My journey into Ashtanga yoga in the traditional form of the Mysore style
I started practicing yoga in a moment of my life when I badly needed a happy place to reconnect to myself. That place happened to be a yoga studio in Heidelberg where I did my first yoga class in July 2012. That class was Power Yoga and the teacher was Laurie, one of the best yoga teachers I met up to these days. From time to time, I also practiced Ashtanga yoga, which was offered at the same studio, but my favourite class was definitely Power Yoga and Laurie was my favourite teacher.
Two years later, I moved back to my hometown, Bologna (Italy) and since there I could not find any Power Yoga class comparable to the ones Laurie was teaching, I decided to switch to Ashtanga Yoga. In the studio where I used to practice, the teacher was guiding the Half Primary Series for beginners while in the back of the room, the other practitioners were doing their own Mysore Style practice. At that time, I had no idea what the Mysore Style was but that practice felt so powerful and energetic that I was almost immediately dragged into it. In January 2014, I did my first Mysore Style class and never left that form of yoga ever since.
Nowadays, the offer of yoga is enormous. I could practice any style of yoga, why did I and still do choose Ashtanga Yoga and why in the form of the Mysore Style?
At first, the motivation was definitely my ego wanting to perform the same powerful and acrobatic postures that the other practitioners were doing, but then something much deeper kicked in.
I am quite confident to say that what hooked me into the Mysore style practice was and still is the deep meditative aspect of it. I have no knowledge of any other yoga style where you do your practice in a group setting, sharing your energy with other people, without the teacher leading the class. The fact that Ashtanga yoga consists of a fixed series of postures, makes it very easy to memorise it and in a short time you are able to practice independently from the teacher. This allows you to turn the attention inward, to realign mind, heart and body in one unique being and to switch into a deep meditative practice led by the breath. Trust me, it is incredibly powerful!
At that time, I was still practicing only in the evening and it took me a while to shift to the morning Mysore Style practice. It happened in July 2016, when I did my first Ashtanga Yoga workshop with Manju Jois (the son of Patthabi Jois). During the workshop, we had the traditional morning Mysore Style practice. At first, I thought that it was absolutely impossible for me to practice that early, my body is extremely stiff in the morning. But by the end of my first morning class I felt incredibly good and after a week of morning Mysore Style classes, I couldn’t imagine going back to the evening practice anymore.
Ashtanga Yoga is a very energising practice and when done in the evening the body doesn’t have the time to release that energy and the sleep often becomes restless. Whereas when done in the early morning, the body has the whole day to “use” the energy of the practice. On top of it, doing the practice in the morning feels like putting the first milestone of the day, it feels like already having achieved something good.
So yes, I truly love the morning yoga practice but let’s be honest, a Ashtanga Yoga is not exactly like brushing your teeth. Many times I asked myself whether I was a “bad practitioner” if I didn’t make it to step on the mat 6 days a week, or I mixed up the primary and the intermediate series or skipped poses because I felt simply tired and my body hurt. It took me a while to accept that not, I am in no way a “bad practitioner”. And the reason is quite simple: the purpose of stepping on the mat is not to look like the postures photographed on the chart or to force myself through a full practice even if my body is in pain, the purpose of my yoga practice is to serve me to get in a deeper connection with this incredible maschine that I call “my body” which in turns means to feel safer and stronger in the world.
And this is what you will find in my Mysore Style classes: a journey of self discovery through a deeper awareness of the body by using as a tool the Ashtanga Yoga practice.