Mysore is a city in Karnataka in Southern India. It was the capital city of Kingdom of Mysore for nearly six centuries, from 1399 until 1947. Mysore is noted for its palaces and for the festivities that take place during the Dasara festival when the city receives a large number of tourists.
Mysore is also the name of an Ashtanga practice which is a self-practice and a bit different than other yoga classes. The correct movement, breathing, and postures are learned gradually, building on the Ashtanga sequence. It’s an independent practice where students practice with their own level and capabilities. At the same time, they are surrounded by the energy and inspiration of other students. The teacher also assists and work with students individually which give a uniquely personal approach.
There are often different levels in a class where some students practice the Primary Series, some the Intermediate Series and some even the Advanced Series. It takes many years to master each of the series and it’s a lifetime practice. Each posture builds on the previous one and it’s a safe way to gradually build strength and flexibility in your yoga practice.
I also find it inspiring to have different levels of students in the same room. In the Mysore practice, I attend, I see more experienced students assist beginners and newbies can learn and see from other students. It becomes a bit of a Montessori feeling. In the beginning, the training is maybe not so long, perhaps half an hour or 45 minutes. As you become more advanced, you add more postures to make the approximately 90-minute practice. Often the class is open for 2h and students can drop in freely.
It is recommended to practice Ashtanga yoga 6 days per week and with a break ok Saturdays and moon days. It can take some time to build up to this practice so go slowly, maybe you just start with once or twice per week and then you build it up progressively. Mysore style is practiced worldwide and if you know the sequence you can go and practice anywhere in any city.
Jois was born on the full moon of July 1915 in Kowshika, as small village 150 km from Mysore. His father was an astrologer and priest in the village of nearly seventy families. He was the middle child of nine children and from the age of five, he began to study the Vedas and Hindu rituals.
When he was 12, he attended a yoga demonstration in his middle school which inspired him to learn more. He was so inspired that the next day he went to see Sri T. Krishnamacharya, one of the most distinguished yogis of the 20th Century. Krishnamacharya agreed to take him on as a student and he practiced with him for the next two years.
When Jois was fourteen, he was given the Brahmin thread initiation, it’s when a boy becomes a man and is initiated to the spiritual life. Short after this, he ran away from home to study Sanskrit studies at the university in Mysore. In 1932, he met Krishnamacharya again, after having lost contact and now recommenced their relationship, a bond that lasted for twenty-five years.
During this time, Mysore’s Maharaja fell ill and sent for Krishnamacharya who cured him through yoga. In gratitude, the Maharaja established a Yoga shala for him on the palace grounds and sent him and students like Jois around the country to spread the knowledge of yoga.
In 1948, Jois established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore. Many local officials from doctors to police chiefs practiced with him. Also, local physicians sent their patients to Jois to help with diabetes, heart and blood pressure problems. In 1964, a Belgian student came to study with Jois. This was the beginning of the western world starting to take an interest in Ashtanga Yoga and during the flower power years, 1973 Jois got more known in the US and Europe. Over the next twenty years, Ashtanga spread across the globe where he traveled to teach.
In 2007, Jois became ill and he then passed away in 2009 at the age of 93. His death came as a tragic loss for the worldwide yoga community.His legacy lives on through his grandson Sharath (1971), and daughter Saraswathi (1941) who continue to teach in Mysore.
Many Ashtanga yogis go to Mysore every year to engage with their practice and the birthplace of Ashtanga. There are also events held such as the Ashtanga Confluence which gathers yogis from the whole world to share this practice and tradition with each other.
Krishnamacharya was an Indian yoga teacher, ayurvedic healer and often referred to as “The Father of Modern Yoga”. He is one of the most influential teachers of the 20th century and has inspired all of the yoga that we practice today. Krishnamacharya was not only a yoga instructor but also a physician of Ayurvedic medicine. He possessed enormous knowledge of nutrition, herbal medicine, the use of oils, and other remedies.
Krishnamacharya believed Yoga to be India’s greatest gift to the world. His yoga instruction reflected his conviction that yoga could be both a spiritual practice and a mode of physical healing. Krishnamacharya based his teachings on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Yoga Yajnavalkya.
Whereas Krishnamacharya was deeply devoted to Vaishnavism, he also respected his students’ varying religious beliefs, or nonbeliefs. Krishnamacharya approached every student as absolutely unique, in the belief that the most important aspect of teaching yoga was that the student is taught according to his or her individual capacity at any given time. For Krishnamacharya, this meant that the path of yoga would mean different things for different people and that each person should be taught in a manner that he or she understand clearly.
Although his knowledge and teaching has influenced yoga throughout the world, Krishnamacharya never left his native India. Yoga Journal said that:
"You may never have heard of him but Tirumalai Krishnamacharya influenced or perhaps even invented your yoga. Whether you practice the dynamic series of Pattabhi Jois, the refined alignments of B. K. S. Iyengar, the classical postures of Indra Devi, or the customized vinyasa of Viniyoga, your practice stems from one source: a five-foot, two-inch Brahmin born more than one hundred years ago in a small South Indian village."
By developing and refining different approaches, Krishnamacharya made yoga accessible to millions around the world.