continued, but I like the way my friend Colleen summed it up best:

No, no, no! Mysore is perfect for beginners, as long as you’re willing to commit to more than just a drop-in, every-now-and-then schedule. It’s not for only the advanced, but it is only for the committed…I’m just paraphrasing Sharath when he lists all the people who can do it (old, young, et al.) and says the only people who can’t—lazy people. Sadly, I am one of the lazy ones who can’t get to bed early enough to have a consistent Mysore practice!

It’s interesting to contrast the ideas of skill versus commitment.

How skilled do you have to be at something to fully commit to it? Can you truly begin from a place of dedication and dive right in to the deep end?

Time, money and location have solved this issue for me for the time being. I am taking a led primary series class geared towards people who are new to Ashtanga and will continue my home practice at “please don’t let my alarm go off yet” o’clock in the morning. To drive two-hours daily to the Jois Shala in Greenwich is beyond dedication into insanity territory.

I am curious to hear from more people on this! Let me know which way you’d send a newer Ashtangi in the comments.


What was your practice like today? Are you doing #yogaeverydamnday this month? Check back for my updates and follow along on Twitter @kate_bartolotta and Pinterest.

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About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives. You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


8 Responses to “What Type of Class is Best for a Beginning Ashtangi?”

  1. Jacquie says:

    After several years taking a once a week led hatha class we moved to the "middle of nowhere" in Cornwall, UK and couldn't find a yoga class anywhere. On one random afternoon out my husband spotted a group of mat carrying yogis and asked them where they did yoga. It turned out we had an awesome Ashtanga teacher living in our midst who held Mysore classes in the local town hall.

    So I turned up, left my ego at the door and decided to commit – that was 3 years ago an I have just recently got the last pose that makes up the full primary series. I take 3 mysore classes a week with my teacher (who is now one of my really good friends) and I do one to two practices a week at home depending on the time I have available to me.

    I totally agree with this article that it's about commitment, not about being a newbie or advanced (I mean, what actually defines advanced anyway? There are so many parts to being a practising yogi, not just the asanas, but that's a whole other post I guess) We have new people join us all the time, some have never even been on a yoga mat before, and yet they are guided gently through by our teacher. We all learn at different speeds, and Mysore fits this perfectly in my opinion.

    J x

  2. emilyalp says:

    seems to me to be a discussion more about state of mind than skills, actually. lead classes, in my opinion, help cultivate the state of mind and approach needed … think about a newbie coming into a Mysore room and seeing the circus-performer types without anything in their own 'suitcase' of experience to feel grounded in and from which to work. again, seems a state of mind … a good leader can take a person through first series just a few times and set them up enough to take a sequence sheet into a Mysore room and get rolling … but someone totally fresh off the street? I think it's risking too much to turn them off when they could have gotten hooked … just my opinion 😉

  3. So true! Letting go of ego and just committing from where we are right now is an important step, whatever we are undertaking. And yes, newbie vs. advanced is a pretty subjective idea. To me, someone who has never taken a yoga class and someone who has been practicing awhile, but is looking to settle in to a more dedicated Ashtanga practice are in very different situations. I've been practicing quite awhile, but mainly more typical Vinyasa classes (with a side of occasional Kundalini, Restorative & Acroyoga 😉 ). If I could find a Mysore-style class closer to me, I would be all for it!

  4. That might also depend quite a bit on the atmosphere of the particular class & shala too! Fresh off the street & trying out yoga instead of pilates or Zumba on a random day? Yeah, would be totally overwhelming. But for a yogi looking for a more dedicated practice, might be just right.

  5. emilyalp says:

    I hear what you are saying in that the person might get excited because it's the climate they have always been looking for. So if they wanted that, they could still get hooked. Still, I wouldn't because even a Yogi(ni) who is practiced and knows what they want might not be used to Astanga and would thus do better with a voice-over head start in it, in my opinion. (Was just at a retreat over new year wherein half of the shala was new to Asanga and yet almost all were well-versed in other forms–they relied heavily on the first few days being lead and the last being Mysore … so this topic is fresh in my mind ;)). Asking someone to do 60+ (not including Suryanamaskaras A&B) asanas without a verbal lead, in order, coordinating the breath and not getting insight into finer points, especially breathing through transitions, strikes me as counterproductive (cardiovascularly especially) …

  6. Jean Marie says:

    I tried Mysore as a mostly newbie. I didn't last for many reasons. Years later, it was a weekly kickass led primary that reignited my love for ashtanga. When I went back to Mysore, it was that teacher (Corey de Rosa of Tapovana ashtanga in sag harbor) who led me through it. Though he was not there, his cues re bandhas, breath and dristi enabled me to maintain the focus needed to get through a self practice. This was my experience though. I imagine Mysore would be lovely for a beginner. If I'd never dne any yoga and started with Mysore and new nothing different maybe I'd be saying something else here!

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  8. Dawn says:

    I think it depends a lot on the teacher. I have mostly practiced in led classes but I have a little experience with Mysore. Some teachers just help when needed or adjustments to more advanced students. And some teachers multitask very well and teach the new students while helping the regulars.