Mysore: The Answer to the Universe

Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory. ~ Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

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Mysore, probably the most overlooked approach to Ashtanga yoga, is invaluable for progression in personal practice, making it one of yoga’s best-kept secrets.

But before we dive deeper into the nitty-gritties of this incredible yet underutilized approach, a thought for modern-day yogis:  For some, yoga seems to be just “exercise” — a way to become more flexible, maybe even work on core strength, perhaps learn to “chill” here and there.  For many others, however, yoga is a life long journey of self-discovery, reflection, and growth.  The foundations we set, and the lessons we learn on the mat transcend to our everyday lives. As we explore the body and it’s capabilities, we also explore our limitations — in all aspects of ourselves — and how they change over time.

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For quite a while, the yoga studio where I practice was offering 6 a.m. classes every weekday morning and I was pretty religious about going. 6 a.m. may seem ridiculous, and it kind of is, but it was really the only time I was guaranteed to be free of other obligations. No excuses, except my self. Then one day, three of the five weekday morning classes suddenly disappeared from the schedule, with something new and curious in their place: Mysore.

WTF is Mysore? I had no idea when I first saw it, and had to ask around. Even after getting the inside scoop, it seemed, well, boring. You mean I just go there and practice at my own pace? I can do that at home, right? Pointers from an instructor? Kinda cool, but still, I love the flow and energy and oneness of a kick butt group class. So in my unreceptive closed-mindedness, I didn’t go to Mysore for a while. A long while. I let it simmer, thinking about if this was worth waking up at 6 a.m. for. But when I tried it… like really tried it… lo and behold…my mind was blown.

One of the exciting (and habit-forming) aspects of yoga is that there is always progress to be made. The journey is never complete, yet continuously rewarding. When we are engaged in a regular yoga practice, we continue reaping the benefits, time and time again.  What other “exercise” or “sport” can boast endless rewards for practice?  What’s more is the realization that our limits are merely mental and that with sheer determination in our practice we can power through them.  Poses that felt impossible only weeks ago start to take shape.

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So what exactly is Mysore?

Let’s start at the very beginning (it’s a very good place to start) with a dash of yoga history!  Ashtanga yoga, often called a modern version of classical Indian yoga, is a beautiful, ancient system of living that was first taught in the Yoga Korunta by Vamana Rishi.  It was then imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900’s by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari, and was later passed down to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois when he began studying under Krishnamacharya in 1927.  It is this man, Pattabhi Jois, the “Father of Mysore,” who developed the specifics of the practice and introduced them to the world as essentially a deeper, introspective alternative to modern yoga classes.  And it’s no coincidence that the name rhymes with “try more!,” “high score!,” and “by Geor(ge)!”

Okay, maybe it is.  The practice is actually named for the place of its creation.  Referred to as the Ashtanga yoga capital of India, Mysore is the country’s third largest city.  Located in Karnataka State, it is a world-class destination for the thousands of tourists who come each year to not only visit the region’s palaces and temples, but most importantly to study yoga.  Instructors here are specialized in teaching the Ashtanga yoga based on Pattabhi Joi’s understanding and teaching of yoga, which he so eloquently explains as: “…a way of life and a philosophy, [which] can be practiced by anyone with inclination to undertake it, for yoga belongs to humanity as a whole. It is not the property of any one group or any one individual, but can be followed by any and all, in any corner of the globe, regardless of class, creed or religion.”

While you chew on that magnificence, let’s talk more about Mysore and how it differs from the yoga classes you might be used to.  Traditional yoga classes are usually set up so that the focus is on a teacher, some poses, maybe even the music at times.   Generally, participants are guided through a pre-established set of asanas (poses) and explore only the material offered by the current instructor in an environment where rhythm and sequence is already set. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a yoga class centered around flow – they’re my drug of choice. But there comes a time in your practice when you need to go deeper into yourself and into the asanas to really take your practice to a whole new level.  Enter Mysore, which offers an environment where one’s focal point can shift inward in a self-paced practice within a group setting.  Talk about the best of both worlds.  Let’s break it down a little further.

In essence Mysore focuses on the individual’s practice.  Mysore still uses the Ashtanga sequence of asanas (poses).  But! (and it’s a big one) instead of being led through these by a teacher, individuals guide themselves through each pose — learning about one’s mind and body, one’s limits (and soon…lack thereof), focusing on breath and moving to his/her own rhythm.  Each asana is learned separately, allowing participants to explore each posture and the depth they can reach within it before deciding when to move on to the next.

Mysore = Self-practice in a group setting to accelerate breakthroughs in body and mind.

Rarely will you hear talk of ability and achievement from a Mysore guru, as these are not the focus of the practice.  So perhaps it is ironic that not only does this specific technique set the foundation for a deeper, stronger practice but it also allows for accelerated improvement and flexibility — helping people go from their first yoga class to a hard-core yogi in mere months.  In a Mysore the teacher is seen more as a mentor; an advanced practitioner who is there to give hands-on guidance through the individual poses, offer adjustments, instruction (and encouragement) to help each yogi get the most out of his or her practice.  This method insures all students get exactly what they need out of their practice, regardless of their level of expertise or experience.  Mysore is meant to be incorporated into a daily routine with days off only on Saturdays, new and full moons (at least until Lululemon releases it’s rumored werewolf line…).

Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal…. But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for worldly gain. ~ Pattabhi Jois

Anything can be achieved with practice and time.  Pattabhi Jois practiced his own form of yoga until his death in 2009, at the ripe old age of 93.  He had a strong following that continues to grow, as more and more people experience, and get hooked on, Mysore yoga.

This yoga should be practiced with firm determination and perseverance, without any mental reservation or doubts.  ~ The Bhagavad Gita.

The only way to truly convince yourself of the benefits of Mysore is to give it a try.  It is so much more than just a style.  If you take the time to deepen your practice with Mysore, you’ll begin to see benefits arrive not only where twisting yourself into a human pretzel is concerned, but in all areas of your life.

The father of Mysore said it best with “Yoga means true self-knowledge.”  Take the leap.  Go deeper.  Reach farther.  Allow yourself to be lifted to higher levels.  I double downward dog dare you.

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post new Daily Cup of Yoga contributor, Reid J. Robison, MD MBA. Reid is a psychiatrist, meditation practitioner, yogi, humanitarian, and artist. He’s CEO and co-founder of a venture-backed tech company called Tute Genomics, and is on a crusade to personalize medicine. As a father of five kids, including particularly lively 6-year-old twins, Reid uses mindfulness meditation and yoga to stay sane in our fast-paced, tech-crazed society and find stillness and clarity for the soul. You can find him occasionally plugged into the grid online through Instagram or Twitter.

5 Ways for Urban Yogis to Live Their Yoga

urban yogiAHIMSA - Yoga Sutra Chapter 2 Verse 35 is one of the five Yamas, which are guidelines for how we can live in harmony with others. A traditional translation of Ahimsa means, “Do not kill or harm other people.” I’ve outlined here a more modern interpretation for today’s urban yogi.

  1. Lovingkindness

Ahimsa means that when connected to our heart we naturally share lovingkindness. Love is active and it is never too late to offer healing through loving thoughts and kind actions towards yourself and others.

  1. Compassion / Connection / Respect

In fact, we have an infinite abundance of compassion out of respect for the connection we have with all other creatures. “The greatest illusion of this world is the illusion of separation. Things you think are separate and different are actually one and the same. We are all one people.” (Avatar) Connecting to others without fear of being judged and dropping our judgment of them helps us expand beyond fear into a place of love and respect.

  1. Safety / Balance / Self-care

Fear feeds violence. Lack of safety makes us afraid (whether its real or imaginary). When we are chronically living from fear we become imbalanced. A return to balanced living is the antidote to violence. However, it requires constant sensitive adjustments to maintain. These come as a result of dedicated self-care. We all grow better in positive energy. Through this we learn the way we treat ourselves will be the way we treat others.

  1. Empathy / Choice / Forgiveness

Practicing empathy helps us to see the other person or situation with kind eyes. It changes the knee jerk reaction of fighting back. As a result we lose interest in justifying our need to be right. Ahimsa is the constant reminder of our freedom to choose between fear or love.

On the mat, we practice choosing love as a visible expression of how we do the poses. Remember your Yoga shouldn’t hurt. It is not a punishment and you are not trying to “win”. At the end of class, during savasana, we forgive ourselves for times we weren’t as compassionate as we could have been. We recognize we are imperfectly perfect, doing the best we can. Forgiving ourselves strengthens our capacity to love the full spectrum of who we are, shadow and light. This builds our empathy muscle and in turn our ability to be more easily forgiving of others off the mat.

  1. Peace

When we live in Ahimsa we’d rather be happy than right. We don’t have to prove ourselves worthy of love, we know we are love (aham prema). Our natural state of peaceful joy is how we are meant to live. It is our birthright; it is everyone’s birthright. As a result, we stop comparing and competing, we start promoting peace in all that we think, say, and do and life feels like we are on easy speed. We are at peace with our pleasure.

My experience of Ahimsa:

Personally the one thing that pulls me out of balance the most easily is over-working or simply over-doing. This inspires fear that I am powerless. As long as I make time to stay balanced by getting enough sleep, meditating daily, practicing yoga, going for walks, drawing, and relaxing then I live my Ahimsa. I’ve come to realize that the antidote is making sure to leave enough open space and free time to equally give my mind, body, and spirit time to rest before they get tired.

Just like anything else the benefits of applying Ahimsa can only be achieved if you actually practice them. Today, before you head out the door to face the day, pick two categories and really commit to creating a new pathway of lovingkindness, compassion, safety, empathy and peace.

Love yourself, love your day, love your life!
Silvia

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Screen Shot Front Silvia CardEditor’s note: This is another amazing guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.

Silvia can be reached on the Web at http://www.alchemytours.com ;or http://www.silviamordini.com, or via email at silvia@alchemytours.com. Twitter: @alchemytours@inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.

Photo credit: Manduka Yoga on Instagram

3 Reasons to be Kind

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When giving a lecture near the end of his life, author Aldous Huxley said, “People often ask me what is the most effective technique for transforming their life. It is a little embarrassing that after years and years of research and experimentation, I have to say that the best answers is – just be a little kinder.”

Kindness requires less energy. Grudges are draining because they feed distracted energy, which becomes wasted in worry, resentment, suspicion and criticism. If we call our energy back to us by being a little kinder, self-transformation happens faster. Most of all, self-kindness will change your life. 

Here are three key ways kindness promotes personal growth and transformation:

  1. Kindness heals. Studies show that being kind is a healthy response to most any situation and at the same time positively influences our capacity to heal. Studies demonstrate children thrive when treated with kindness; when facing illness patients progress their healing more quickly. And as adults in our day-to-day lives, kindness is the antidote to stress.
  2. Truly successful people are kind. Having only money doesn’t equate to success. I’m talking about someone who knows how to give and receive love, lives joyfully, and attracts abundance through unselfish acts of kindness. When I gave the eulogy at my Father’s funereal what I was most impressed by was how many people told me that he was a kind person. “Every day our eulogies are being written. Only you can develop the content for your forthcoming eulogy.” (From Winners Never Cheat). Think about what sort of legacy you want to be remembered for… How would you describe success?
  3. Kindness gives meaning to our lives. Kindness isn’t flashy. It doesn’t get reported on in print or tv as much as violence, war, and depression. And in spite of these things, because of kindness humans keep evolving. “It is tremendously important that we try to make something positive of our lives. We were not born for the purpose of causing trouble and harming others. For our life to be of value, we need to foster and nurture such basic good human qualities as warmth, kindness and compassion. If we can do that, our lives will become meaningful, happier and more peaceful; we will make a positive contribution to the world around us.” – His Holiness the Dalai Lama

When we are healed and living meaningful lives, abundance flourishes and success manifests in all ways. It may be a bit less complicated than what we make it out to be. The answer to a happier life lies in our innate power to be kind, starting with being 10% kinder to yourself. We cannot afford to continue with the negative habit of beating ourselves up. The easiest most real solution for supporting personal growth is the one you are empowered to deliver to yourself: giving yourself a break, cutting yourself some slack and being kinder in your thoughts and actions towards yourself.

Love yourself, love your day, love your life!
Silvia

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Screen Shot Front Silvia CardEditor’s note: This is another amazing guest post by Daily Cup of Yoga contributor Silvia Mordini, E-RYT, retreat leader, happiness coach, and yogipreneur. Enthusiasm to love your life is contagious around Silvia. Her expert passion connects people to their own joyful potential. Silvia lives her happiness in such a big way that you can’t help but leave her classes, workshops, trainings and retreats spiritually uplifted! Born in Ecuador, raised traveling around the globe, she is an enthusiastic citizen of the world and spiritual adventurer. She has over 10,000 hours and 15 years of teaching experience, owned a yoga studio for 9 years and after being run over by a car used yoga to recover physically and emotionally. Silvia leads Alchemy Tours Yoga Retreats and Alchemy of Yoga RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training.

Silvia can be reached on the Web at http://www.alchemytours.com ;or http://www.silviamordini.com, or via email at silvia@alchemytours.com. Twitter: @alchemytours@inspiredyogagal; Facebook: Silvia Mordini; YouTube: lovingyourday; Pinterest: Silvia Mordini; Intagram: alchemytours.

Photo credit: Manduka on Instagram

You Are What You Yoga

You Are What You YOGA for Daily Cup of Yoga

I saw an image recently of a big bowl of fresh fruits and vegetables, which had the following caption:

You Are What You Eat

So Don’t Be Fast, Cheap, Easy, or Fake

Pretty wise advice that gets right to the point in a clever way, and it got me thinking: The same thing applies when we step onto our yoga mats!

You Are What You Yoga

So slow down, don’t cheat yourself, take it easy, and stand in your truth.

Don’t be fast. You have the rest of your day to ride in the fast lane. Why not let the time you spend practicing yoga be all about decelerating? Slow down; take your time on your mat. The slower your breath, the deeper your practice. Don’t be in a rush to get into the poses. Instead, take the time to set up proper alignment first. Try stopping after each sun salutation to take a few breaths and savor it rather than rushing off to the next one.

Don’t be cheap. Be generous. Be generous with your breath and your energy, sharing it with the other people you practice with if you go to a yoga class. If you are practicing at home, don’t skip the time for savasana. Don’t cheat yourself out of a minute on your yoga mat by letting your thoughts drift to your to-do list. Stay present and grounded. Don’t be cheap in rewarding yourself; give yourself the gift of the time to reconnect with your spirit, fully present.

Don’t be easy. B.K.S. Iyengar would say that once you think you know everything there is to know about a yoga pose, that is when you stop practicing yoga. I think what he was trying to teach is don’t take the easy road. Always find new ways to challenge yourself on the yoga mat, new ways to explore the pose, to notice your body and your breath, to quiet your mind. I have done thousands of downward dogs, to the point where this pose should be easy, or even boring, but I’ll never get tired of the thrill of getting my heels a little closer to the floor, marveling at how far I’ve come on my yoga journey.

Do not aim low; you will miss the mark. Aim high, and you will be on a threshold of bliss.”
B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life

Don’t be fake. Your yoga practice should belong to you, not the person next to you. Stop trying to stack up to some picture you have in your mind of what a flexible yogi should look like. Don’t worry if you can’t touch your toes, and please don’t try to force yourself into doing so! Honor yourself. Stand tall in your truth. And be ok with modifying a pose to fit your body, or taking a resting pose when you need to take a break.

You are what you yoga, so slow down, be generous, keep growing on your journey, and be true to yourself.

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Editor’s note: This is another amazing guest post from Maria Santoferraro, E-RYT.  Maria is first and foremost a student of yoga and hails from the beautiful shores of Lake Erie, Ohio. A former marketing executive with a ‘Crackberry’ addiction, she now enjoys spending her time teaching yoga on the beach, leading “I Am Love” yoga retreats around the world, creating cool yoga workshops and meditation videos for HangTen Meditation. Go from stressed out to blissed out on her blog The Daily Downward DogTwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Join Maria this coming April for Beach Yoga Bliss in Aruba, a yoga, meditation, and SUPYoga retreat on Eagle Beach at Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa or her I Am Love Yoga Retreat in Santorini, Greece.

Who Owns Yoga? The people!…and the documentary is pretty interesting too…

Trying to answer the question, “Who owns yoga?” this Al Jazeera documentary is a pretty fascinating look at current trends in the yoga community, highlighting the variety and creativity of the modern yoga practice (which sort of drives me crazy sometimes, but to each their own…) as well as the tension between the ancient spiritual practice and the ancient never-ending desire to make a buck.

The documentary’s apparently been out for a few months, so perhaps you’ve already seen it, but I just came across it last night on Yoga International’s website and thought I’d share in case it hadn’t hit your radar. If you’re interested in yoga, it’s pretty entertaining from start to finish and includes a great cast of characters from the modern yoga community.