About Mysore

  1. a city in southern India, Karnataka State.
  2. a format of ashtanga yoga class.

Pronounced as in: “My sore back is what got me into yoga.” or “Boy am I sore.” (Both phrases are among those people in Mysore class occasionally mutter.)


For anyone walking into their first Mysore class, it’s somewhat the same:

You start out with the idea of getting a good stretch, a little bit of a work-out among friends, some calming vibes and maybe even adding some depth to your yoga. So you head out with a spirit of adventure to try out Mysore class. Reality is radically altered when you open the door and step into the studio.

It’s mostly quiet in the room and there are people in all sorts of different and contorted postures. The teacher is standing in front of one guy dropping him over into a backbend, while someone else is hanging upside down by their hips from a rope contraption along the back wall. The sound and pulsation of breath, the serious expression on people’s faces, the abundance of sweat, the fact that everyone (except you) seems to know exactly what’s going on is enough to drive anyone away for years.

The natural urge is to dash back outside before calling 911 on behalf of the lady who’s on her back in the corner, apparently collapsed and praying due to the fact that her leg was ripped off before someone stuffed it back behind her head.

Whether here in Boulder, or in any number of other cities around the world; seeing a Mysore style class in progress for the first time definitely leaves an impression! But once you understand what’s actually going on and dare to test drive one yourself, you may find it an amazing forum for cultivating a transformative yoga practice.

Let us introduce you to Mysore class. Check out the FAQs and learn about this style of practice and of yoga class.

The process of yoga is really working when, all of a sudden, one starts to see infinity.
Richard Freeman
  • Pattabhi Jois Adjusting Richard
    Pattabhi Jois adjusting Richard in Paschimatasana while he was teaching at the Yoga Workshop in 1989.

    What is mysore?

    This style of class is modeled after the ashtanga yoga classes in Mysore, India taught by our primary teacher the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Mysore class provides an opportunity for students to develop a “self practice,” which is an integral part of the ashtanga system. Students work independently on the particular series of postures that is most appropriate for them. The teacher assists, adjusts and may quietly discuss particular difficulties or concerns with individual students during class.

  • Susan Adjusting Billy
    Self practice puts the onus on the student to keep focus internal, to push themselves just enough, and not too much and to pay close attention to feelings, thoughts and sensations as they arise.

    What is the structure of the class?

    At the beginning of class the teacher leads the students in the opening chant. Ten minutes before the official end time of class, students all take the corpse pose together. After this final pose, students sit up and again the teacher leads the class in the closing chant.

    Sometime students come a bit early to class and begin warming up with stretches or sun salutations before the class begins. However when the teacher announces the opening chant, they come back to standing and chant with the group.

    If a student finishes their practice early, they practice at least a ten minute corpse pose before quietly leaving. Some students may also arrive late to class in which case they enter quietly and set up their practice space.

  • Group Mysore
    A group MySore class.

    If there’s no teacher leading the postures, how do people know what to do during class?

    The ashtanga vinyasa system of yoga is based on a number of specific series of postures that are practiced on a regular basis and which are learned over the course of time. Beginning with the “primary series,” students gradually work through and memorize the sequence of postures. After becoming proficient in one series, the next series is slowly introduced into the practice a few postures at a time. In this way, yoga becomes a “practice” which is done individually (like meditation, or running or playing the piano) through which the joining of the two ends of the breath, feelings, thoughts and sensations may be observed.

  • Cheat Sheet
    We call ‘em cheat sheets and they’re in the top drawer.

    What if I forget what comes next in a series?

    The basic pattern no matter what series is the same. The practice always begins with 3-5 of both sun salutations (suryanamaskara A and B). This is followed by the same sequence of standing postures. Next the postures that are contained within a particular series are practiced. This is followed, no matter what series has been practiced, by the full backbend and the same sequence of finishing postures — shoulder stand, head stand etc. Finally there is a minimum of a 10 minute corpse pose.

    That’s why, when you first go into a Mysore class it can seem confusing; like people are just doing their own thing or are doing random postures. But once you understand the basic structure of the series, it starts to make sense.

  • Utkatasana
    The internal forms and pattern of breath are the same for all series and all postures. Cultivating this part of the practice is the root of the meditative quality that naturally unfolds.

    What are the different series like?

    The basic pattern no matter what series is the same. The practice always begins with 3-5 of both sun salutations (suryanamaskara A and B). This is followed by the same sequence of standing postures. Next the postures that are contained within a particular series are practiced. This is followed, no matter what series has been practiced, by the full backbend and the same sequence of finishing postures—shoulder stand, head stand etc. Finally there is a minimum of a 10 minute corpse pose.

    That’s why, when you first go into a Mysore class it can seem confusing; like people are just doing their own thing or are doing random postures. But once you understand the basic structure of the series, it starts to make sense.

  • Class photo
    The series inform one another, so that when you’ve moved on to the next series it’s always advisable to continue to practice the preceding series as well.

    What if I’m practicing more than one series?

    Students who regularly practice more than one series often alternate between series for a more balanced practice. A traditional method for learning new series is to add one or two postures onto the end of the series you’re practicing until you’ve added the entire next series. Of course this isn’t always possible time or energy wise, but when it works, it’s a great way to learn the next series.

  • Yoga pose

    Why are there series, why not just do what feels good day to day?

    Different series are designed to address different and particular aspects of an integrated yoga practice. The primary series, for example, is grounding; the intermediate series is said to “clean the nadis” or calm the nervous system, and the advanced series develops core strength.

    Following the prescribed sequence serves several functions. First, the series are designed to prepare the body for the postures that follow. Becoming grounded through the primary series makes the practitioner ready to begin opening into deep backbends (which are in the intermediate series) without becoming mentally scattered, emotionally imbalanced, or ego driven—which can happen if back bending is practiced without proper grounding.

    Also, following a series insures that the less appealing postures are part of the repertoire. It’s always a temptation to skip postures we don’t like and often these postures are the very ones that will actually benefit us the most.

    Finally, by doing the same sequences repeatedly and by practicing on a regular basis—ideally every day—the rhythmic and meditative form of the practice characteristic of ashtanga yoga automatically arises.

  • Legs
    Once you practice on a regular basis you may start seeing things that look a little out of the ordinary. Don’t worry.

    How often is it recommended to attend mysore class?

    Different series are designed to address different and particular aspects of an integrated yoga practice. The primary series, for example, is grounding; the intermediate series is said to “clean the nadis” or calm the nervous system, and the advanced series develops core strength.

    Following the prescribed sequence serves several functions. First, the series are designed to prepare the body for the postures that follow. Becoming grounded through the primary series makes the practitioner ready to begin opening into deep backbends (which are in the intermediate series) without becoming mentally scattered, emotionally imbalanced, or ego driven—which can happen if back bending is practiced without proper grounding.

    Also, following a series insures that the less appealing postures are part of the repertoire. It’s always a temptation to skip postures we don’t like and often these postures are the very ones that will actually benefit us the most.

    Finally, by doing the same sequences repeatedly and by practicing on a regular basis—ideally every day—the rhythmic and meditative form of the practice characteristic of ashtanga yoga automatically arises.

  • Arms
    Students follow their own pace and rhythm of breath for a smooth, complete practice.

    Mysore class is so long, how on earth can people practice yoga for four hours straight?

    Morning Mysore classes do run for four hours, but you’re not expected to be there the entire time—in fact it’s not advised. We open the studio over a long enough period of time to provide ample opportunity for early birds and late risers (relatively late, that is) to attend class.

    Most students practice for about 1½ to 2 hours which is the amount of time it usually takes to complete a full series. However students who are on a tight schedule, who are working with a therapeutic loop to help with an injury, or those who are new to ashtanga yoga often practice a partial series or an alternative sequence which may only take 45 minutes or so.

  • Mysore class
    It’s part of the routine for people to leave when they’ve finished savasana even if others are still practicing.

    If i am only practicing for 1 hour, what am i supposed to do for the rest of the time during class?

    If you have a shorter practice, you plan your attendance for that. Even though we start and end the class as a group, students come and go during class. If you are not there for the opening invocation chant (that’s how we begin the class), then you simply chant silently by yourself (if you so choose) and begin your practice once you’re settled on your mat. If you finish your practice before the official end of class time, then it’s fine to quietly roll up your mat and leave—so long as you leave before the beginning of the group savasana so as not to disturb others while they’re in the corpse. Group savasana begins about 12 minutes before the official ending time of the class and teachers start announcing how soon savasana is scheduled to start so that if you need to leave early you’ll have time to gather your belongings and leave without disturbing the class.

    In any case, during the morning practice, all students have a shorter practice than the full class time. Some arrive right when the doors open and leave within an hour. Others arrive later and finish just as the class ends. It’s set up to be a fluid system that will accommodate the needs of students in all phases of their practice.

  • The movement or the intertwining of in-breath and out-breath, or prana and apana, will reveal to us our conditioning. Nothing reveals conditioning as quickly as certain kinds of yoga. It’s always amusing to see people walk in to the studio off the street, particularly in Boulder where people are so athletic and pre-enlightened. They have it together and about two sun salutations into the class, people start undergoing crises. Their self-image begins to crumble. What happens is that when you begin to join prana and apana, the knots, or those areas in the body and mind in which the mind has become attached to a particular set of sensations and repulsed by a complementary set of sensations, begin to reveal themselves and may even begin to unravel! Crisis!
    Richard Freeman
  • Mysore buddy program
    A good way to start is with a friend. Check out our Mysore Buddy program.

    I’ve never been to a mysore class, is it ok to just show up?

    Yes! That’s actually a great way to begin the practice. It’s helpful if you have some idea about what ashtanga yoga is, but even if you’re not sure you’re up to speed or just want to dive in, beginners are always welcome.

    Some students find it helpful to attend guided classes at the studio to get a sense of the ashtanga system before checking out Mysore. And we offer intro courses on a regularly scheduled basis that are very helpful. But it is not a pre-requisite to attend one of the courses or other classes if you want to try a Mysore class.

    Also, watching Richard’s DVD’s, or looking through David Swenson’s asana book gives you a good basic understanding.

  • The basics
    The basics; breathing, bandhas, mudra and dristi.

    What is the “basic understanding” you’re talking about?

    This means an understanding of how the breath, gaze and movement are coordinated, as well as an understanding of the basic pattern of the series (starting with sun salutations and ending with the corpse).

  • Hands
    Following the rhythm of the breath with movements keeps the practice smooth and meditative. Inhale reach up hands together, exhale fold forward...

    What’s up with the breathing?

    One central aspect of the ashtanga system is the ujjayi breathing — a sound that is made by breathing with the lips closed and gently closing the back of the throat. It’s kind of like whispering. Sometimes people get overly enthusiastic and may begin to breathe with too much force, but generally it is a smooth, even and non-aggressive sounding breath. The breath is intended to be a means of capturing the mind and inviting the practitioner into a state of meditation while encouraging the movements to be smooth.

  • Supta
    The teacher paces the assist with the student’s quality and timing of the breath.

    How do you know when to inhale and when to exhale in a pose?

    As a general rule, inhaling (prana) is associated with expansive, opening, spreading, lifting types of movements. Exhaling (apana) is associated with contracting, dropping, grouding and curling types of movements.

  • dristi
    Nasagra dristi means the gaze is down the nose which encourages softness throughout the body and a momentary release of the thinking function.

    What does “dristi” mean?

    Each pose has a preferred gazing point (dristi). The gaze is soft and focused, never gripping nor darting. The gazing point most frequently used is gently along the line of the nose, though some postures may have a gaze at the fingertips, the eyebrows or the horizon.

  • adjusting breathing
    The teacher adjusts in time with the rhythm and breath of the to the student’s practice.

    Why are there so many Mysore classes at the Yoga Workshop?

    Because the root of the ashtanga system is self practice and it’s at a Mysore style class that students have the opportunity to develop a self practice.

  • Richard teaching
    Self-practice in Mysore class provides the opportunity to ask teachers questions directly.

    What’s so great about a "self-practice?"

    Because you don’t have someone outside of yourself directing you as to what you should be doing, the responsibility falls squarely on the practitioner to practice with authenticity and intelligence. This form of introspective practice allows you to observe the feelings, thoughts and sensations that arise during the practice and to gradually stop grasping the pleasant experiences while rejecting the unpleasant ones. It allows you to cultivate a visceral understanding of change and impermanence and meditation automatically arises.

  • Susan standing on David.
    A good assist is just the right intensity.

    I’ve heard assists in Mysore class can be extreme. is this true and what if I have an injury, will I get injured through an assist?

    Assists in yoga are intended to help educate the practitioner about correct alignment and form so they may embody the more subtle internal aspects of the practice. Sometimes assists can be aimed at giving the student a physical experience of what a posture might feel like or how to work towards being able to do the posture. Verbal assists give the student a more clear understanding of the form or the benefits of the pose. Some assists might seem extreme while others are very subtle. Teachers at the Yoga Workshop always work with students where they’re at and we do not push people beyond their limit. Self practice is a way for student and teacher to work in concert together, but ultimately in self practice, it is your practice. So please, if you have an injury, be certain to tell the teacher. Poses and assists can always be modified to accommodate an injury and to facilitate healing.

  • Ashtanga toe
    The ultimate ashtanga fashion statement.

    What’s up with the toe tape?

    It’s not uncommon to see students with tape wrapped around their big toes. We call it “Ashtanga Toe” since it seems to be a world-wide phenomenon. It’s a phase all ashtanga feet seem to go through periodically. Probably due to the number of jump backs in a series in combination with the practitioner’s individual circumstances, a tiny bit of skin on the pad of the big toe pops loose. It hurts to practice on, so wrapping the toe with strong, waterproof tape during practice does the trick. After a few days the toe usually heals. Preemptively, a pumice stone to the toe before it even happens usually keeps it at bay.

  • Hijinks
    Innocent passerby at the Yoga Workshop one Sunday afternoon when a number of our Mysore teachers couldn't resist one more assist.

    Who teaches mysore classes?

    We have a number of Mysore teachers, all of whom practice regularly in the Mysore style — many of them practicing daily at the studio. The morning sessions are split into two 2-hour segments so both teachers can practice and teach which is very helpful for maintaining the practice. You can read about our teachers on our teacher bios page.

  • Usually there’s about a three-month love affair with yoga. “I feel so good.” After about two months of practice, people think they are practically enlightened. Then usually around the third month, something happens and the yoga actually starts to work. And the first thing the ego structure does is to look for an escape route. People start heading for the door just at the moment when they should stay. It’s like steaming vegetables. Just when the steam gets hot, people want to pull off the lid, talk about it and try another recipe.
    Richard Freeman
  • Yoga assists
    Part of what makes Mysore class educational is that students of all levels practice together and the group sense is very supportive.

    Who practices at Mysore class?

    All sorts of people from beginners to long-time practitioners practice in the Mysore classes. The ashtanga system is perfect for young, athletically oriented people. At the same time this practice is something that can benefit you when you’re any age and at any phase of health. You’ll find that any given class has a wide range of age, experience, flexibility and strength in attendance.

    It can appear when you first walk into class that everyone is advanced, because people seem to know what they’re doing and because they are practicing on their own, but many beginning students practice in Mysore classes.

  • Joking around
    There’s always room to laugh and even the teachers sometimes joke around.

    I went to a Mysore class and it seemed like everyone was so serious. What’s up with that?

    Mostly it’s that people are focused and concentrating rather than that they’re overly serious or grumpy. When you’re brand new to Mysore, it can definitely seem that people are too serious, but once you notice that everyone is struggling with their own mind (and sometimes their body as well), you begin to see that it’s not seriousness, competitiveness or bad mood that most people are experiencing. Rather it’s that they’re focusing on what they’re doing!

  • Richard assisting
    Finding the appropriate practice for you is at the root of the ashtanga system” and Ropes; “Work with props sometimes helps when warming up before practice.” and Billy Goofy; “Most of all, enjoy yourself!

    Mysore classes at the Yoga Workshop are not as traditional as some other studios, why?

    At our studio Mysore classes are slightly different for a few reasons. First, we have a number of Mysore teachers (some studios have only one or maximum two teachers). We like this for two main reasons; first by alternating teachers all of our teachers have ample time to practice fully each day and this means our teachers don’t burn out or get injured themselves through an imbalanced practice.

    Having multiple teachers means that students don’t always work with the same teacher every time they practice which is less traditional. However we find that this helps students become more self dependent and responsible for their own practice.

    In some studios students are “given” the next posture by their teacher, and may not practice a series beyond the most recent posture they have been given. Partly due to having more than one teacher and partly because we wish to give the responsibility of the practice to each students, we are less strict with this than some studios. However we do not encourage students to practice beyond their capability of focus, strength and flexibility. We encourage students to stop when they have reached their limit in a series, but also we sometimes work with students to intelligently go beyond a challenging posture which can, in the end, help with the challenging posture that is causing a block. We never encourage students to breeze through a series or skip postures they cannot do.

    Our Mysore teachers meet as a group on a regular basis in order to help us as teachers to be able to offer a coordinated approach for students. At our Mysore meetings we discuss difficulties students might be having with particular postures as well as thoughts and insights we as teachers have into how to teach certain poses. So we try to keep abreast of what each student’s needs are so that we can help the students from our own experience as well as with the group effort.

    Students are encouraged to inquire with the teachers when they have questions or if they want to begin doing new and different poses.

  • Thomas
    Students slowly add postures, sometimes temporarily using props as self assists, as a way of safely learning what’s next.

    How do students know it’s time to move on to a new posture or to start a new series?

    Students work with the teachers individually to determine when it is appropriate from them to move on, modify or experiment with new postures.

  • catavri
    Catavri, jumping through, jumping back—more strength and flexibility come with time and consistent practice.

    I feel so weak! I’m not good at jumping back into catavri and certainly can’t jump through to sitting. Do I need to be able to do these moves in order to practice in the mysore setting?

    Join the club! No, you don’t need to be able to do any of these things in order to begin Mysore class. In fact most people can’t do these moves when they first start practicing at Mysore classes. But with time, many of these things just naturally come. That’s why it’s called practice.

  • prasarita
    Teachers are always on the lookout for those who need help and it’s fine to wave the teacher down if they don’t notice your predicament.

    What if I don’t know what to do in a class? Can I call a teacher over during class?

    If you don’t know what to do next, you can use a “cheat sheet” (they’re in the top drawer under the sign in book), or by all means never hesitate to call a teacher over. That’s what the teacher is there for. Teachers are used to scanning the room to see who needs help, so usually if you just stop in your practice the teacher will immediately notice. And of course if you feel you need something, you can always wave the teacher over.

    It is not advised to walk over to the teacher to get their attention—but they’ll see you if you just signal them when they’re between helping other students.

  • Hands on yoga mats
    Practice becomes easier the more you do it!

    I feel like when I practice by myself I get stuck and I think too much. I get out of the flow. Should I just go to guided classes instead?

    When first beginning a self practice it can be difficult to stay focused. That’s one of the benefits of memorizing the sequence within a series; by knowing what posture comes next and by simply keeping moving, the mind doesn’t have as much of an opportunity to wander.

    Keeping the gaze steady, the tongue soft and palate released, by keeping the movement coordinated with the breathing, and by coming back again and again to the sound of the breath the mind gradually begins to release and relax and drop in.

    Cultivating a meditative form of practice takes time and patience, but it is well worth it and cannot ever happen in a guided class to the depth that it can when doing self practice.

  • In the practice of pranayama you start stretching the breath, slicing and dicing it in different ways and turning the breath inside out on itself. In this way you really sharpen the mind. You remove the covering of light, so that the mind then naturally and easily goes into mediation.
    Richard Freeman
  • Moon
    Moon days provide time for rest between rigorous days of practice which is especially important if, as is traditional in the ashtanga system, you practice six days a week.

    Why is there no mysore practice on moon days?

    It’s part of the traditional approach to take time off during the new and full moons. This is partly due to the Indian astrological belief that it is not auspicious to do certain things on moon days. Because we are part of this lineage, we have chosen to honor the moon days in this way.

    In addition, once you practice on a daily basis (six days a week is recommended), you’ll notice that being invited to take a day off is a luxury. The body can rest (after all the ashtanga practice is physically demanding) and on moon days you feel like you have a huge chunk of unspoken for “free time” when you’re used to daily practice.

  • Meditation
    Sitting meditation and pranayama are part of a traditional ashtanga practice.

    Is it ok to do sitting practice or pranayama before or after asana practice?

    Yes. It is advisable to separate the asana practice and pranayama practice by at least 45 minutes. If you are coupling pranayama and asana, it is probably best to do the asana first and after about 45 minutes to practice pranayama. Sitting can be practiced immediately before or after asana if desired. Spreading the practices out over the course of the day—some in the morning some in the later afternoon is a good solution if time and scheduling permits.

    However if your yoga, pranayama and sitting practices begin to infringe on your “real life” (eg your work, your family and other responsibilities), then you might be getting addicted to your practice in an unhealthy way. Yoga practice should make you more normal, more ordinary and more able to function in a healthy way in the world.