4 Reasons I Left My Vinyasa Class for the Mysore Room by Laurie G.
Let me start this blog with quickly addressing what this is not. This is not a comprehensive comparison of Vinyasa Yoga and the Ashtanga System. This is also not a blog telling you why YOU should leave your vinyasa class. This is simply my experience.
I began practicing yoga about 6 years ago. I started by dropping in to a weekly donation class. I enjoyed it, found it challenging, and liked the small glimpses of spirituality I was getting. As I progressed, I would pick up classes randomly around town at different studios. Maybe 2-3 a week. I didn’t have one teacher or studio, but had a few teachers that I liked and gravitated towards.
Three years ago I began dating someone who practiced Ashtanga Yoga. I was intrigued as she would religiously be in bed by 9:00pm to get up at 4:45am and be out the door for yoga, leaving me snoozing until she returned a few hours later. I could see a significant difference in her approach to yoga as opposed to mine. Although I was intimidated by what I viewed as an intense, much harder version of what I was already doing, I felt a draw to something deeper. I took the leap and joined an 4 week series intro class. I planned to try it out for a month, commit to doing something a little uncomfortable and expected I would likely be back class hopping around the city at the end. That was 3 years ago. Since then I have had a lot of ups and downs. I have had periods of time when I practiced 6 days a week and periods of time when I was lucky to practice once. Throughout this time I kept being drawn back to the Mysore room. It is hard to articulate all of the nuances of the draw, but it is clear to me looking back that Ashtanga became MY practice. Here are 4 reasons I left my vinyasa class for the Mysore room and did not look back.
Consistency and Stability- As I left my 20’s and entered my 30's I was looking for something that was more grounding. I had spent most of my 20’s running from one experience to the next, one activity to the next, had lived all over the globe before returning to Columbus and honestly felt a little “road weary”. The Ashtanga system of yoga spoke to me because of its structure, something I had lacked in my life for sometime. It is designed to be practiced 6 days a week (with a few freebie days for moon days and ladies holidays). You practice the same postures everyday adding only a few as you progress and become proficient in the prior poses. In my days of dropping in to various classes in the city, a challenging posture would be cued, I would fail miserably at executing it, and I wouldn’t see it again for a few weeks or months where I would try again and likely have the same result. In the Ashtanga system, you face that challenging posture everyday, and inch by inch you get closer to doing it. (Nothing like the inch by inch approach to challenge a Millennial, instant gratification programed, monkey mind)
Continual Support From a Teacher that KNOWS Me- In the mysore room you work with the same teacher (or few teachers) day in and day out. They learn your body- its limitations and strengths…but even more important they learn your bullshit. The things you say to yourself in your head when you don’t feel like it, are scared, are anxious, etc. I have days when I walk in and am not feeling it, am half-assing it, am on the verge of tears, etc. and my teacher knows when to push and when to back off. There are days I need both.
Depth - I found a deepening in those pieces of spirituality that I did not have in my Vinyasa practice. I had grown up in a Pentecostal Christian Church, but toward the end of my 20’s my experience of god began to evolve. I had left the institution of Christianity, and began seeking other paths to experience god as i understood them. Yoga was a way of doing that. As I became more devoted to my Ashtanga practice I was continually diving into the non-asana elements of a yogic practice. I was introduced to a regular pranayama and meditation practice. And in the mysore room I continually had the experience of this practice being the “mirror I was holding up to my Self”. Seeing the places I hide, run, become defensive, etc. The Ashtanga system is one which is connected to tradition. This tradition in and of itself gives ritual and depth.
Something that was MINE.- There was a big jump for me in the way I approached my yoga practice. When I would go to my weekly class, I would gladly throw my mat down in the back, let the teacher throw on some music, and guide me through an hour because I had no idea what the hell I was doing. The practice wasn’t my own as much as something I got to join in to for a short while. It was certainly not something I could replicate at home or attempt any solo practice in. An Ashtanga practice gave me something I could do anywhere at anytime. I could roll out my mat and begin my practice.
Its not completely fair to say that “I didn’t look back”. I will drop in once a month or so and take a class at a neighboring studio as a yoga buddy to someone or to support a friend who has become a new teacher. I will take Yin classes and Yoga Nidra as a complement to my current practice. The reality of it is that Ashtanga Yoga in many ways has become a home to me, or rather me coming home to myself. Anything else has felt like a visitation. Each person is different has different needs- the very things that draw me to Ashtanga might be the things that would not work well for you. If what you are doing is works for you than keep doing it, but if you see yourself looking at your current yoga practice and thinking, “This is great, but where do I go from here?” I would encourage you to check out a Mysore style class.
When I am asked what it is that really sets Ashtanga apart from Vinyasa yoga, I will usually respond with a half smile, answering a question with a question “ Do you really wanna know? What are you doing tomorrow at 5:00am?"