Archive for June, 2006

Want to Try Mysore-Style Classes?

Despite prior knowledge of the Primary Series and taking a few years worth of led classes and even though I knew the teachers I’d be practicing with quite well, I was still a little nervous about participating in the Mysore-style classes for the first time.

Mysore-style classes turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. If you’ve hesitated, I just want to take a brief moment to say, JUST DO IT!

The individual adjustments and the friendly community in the Mysore-style classes motivated me to attend regularly, and the regular practice and advances I made made me want to practice even more.

In Mysore-style class, each student starts the Ashtanga yoga sequence whenever she arrives and the teacher walks around adjusting students as needed. It’s a silent class and students practice at their own pace.


a Mysore class at Yoga is Youthfulness, Mountain View, California

My main fear in trying a Mysore-style class was that I wouldn’t remember the sequence of postures. I did forget the sequence a few times, however Philippe has assured me that no one has ever been kicked out of a Mysore-style class for forgetting a posture.

Fortunately, the teachers at the Yoga Is Youthfulness studio in Mountain View, California have written a friendly and thorough description of Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga, which is just right for curious or apprehensive Ashtangis.


Morning Mysore at YiY

The description is based on the following poem, written by a YiYer:

In Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga
Postures are given
One by one
By the teacher
In charge.

I recently started taking Mysore-style classes at the new YogaStudio San Francisco with Catherine Shaddix. If you have the opportunity to visit, do – it’s a stunningly beautiful studio and the class is great. More on that later.

Please share your thoughts on Mysore-style class for the benefit of hesitant Ashtangis by leaving a comment.

Comments (3)


  1. susan said,

    June 30, 2006 at 9:43 pm

    Mysore rocks.
    Led, not so much.

  2. Julie said,

    July 1, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    Actually I was really scared to try Mysore at first too. I had had a bad experience very early in my ashtanga practice with a Mysore teacher and thought that all Mysore classes would be like that. It took me a good while and the encouragement of students at my studio that I was taking led classes with to finally get me to go. My first day I ended up with my mat between a 4th series practitioner and a 2nd series practitioner!!! Talk about intimidation… but, in the end, as is obvious by my practice now, the energy of the room, the sailing with your own breath, the beauty of the traditional practice has won me over.

    I truly believe that the practice is different if you are practicing Mysore… and, as the post says, JUST DO IT.

  3. Sue said,

    July 4, 2006 at 7:54 pm

    For me, Mysore-style practice rules. Being able to follow your own breath as opposed to the teacher’s count is what makes it so very good, no more complaining about the count being too fast, too slow or too irregular.

    You’re able to focus on your own practice more, rather than focus on listening to the teacher’s count and instructions and you can spend a little more time on the parts of practice that are your “weak points”.

    Mysore-style practice is all good. I can’t praise it enough!

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The Anxiety-Inducing Effect of Ujjayi Breathing: Health Benefits of Yoga (part 2)

From a medical perspective, Uddiyana Bandha (the abdominal lock) combined with Ujjayi breath (the breath we use in Ashtanga yoga) should in theory increase anxiety.

The Ujjayi and uddiyana bandha practices are the virtually the opposite of what anxious patients are taught in order to reduce their mental anxiety. From the perspective of western medicine, the therapeutic mechanism of Ujjayi breathing and uddiyana bandha may be through a kind of behavioral conditioning… beginning Ashtanga yoga practitioners are frequently exposed to anxiety-inducing moments of chest-breathing and oxygen-hunger, wondering “how can I get enough air … I’m going to explode!” This repetitive exposure to a stressful situation conditions the practitioner to other physiologically stressful situations.

While much of the research and anecdote indicates that yoga does have a calming, focusing effect, I have seen little that explains how such stress inducing breath could lead to such benefits.

Richard Peterson, a psychiatrist and Ashtangi, in his thorough article called The Healing Psychology of Ashtanga Yoga developed a compelling theory.

Yoga practitioners who are breathing smoothly and shallowly though their noses, while simultaneously experiencing a racing heart and air-hunger, are training their bodies and minds to react smoothly and calmly when they are in a similar physiologic state in another context. For example, a non-yogi who is terrified of public speaking, and who has no practice with controlling racing thoughts and shortness of breath before a speech, is likely to perform poorly when compared to a similarly terrified speaker who is a yogi. The yogi has successful experience working through these same feelings in yoga practice.


Rich enjoys one of the therapeutic
effects of visiting Mysore

In this article, Richard uses his extensive medical education to theorize about possible psychological effects of Ashtanga. He also cites 36 sources; 28 of these are from scientific studies or medical journals. Because of his educational background, because he cites his sources and because of his scientific approach, I have confidence in Richard’s conclusions and think his article is a great resource.

Plus, Richard has written this article out of his love of and curiousity about Ashtanga and psychiatry; he’s not earning money from yoga therapy or anything like that. To top it all, how many medical articles end with “Practice, and all is coming”?


Rich Peterson, Mysore 2004

About Rich Peterson: I’m currently practicing with John Berlinsky and Lea Watkins at YogaStudio Mill Valley (California). I go about 2 times per week currently, down from 4x/week following the birth of our baby girl 5 months ago. My wife and I trade baby sitting duties. I learned Ashtanga in Mysore in 2004 at AYRI. Our blog from that trip is here and the Mysore section is here.

Comments (8)


  1. Lauren said,

    June 22, 2006 at 9:59 am

    Sorry – I don’t get the title…Anxety INDUCING??? Or do you mean REDUCING? When I saw INDUCING, I thought it was going to be a reprint of the article about yoga in prison….

  2. nnaera said,

    June 23, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    your blog is very nice …keep posting!!

  3. tracy said,

    June 25, 2006 at 11:28 pm

    Thanks, nnaera!

  4. philippe said,

    June 26, 2006 at 5:15 pm

    Lauren, what Richard was trying to do was explain this apparent paradox: how can ujjayi breath have a calming effect when in fact it should be adding stress (from a medical point view)?

    When doctors are trying to make patients relax, they instruct them to do almost the opposite of ujjayi. Richard is trying to explain why ujjayi can in fact have a calming effect despite appearances to the contrary. Hence the title of our post.

    Hopefully this makes sense.

  5. Lauren said,

    June 27, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    Yes! Makes perfect sense…I don’t know why I got confused!


  6. dhineshkumar said,

    June 16, 2008 at 3:53 am

    nice and useful dear…. keep blogging.

  7. Rach said,

    December 29, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Thanks for this. I am not sure if this is what happened to be but I did a few Ujjayi breathing exercises today. First I got quite hot then all day I have been very anxious. I thought it might have been because of the hip opening I did yesterday but could it be this?

    If so, I will not be doing it again. I have never felt this anxious and crazy in my life. I am good at controlling my nerves and anxiety with breath and to your example am good in public speaking scenarios.

    If I want to relax, I don’t want to feel nervous as a way to learn to combat nerves. I am most confused by this.

  8. bradd said,

    May 18, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I think the point here is that combining ujjai with uddi may force chest breathing — a kind of breathing which in fact does create heat, increase the heart rate and elicit a rajasic response. It is possible to do uddi and still breathe into the lower back, thus mitigating the problem. If they combine a soft ujjai with chest breathing and slow movement, they create antagonistic effects that may help to balance each other out. If the ujjai is strong and harsh, the uddi strong, mula applied as well, and the breathing restricted to the chest, you can expect to burn out in a fairly short period of time.

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