Wednesday, January 24, 2018

"Mysore" Pilates

I feel fortunate that my first introduction to Yoga occurred within a culture of daily practice. At the Minneapolis Yoga Workshop, the very first classes introduced students to the power of personal practice, and provided the resources necessary to embody it. In hindsight, I realized that William Prottengeier's dedication to personal practice was unique, and I'm forever grateful that I was steeped in his Yoga-culture.

While my yogasana-orbit ultimately led me away from the Iyengar system, I landed in another system that emphasized personal practice - the Ashtanga Vinyasa community. While I did attend some guided Ashtanga classes, most of my training in Ashtanga Yoga occurred within the context of Mysore-classes.

Mysore is the city in South India where modern yoga sprang forth. In the Ashtanga culture of Mysore, students sequentially learned the series under the direct guidance of their teacher - what's called a Mysore class. When the teacher ascertained that the student was ready to move forward, they instructed the student in the next-step in the series that was being practiced. In the beginning, students may only have one or two poses they were working on, though were encouraged to show up at the yoga school every day to work on their handful of poses. Upon a degree of mastery of these poses, the teacher would guide the student onto the next rung of their proverbial ladder.

Mysore practice originated in Southern India.

I still love Ashtanga and the Mysore approach, though my older-shoulders aren't as keen on this system as they once were. Despite the changes in my physical body, I still love the focused intensity of a Mysore class; each student is individually working on their own practice, yet contributing to an environment that's simultaneously challenging & supportive.

Last Fall, I was thrilled when the subject of Open Studio was first broached at Pilates on Harrison. While we did not use the term Mysore-style, the similarity was noticed by several faculty members. As the idea of Open Studio gained traction, we dedicated more of our instruction time to the ordering and flow on the various pieces of equipment. Much like Ashtanga Yoga, each of the major pieces of Pilates equipment (Chair, Tower and Reformer) has its Level I-V workouts.

Open Studio does not start with this exercise.
Open Studio is nearly one month old, now, and I'm pleased to report that the vibe of rhythmic, deep breathing and focused awareness is fully expressed in our Open Studio. While I'm excited to be teaching one of our Open Studio classes, I inevitably feel a tinge of envy when I watch the students in my class settling into their personal practice!

If you're a Yoga practitioner that has yet to work on the Pilates equipment, you may find the Open Studio approach to your liking. While students generally require a handful of individual sessions to gain the requisite skills to practice independently, Open Studio allows the full power of Mysore-style practice to take form.

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