Friday, January 31, 2014

Yoga in Mysore, It's Madness!

My thoughts about yoga in Mysore? It's madness! I came to Mysore to practice Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga but the funny thing is that after all the time that I've spent in India learning about yoga this was the first time that I felt that I wasn't doing yoga anymore, yet I was practicing Ashtanga Yoga six days a week for two and a half hours.

Mysore didn't feel like a spiritual place at all, whatever that means, it just have a completely different vibe. I felt more like if I was in a place between the western world and India, and mostly I felt as if I was practicing yoga in the West.

Why is that I wonder? My guess is that it is because of the nature of the practice. Most people come here for the physical aspects of yoga, and in particularly to practice the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga method, which in my perspective is a very activating and stimulating practice, a solar practice.

While in other places that I've been in India the energy feels as if it is directed within, in Mysore I felt that it is directed outside, instead of introversion there is extroversion, instead becoming calm and peaceful there is more agitation, more restlessness.

The energy in Mysore it's more about stamina and power and less about going within to explore the deep realms of the self. But of course, that's just the perception of someone that's relatively new to Ashtanga Yoga.

I feel as if in Mysore we all become obsessed with the yoga asanas. We, the crazy yogis, come here and wake up six days a week way before the sunrise to practice asanas just to get better and better at them.

Most of my friends would even go for a second asana practice with Vinay Kumar, focused on back-bending, and if I've had the energy I would have done the same.

But I'm not writing all this in a negative way, it's just comic to think about it.

Sometimes my friends and I would just laugh at ourselves by reflecting on how ridiculous all of this can be. "This is madness!" It's like all of a sudden the most important thing in life became to be able to do a proper vinyasa or to master a particular asana.

We left the material world of the West for a spiritual journey on the East, yet we brought with us our same minds with the same obsessions and habits. We got into an ego-trip instead of a soul-trip.

As a joke I would some times say, "Whenever I'll be able to go into handstand after navasana I will stop practicing ashtanga."

Video of Jocke Salokorpi demonstrating the navasana to handstand flow

And you know what, the truth is that it is cool. Yeah, we could talk for hours about all the mental, physical and spiritual benefits of a practice like ashtanga yoga, but leaving that aside I think it's just a cool thing to do, don't you think so?

Yes, I do want to be able to go into handstand after navasana and to be able to float back and forward instead of jumping when doing the vinyasa. I think it's just awesome and fun to do, and whenever you are able to do something that you thought was impossible it gives you an amazing feeling.

I do however try to see my practice as my moving meditation.

My ashtanga yoga practice it's all about staying with my breathing, keeping it as deep and as slow as possible and trying to make my practice as effortless as it can be conserving as much prana as I can.

I try to feel every corner of my body and to move with full awareness and grace into the next pose, and when all of this actually happens, when I do become fully present, it feels really good.

I have missed my classical hatha yoga practice though.

When I practice traditional hatha yoga I finish with a shanti shanti shanti feeling, even if my mind was very distracted and regardless of the state of my body.

On the contrary, after ashtanga I just feel energized and ready to conquer the world but only if my body was feeling strong and flexible.

So, perhaps Mysore didn't feel very "spiritual" to me, and that's all right cause I fully enjoyed my time here, six months in total and without planning anything in advance.

I just took it day by day, and each day brought me some joy. Indeed, coming here was like a therapy for me, as I wrote before in "Finding a Balance With Social Yoga in Mysore," I needed some social life to recover from the challenges of the previous year.

Life brought me here and now I feel fully recovered, balanced, joyful, grateful and mentally and physically strong. Basically I feel awesome.

Certainly all the positive effects of a dedicated ashtanga yoga practice and of healthy social life, meeting wonderful souls from all around the world. I can't wait to be back.


  1. How! thanks for this article. I am new to ashtanga yoga and would like to go to Mysore once i will master the primary series (I learnt from a DVD by Nicki Doane). But i would like to go to some other ashram in India first, to practice daily yoga and meditation, and to connect to my spiritual self. I can't go to a big place where there are hundreds of people at the same time. I would rather a small ashram. And also with warm weather, by the sea with coconut trees :) Could you please recommend some place in particular?

    1. Hi Vanesa, that sounds like a good plan, to first go to a small ashram and then to Mysore.

      I think Arsha Yoga fits the description of the place you want to visit. However I can also recommend the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai and Santosh Puri ashram in Haridwar.

      But you don't have to wait to "master" primary series to go to Mysore, who knows how long it will actually take to "master" it. You go to Mysore to get guidance from an experienced teacher so you practice goes in the right direction.

      Good luck.