Mysore yoga is macho yoga. That's the realisation I came to in week three: you need superhuman powers to sustain two hours of strenuous, pre-caffeine, pre-breakfast Ashtanga yoga (yes, an empty stomach is a must).
Combining physical strength, muscle flexibility and mental alertness, Mysore Asthanga yoga requires commitment and dedication or it simply won't work.
Although Mysore self-practice is aimed at the individual, it makes a huge difference to exercise in a yoga studio with other people. In a non-competitive environment, you find inspiration from other people's practice and you feed off each other's energy. You also end up concentrating more as any mistakes you make may interfere with the silence and concentration in the room.
For example, on Sunday I practiced Mysore yoga in the park by myself after a week of group sessions at Triyoga
Chelsea. I was doing quite well until I realised that I skipped some of the poses in the sequence. The intention was not fully in the practice but more on “doing a bit of exercise”. I could see the difference in terms of the quality of the yoga postures and the sequence. When you do yoga on your own you don't get the chance to get any corrections from the instructor either.
In a traditional Mysore yoga practice, Ashtanga yoga's purifying properties can cleanse the body. Although we can't claim that Asthanga yoga is an aid in weight loss or that it speeds up the metabolism, one thing is certain: if you exercise between 3 to 5 times a week and watch what you eat you are likely to lose weight. Asthanga yoga increases the heart rate and the breathing, causing sweating and boosting the blood and lymphatic circulation. If you only exercise occasionally you may not be able to shift a noticeable amount of body weight, so a disciplined approach is essential. Because Asthanga yoga combines aerobic exercise with muscle building (you use your own body weight as resistance) good results can be achieved within 6 months. In fact, it normally takes 6 months to learn the full yoga sequence (only one or two poses are taught each day and only when you are ready to learn more you are shown the next posture).
An Asthanga yoga beginner should aim to do at least 30 minutes and then average at 45-60 minutes per session. At intermediate level you can build up to 90 minutes to 2 hours. At advanced level 2 hours up to 3 hours. If you are totally new to yoga try going 3 times a week for 45 minutes and commit to a whole 30 days so this new routine becomes second nature. Exercising will become as natural as breathing and brushing your teeth.
Mysore requires that you exercise on an empty stomach for a full cleansing effect. This is the best way to energise the body in the morning and to achieve mental clarity before worries, anxieties and to do lists start clouding the mind. This type of yoga can give you extra vitality and make you better equipped to face the challenges that the day brings. My personal coping mechanism to start the working day with gusto after the yoga class is to treat myself to either a full English breakfast or coffee and cake in one of the lovely cafes in Chelsea
. Still a long way to go to become a yoga bunny...
Paola Bassanese is founder and lead therapist at Energya. She is writing a weekly diary on her yoga challenge at Triyoga 372 King's Road, Chelsea, SW3.