Traditional Mysore Ashtanga: intelligent sequence or weird cult?

Of late I have been practicing mysore style ashtanga yoga. Mysore classes usually start around 06:30 in the morning and last for about 2.5 hours. You’ll start off with the Primary Series, possibly doing about one hour and stopping a quarter way through the series. The longer your practice the more poses in the sequence you’ll do and in this way your practice time increases. Everybody in the room is doing their own sequence at their own pace. The teacher isn’t leading the class; you have to remember your own sequence. If you forget the teacher is there to help.

I have very mixed feelings about this style, and most of them aren’t positive.

Firstly, the teachers seem to actually worship the late Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, who is known as the ‘founder’ of the ashtanga style. They go to Mysore to practice with his grandson, Sharath, their new guru ever since Jois Snr died. Photos abound on the internet showing Jois’ ‘followers’ lying at his feet, kissing them. Yes, really. The room in which they teach is supposed to have an altar with a framed photo of Jois, some candles, perhaps a few flower, you know, like in church. Am I the only person who finds this odd? What kind of people build an altar to another flawed human being?

Secondly, no water is allowed in the yoga room. No matter how desperate you get, and it gets hot and sweaty in there, no water is allowed. This does not seem healthy to me.

Thirdly, adjustments can look violent and scary. Some of the poses look downright dangerous. Are they really necessary to have a healthy body? I don’t think so. It’s also worth noting that Jois Snr himself didn’t practice his own style of yoga. Alarm bells anyone?

Fourthly, the teachers have to get the ‘blessing’ of the Jois family in order to teach in their style. They consider it the biggest honour ever, I just wonder how much it costs…

Still, it’s nice to practice in the early morning, and a quiet yoga room has many benefits over a led class. I think I’ll stick with it for another little while, but ultimately I think I think too much for it to be for me.

What do you think? Have I got it all wrong? Am I right? Anything to add? I’d like to here your thoughts.



Yoga Asana Journal: Week 8


Studio: 60 minute side stretches.

20 minute self-guided core.


43 minute floor yoga for hips with Nichi Green on Ekhart Yoga.


33 minute floor yoga for hips with Nichi Green on Ekhart Yoga.

30 minute shoulders, hips, quads with Nichi Green on Ekhart Yoga.

15 minute core with Tara Stiles.

10 minute lower back release with Esther Ekhart.


Studio: 60 minute hips and twists.


30 minute hips with Nichi Green.

30 minute core with Esther Ekhart.


30 minute hips with Nichi Green on

Yoga Asana Journal: Week 7


40 minute flexibility class with Esther Ekhart on


Studio: 60 minute general class.


40 minute hamstrings with Esther Ekhart on

20 minute self-guided shoulders.


Studio: 60 minute hatha class.


60 minute hamstrings with Esther Ekhart.

Saturday and Sunday:

Yoga Teacher Training.

What does the Gayatri Mantra mean to you?

I have recently discovered this mantra:

Om bhur bhuvah svaha
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yonah prachodayat

I don’t understand Sanskrit and there are many translations available from which to choose.

Here is one:

“O Divine mother, our hearts are filled with darkness. Please make this darkness distant from us and promote illumination within us.” (

This version by Deva Premal is certainly haunting:

Do you listen to/sing this mantra, and if so, why? Have you heard it in a yoga class?

What to do if your yoga student has a hitaus hernia?

A hiatus hernia occurs when part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm towards or into the chest cavity.

What should yoga teachers do if a student presents with hiatus hernia? Firstly, ensure that their doctor has given his/her approval for the student to attend a yoga class. But what then? Which poses are beneficial and which are best avoided?

In general, the answer is not to put too much pressure on the upper abdomen. Therefore, poses such as boat, bow, cobra and bridge should be avoided. Spinal twists, strong forward bends and inversions are also best avoided.

Keeping the torso long helps and doesn’t put pressure on the abdomen, so lots of standing poses can be included in the practice.

Breathing exercises are beneficial for the sufferer of a hiatus hernia. Proper breathing will tone and strengthen the muscles around the diaphragm.

What suggestions do you have?