Ashtanga Mysore – A Beginner’s Experience

By Abirami Ramesh

When I was first offered the opportunity to come for the Ashtanga Mysore class at Art of Yoga, I had some serious doubts and reservations. Firstly, like most beginners, I questioned my own flexibility and stamina to even partake in such a class. Furthermore, I assumed that the session was from 6.30-9.30 am – a solid THREE hours. And finally, the thought of waking up before sunrise completely deterred me from even trying.

However, I realised that things were not as daunting as they seemed. The Mysore class is NOT three hours long as I had assumed. Instead it is such that one could come down anytime within the 3-hour timeslot and practice the postures at his/her own pace. Of course, first timers are expected to make it there at the time they have booked for, at least for the first class. I also made an effort to wake up earlier than I would usually (around 9am!!) and headed down to the studio in time for the 7.30 am timeslot. Although I felt groggy and sluggish, I am rpoud to say that I managed to pull myself together and try something new.. Truly, the hardest part of an early morning is to simply leave your bed. And it’s actually really pleasant to get to Art of Yoga that early in the morning. It’s tucked away in a peaceful and serene part of the Upper East Coast area.

When I entered the studio, I was surprised that there were already 5-6 other people in the midst of their practice. They were engaged in seemingly complex postures and I immediately felt that I had signed up for something that was beyond my abilities. However, I needn’t have worried. Mysore-style is is such that all students practice at their own pace and are given individualized attention and instruction according to their needs.

As I rolled out my mat and waited for the instructor, Nadira, I felt slightly anxious but also excited about how the session would evolve. After guiding the other students, Nadira finally sat me down and started off by giving me an introduction to the whole Ashtanga practice. She patiently went through the origins, rationale and the method of practice. Then, we went through some breathing exercises and I was taught step-by-step, Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations). Every step of the sequence was done slowly and meaningfully. She reminded me that the focus was on the breathing, which essentially made the crucial difference between yoga and other forms of stretching.

After a 45-minute session of learning and practicing the sun salutations, I was surrounded by a pool of perspiration. Never did I ever imagine that practising yoga would leave me completely drenched in sweat! Nadira then informed me that I was done for the day and I could do my final breathing and stretching exercises. After taking a breather, I actually felt that I could have done more, but she reiterated that the Ashtanga sequence is to be delivered in stages, so as to build a stronger foundation.

Oh boy, am I so glad that I stopped there! The next morning, I woke up completely sore and every muscle in my body was aching; but it was the good kind of ache, the one where you feel you are getting stronger and actually working towards your potential. Overall, the Ashtanga Mysore class was completely fulfilling and definitely not as impossible as I thought it would be. It was certainly challenging but definitely NOT impossible. Actually, it was really good fun! If you’ve been hesitating about trying a class, don’t! If I can do it, so can you!