Walk into a Mysore class and you may have no idea where to start.
There is no formal beginning, no call to order, no explanation of what comes next. The class is silent except for even, sometimes labored, breathing. There is no iPod playlist, no calls for “downward dog!” and none of the announcements in a typical yoga session.
Mysore yoga is an individual practice within a group setting. Students do a set of poses in a prescribed order with a specified stopping point, as determined by the instructor. The poses, called “asanas,” are divided into six series; most students stay within the first two series, called primary and intermediate.
Students new to Mysore (even those with an established yoga practice) are given a short set of poses to do before they are sent home with instructions to come back the next day. And the following day. And the day after that.
“It’s the yoga of rules,” said Peg Mulqueen, a teacher who leads Mysore classes at Flow Yoga Center in Logan Circle and Ashtanga Yoga Studio DC in the Palisades. “It’s not just that Mysore is growing as a whole, it’s growing in D.C. And it’s increasing quicker and bigger than any other yoga practice.”
Mysore is named for the city in India where the style of yoga was originally taught. Sri K. Pattabi Jois, also known as Guruji, was the original teacher and acquired a worshipful status among his students. After Guruji died in 2009, his grandson Sharath continued teaching in his place. To have practiced yoga with either is considered a great honor.
Keith Moore would know. He has made five trips to India for intensive Mysore study.
“It’s a style of teaching that has been passed down from teacher to student,” said Moore, who founded Ashtanga Yoga Studio DC. Moore said some yogis are drawn to Mysore because they are tired of distractions — such as music and an instructor’s conversation — in other yoga classes.
“Students want to take away the pop yoga,” Moore said. “They just want to practice.”Growing in D.C.
Fifteen years ago, David Ingalls opened the Ashtanga Yoga Center in Tenleytown and brought Mysore to D.C. for the first time. By 2011, three studios in the area offered Mysore. Today, there are six. (By comparison, the Philadelphia area has only two yoga studios that offer Mysore.)
And D.C.’s Mysore offerings continue to expand.
In January 2012, Flow Yoga Center debuted a thrice-weekly Mysore program. Within the year, class size had doubled. Flow upped the classes to five days a week and is considering adding a sixth. Little River Yoga opened in Arlington in 2011; within a year, its Mysore program had tripled, according to Tova Steiner, one of Little River’s Mysore teachers. Moore’s AYSDC opened in June of 2012 and has had such high demand that he is considering adding an afternoon Mysore program.