Morning Mysore Guest blog---Priya Rao

Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga entered my life at the perfect time. About a year ago, when I first walked into the Mysore room, I was at the peak of battling an eating disorder. I had struggled with mild depression and body image issues for years. The eating disorder was a coping mechanism that was empty and lonely, but surrendering to Ashtanga slowly taught me to change my relationship to food, change my relationship to my body, and practice genuine self-love that had never existed in me. Ashtanga helped and continues to help me reflect, grow, and find a deep sense of self acceptance.

Before I started Mysore, I would take the occasional Hot Flow or Hatha class, but somehow I felt like there was a competitive edge lining the room. I first came to Mysore, hoping to form a yoga sequence that I could always turn to, even if I just had a few minutes to practice before a busy day. I ended up getting way more than I bargained for because having individualized instruction and the focus from a silent room gave me strength in my practice and life.

The transition from dropping in a couple times a week to committing to a daily practice was no easy feat. Initially, I felt the social pressures of college consuming me. I felt like I was always bailing on my friends for an early morning sweat fest, and I was constantly doubting if the practice had any tangible benefits. It was difficult to switch from the college mentality of sleeping at 2am and waking up at 10am, to sleeping at 9pm and waking up at 4:30am. Gradually, I realized that Mysore was fulfilling in ways I couldn’t even have imagined and my self-created barriers disappeared. I started to care less about what others thought, and focused my energy on a practice that made me feel like the best version of myself. Now, on the rare occasion that my commitment to the practice waivers, I ask myself if I am better off than I was a month ago and the answer is always yes.

Ashtanga grounded me mentally and physically, but it also helped me reconnect spiritually. Growing up in an Indian household with slightly religious parents, I was introduced to elements of Hindu philosophy and Sanskrit chanting, but I never really connected with these traditions. Combining the physical practice of yoga with the philosophy and chanting gave me new perspective and respect for a culture that I dismissed as a kid.

Ashtanga is a practice of contrasts. It requires discipline but it is also forgiving. It is empowering yet completely humbling, invigorating yet grounding, strong but soft. The practice has helped me cultivate some authenticity that leaves me less guarded and more open to life and love. I leave each morning with a clear head and heart, with the space to be a better student, sister, daughter, and friend. Working through my struggles on the mat helps me live in a graceful and compassionate way off the mat. I leave class feeling like I can conquer fifty eating disorders and anything else thrown my way. In the constant turmoil of life, morning mysore is like a stable sanctuary where anger, sadness, joy, confusion, hope, and faith all have a place. I have come to Mysore in the darkest and brightest of times and always find just what I need in the 90 minute practice.

My journey into Ashtanga yoga was messy and my progression has been slow and steady, but it has helped me transform into the person I wanted to be yet never knew how to become. Something amazing happens in that small, very hot room each morning, and I am truly grateful for the practice, my teacher, and the community that has supported my growth. One year down, the rest of my life to go.