- Hold Space:
The Breathing Room is honored to host the Mysore style of Ashtanga Yoga every weekday at 10 am in our Harvard Square location, led by Mickey Barr.
Ashtanga Yoga is a system of yoga taught and propagated by the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, South India for over 60 years until his death in 2009. The Ashtanga practice consists of set sequences of postures that are linked together via choreographed breathing and specified gazing points. The postures, breathing, and gazing points form the three pillars of Ashtanga Yoga, working to simultaneously train and purify the physical body, the nervous system, and the mind. With repeated and consistent practice of the sequences the meditative aspects of Ashtanga Yoga begin to arise.
Ashtanga Yoga is traditionally taught in a class style called “Mysore” in which students work independently on the particular series of postures that is most appropriate for them. Mysore style teaching can quite simply be described as individual instruction within a group setting. The teacher assists, adjusts and discusses particular difficulties or concerns with individual students during class. The Mysore approach allows students to practice at their own pace and progress based on their own unique abilities. Over time, students develop independence within and responsibility for their practice; through repetition the yoga becomes deeply ingrained. Because Mysore style practice is self-paced, this style of learning is ideal for all levels of practitioners.
Frequently Asked Questions
What will my first class be like?
When you arrive for your first Mysore class you will be asked to simply observe the class for a bit, many of your questions will be answered just by watching the dynamics of a Mysore room. The teacher will give you a break down of how it all works and will answer any questions that still remain. If you decide to try Ashtanga you will be taught both the beginning and closing sequence of the practice, these are the bookends of Ashtanga Yoga and will remain a constant; it is the middle of the practice that evolves with time. You can expect to practice for under thirty minutes for the first week or two.
Why do I have to commit to a month?
Learning Ashtanga Yoga requires a strong commitment from both the student and the teacher. Because the practice is taught individually within a group setting the teacher will be working with you a lot in the beginning until you begin to memorize the practice. Most people know within a month or two if Ashtanga Yoga is for them.
What’s so great about self practice?
During self practice there is no outside force guiding and directing what you should be doing moment to moment. This forces students to take responsibility for both their practice, and their relationship to it. Over time this cultivates deeper concentration, self-reflection, and ultimately meditative states.
How do I progress further?
Because Ashtanga Yoga is comprised of set sequences of postures, and the practice is self guided, it takes some time to memorize the postures you’ve been taught, and to be able to do them with some proficiency. In the beginning you may feel like you are doing less than you are physically capable of, but it is best to let the practice unfold gradually over time; there are no shortcuts in yoga. Everyone progresses at a different pace, but you can always speak to the teacher if you feel you should be doing more or less than is currently part of your practice.
How often should I practice?
A full practice is five or six days a week, three days a week is considered the minimum. This does not mean you need to do your full sequence every time you practice, sometimes less is more. What is most important is the continuity of practice. The yoga works best when it becomes a part of your daily life.
What time do I arrive? What time do I leave?
You may come and go any time between 10am and 12pm, just make sure you have enough time to complete your practice and take rest. If you arrive too late you will be asked to take an abridged practice that day. All backward bending must be completed by 11:45am.
I’ve heard Ashtanga is hard, can anyone practice it?
Ashtanga Yoga is not an easy practice. However because Mysore is a self practice, it can be performed and enjoyed by almost anyone. The teacher will work with you individually during class to find a way of practicing that is therapeutic for you. Poses can always be modified.
I’ve heard Ashtanga teachers do a lot of physical adjustments.
This is correct. Much (but not all) of the teaching that happens in a Mysore room is done through manual adjustments. This means the teacher guides you into or out a pose in a hands on way. This allows the student to bypass the thinking mind and to experience the yoga within their body. Over time, consistent practice and skillful physical adjustments awaken the intelligence of the body. A common quote that speaks to this is “you can not think your way into a yoga pose.” Please speak to the teacher if you do not want to be manually adjusted, or only adjusted in a specific way.
I’ve heard I shouldn’t practice during menstruation
It is advised that you respect your cycle as a time for the body to rest either by not practicing for the first few days, or by doing a modified practice. If you would like to continue to practice during your cycle please speak to the teacher, and they will help you to modify the practice as needed.
Is there any special etiquette I should know, or anything I should bring?
Most of our class etiquette during a Mysore practice will be the same as any other class at The Breathing Room (or any other studio). Remember to silence your cell phone, avoid wearing any strong scents, lay out your mat in a neat and organized way, and avoid stepping on anyone else’s mat.
As students will be coming and going at different times during the session, try to maintain a peaceful quiet and limit your conversations. For purposes of our shared practice, the studio can’t be a social space. (But by all means feel free to be social at Follow the Honey or Atomic Bean Cafe after practice.)
The studio will have almost any equipment you require (mats, straps, blocks, etc.), but you should also bring a small towel for yourself.
I have a monthly membership or class pack at The Breathing Room. Can I use it for the Mysore classes?
Sorry, no. Our monthly memberships and class packs include the regularly scheduled weekly classes on our studio calendar, but don’t include workshops, private sessions, pre-natal yoga classes or the Mysore practice. The reverse is also true, the monthly Mysore Membership includes all of the morning Mysore classes for the month, but doesn’t include the other classes or events at the studio. But we encourage our regular monthly members and students to observe a Mysore class (free of charge) to see if the practice feels like a good fit, and also encourage our Mysore members to take advantage of our class packs to see if any particular yoga or meditation classes might complement the Mysore practice particularly well.
Mickey Barr is an Ashtanga Yoga teacher, licensed massage therapist and Reiki master. He is an advanced series practitioner of Ashtanga Yoga, and maintains ongoing studies in Iyengar Yoga. He trained as an apprentice under Randy Aromando in Ashtanga Yoga, Joseph Satlak in Iyengar Yoga, and Bill Polk in massage therapy. Mickey is also a practitioner of Vipassana Meditation in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin. For more about Mickey please visit www.silayoga.com