The Mysore Experience: The Heart of Ashtanga Yoga

By Lindsay Nova Calvert
Published: March 4, 2020
Key Takeaways

I have been to India many times, but this was my first trip to Mysore, and I fell in love with its calm, gentle energy.

Source: Ninelutsk

I had always been drawn to Ashtanga vinyasa yoga since I completed my first yoga teacher training in 2007. I taught myself the primary series in 2012 and soon began attending lead-style classes, which eventually lead to practicing Mysore-style the following year.


I ended up stopping the practice for many years, but managed to drop into some practices with teachers in Mexico, Hungary, India, and Thailand as I traveled the world.

When I finally decided it was time to deepen my practice and understanding of this method, I signed up for a 300-hour yoga teacher training in the heart of Ashtanga, Mysore, India.


The History of Mysore

Mysore is on the map for any yogic traveler as the place where Krishnamacharya taught his vinyasa system for the Maharaja in the early 1900s. It was here that he trained Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, Indra Devi, and his son T.K.V. Desikachar, who all went on to create their own renditions of his teachings on a global scale.

While Rishikesh is known as the yoga capital of the world and home to the holy River Ganges, Mysore also has its own charm and unique character that makes it special.

The city of Mysore was the capital of India for hundreds of years and the architecture and old buildings of the city reflect this with the palaces and ornate decoration. Being in Southern India, the weather is warm year-round and has distinctly unique food compared to the north of India. Some of its famous sites include the hike up Chamundi Hill to visit the temple on top or a walk through the regal Mysore Palace.


Read: Krishnamacharya: The History and Teachings of the 'Father of Modern Yoga'

What a Yoga Teacher Training Course in Mysore Is Like

To practice Ashtanga in Mysore is a dream of any Ashtanga vinyasa practitioner. The life of an Ashtangi in Mysore requires dedication and persistence with some shalas starting practice at 4:30 am.

During my time on teacher training, I practiced the primary and intermediate series, learned adjustments for asana, plus how to count in Sanskrit along with seminars in anatomy and the Patanjali Yoga Sutras.

After many years of teaching vinyasa, learning how to teach Ashtanga was very different due to its prescribed nature. However, it was absolutely fascinating to learn the methodology.

Read: The Ancient Origins of Ashtanga Yoga and Why It's Still Popular Today

The Primary Series

Ashtanga vinyasa is a systematic method of therapeutic bodywork. The primary series is called Yoga Chikitsa, which means “yoga therapy.” Every practitioner begins here.

The purpose of this series is to lengthen the spine through forward folds and open the hips in order to strengthen apanic energy, which is the downward current of energy that is responsible for elimination.

This can be related to how we release unwanted thoughts, habits, emotions, and patterns in our life. For it is only in releasing that which is holding us back that we can ever grow. Thus, the primary series gives you a solid foundation in which to be grounded in the body.

The Second Series

The second series of Ashtanga vinyasa is known as Nadi Shodhana, which means “energy purification”. This series involves more strenuous asana in the backbending, arm balance, and leg behind the head categories. For example, it includes seven headstands at the head.

It is no light matter to begin the second series!

Read: How to Choose Your First Yoga Teacher Training

My Mysore Yoga Teacher Training Experience

When I arrived in Mysore, I had been suffering from lower back pain. Within just a few weeks of practice, the pain disappeared.

My practice in Mysore transformed, from getting deeper adjustments to strengthening my spinal muscles in the second series, and learning how to practice in a more balanced way.

Over the years, I found many details to be skipped over in the classes I had taken, such as how to get in and out of a pose properly. By taking this teacher training, I was able to refine how I jump back and through on each side for each pose with the appropriate leg in front so as to create more stability in my hips and abdominals.

This information is priceless!

I have been to India many times, but this was my first trip to Mysore and I fell in love with its calm, gentle energy. I decided after the completion of my course to stay in Mysore for two more months practicing.

I had truly begun to feel the therapeutic benefits of the Ashtanga vinyasa system and realized that it is best experienced through the regular practice and application of the sequence.

My understanding now is that it is the sequence itself, in addition to the application of the tristhana method, which utilizes the three forces of the breath, bandha (energy lock), and dristhi (gaze point) within every posture, that makes the Ashtanga vinyasa system so transformative.

On the outside, it can look like an intense physical practice, but actually, with the application of these three forces within every pose, it is essentially creating a mudra within the body to channel kundalini shakti energy for awakening and self-realization.

To fully benefit from the practice, it must be performed as daily sadhana, not just every once in a blue moon.

Read: Kundalini Shakti: The Meaning of the Sleeping Serpent

Choosing Your Mysore Shala

The famous area where most of the yoga shalas are located is called Gokulam. Here you can also find many cute cafés and health food stores. This area is also more Westernized than other parts of the city, as many yoga tourists congregate here.

There are a variety of shalas to practice in Mysore and in Gokulam in particular. Most shalas require a commitment of one month, but some do allow drop-ins. Additionally, there are many courses in pranayama, backbending, and more as well.

Listed below are some shala suggestions:

1. Sharat Yoga Centre

This is run by Sharat Jois, the grandson of Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois.

2. KPJAY Shala

Here you can practice with Saraswathi Jois, who is Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois’ daughter.

3. Ashtanga Saadhana

This shala is a very popular shala run by Vijay Kumar.

4. Prana Vashya

If you want a break from Ashtanga, you can learn the dynamic style of yoga created by Vinay Kumar, Vijay’s older brother. He is also well-known for his backbending and pranayama classes.

5. Mysore Mandala Yogashala

Offering classes in traditional Ashtanga and Hatha, this is also the location where the 94-year old Guruji BNS Iyengar teaches his unique pranayama and mudra classes. He is a direct disciple of Krishnamacharya. This shala is located in Lakshmipuram.

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Lindsay Nova Calvert

Lindsay Nova's life mission is to help others find their wings and FLY! As a full-time traveling aerial yoga teacher, she loves spreading the joy of yoga and aerial all over the world through her specially curated teacher training immersion programs that cultivate positive transformation.

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