Dear Santa,
I have over 200 books on my Amazon wishlist and 99% of them are yoga related.  Any of them will do, I like a surprise! I’ll send you the link via Whatsapp.  There’s an offer on at the moment – if you buy three items before next Friday you get 20% off a 12 month subscription to Samadhi and a pair of sparkly toe-socks (hint hint!)
Also if the elves have any spare time I’d like some new shelves. One of them should be exactly 122.4cm high so that I can get my foot on it to practice Utthita hasta padangusthasana without falling on my arse, it needs to be adjustable so I can go 10cm higher each Christmas – then hopefully by 2018 the only split in my house won’t be the dodgy split pea roast that the in-laws keep bringing over.
I’ve been a good girl this year, I’ve worked hard on my asana, my pranayama, pratyahara, dharana and getting my yamas and niyamas as in order. I know that you’re busy so I thought you might like some advice on what to get the other well behaved kids if they ask for a yoga book…
1. For the Ashtanga beginner….
Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual 
This is an incredibly user friendly guide to the Primary and Intermediate series of Ashtanga yoga.  The practice guides are clear with plenty of pictures and easy to understand instructions which cover the foundations (e.g. Breath, bandha, drishti), the  asana (postures) and the vinyasa (movements between postures). If readers aren’t ready to turn themselves into a preztel David gives a selection of more accessible alternatives.  The book includes a section with sequences for shorter practice times from 15min, 30min, 45min. Plus it’s spiral bound so there’s no need to faff with weighting the pages down as your going to the next asana.  David Swenson is a great teacher and communicator, in fact Santa I think you guys would get along.
2. For the fiction loving philosopher…
How Yoga Works 
by Geshe Michael Roach
Get to know the yoga sutras and curl up for story-time by the fire. How Yoga Works tells the  heartwarming tale of a Tibetan girl that is held captive in an Indian police station.  While there she begins to teach yoga.  The story follows the challenging relationship she has with her first student (who is also the Captain of the station) and how, through yoga, she gradually ignites positive changes in the people around her.  Roach weaves in sections from Patanjali’s yoga sutras and the context of the narrative makes these philosophical concepts quite digestible even if it is close bed time.
3. For the academic & the history buffs…
Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice
by Mark Singleton
Mark Singleton explores the roots of yoga and questions whether the origins of the posture based practices are as ancient as is so commonly believed.  He discusses the impact of modern influences on yoga such as Indian Nationalism and physical culture in Europe and America.  In his conclusion he critiques the idea that ”fitness’ is somehow opposed to the ‘spiritual” and posits the notion of physical training as a spiritual practice.  Singleton’s book has been a little controversial in some yoga groups, perhaps upsetting some ancient (and of course ‘authentic’) apple carts.
Santa you’ve been travelling the world for years, I’m sure you’ve witnessed the complex intermingling of cultures and practices (spiritual and not) as they wax, wane, clash and intertwine – what do you think?
4. For the biography lovers looking for a bit of Mysore Magic…
Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students
by Guy Donahaye and Eddie Stern
Well Santa this is one of my favourites.  Alongside a portrait of Guruji this book presents a portrait of the power of the Ashtanga system and the passion of the individuals who practice it.  The book is a collection of interviews held with a selection of Pattabhi Jois’ students – starting with those that were in the shala in the 70’s e.g. David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff, his grandson Sharath and other dedicated students of his, including Dena Kingsberg, John Scott and Rolf Naujokat.  They openly document their nerves, difficulties, opinions, dedication and gratitude for the practice.  Santa if you ever lose your yoga mojo to the January blues dip into this and it’ll get you right back on your mat!
5. For those that prefer pictures…
Photographs by Graeme Montgomery
This is a collection of beautifully taken portraits of Pattabhi Jois, his students and Mysore.  There are atmospheric black and white portraits and images of people practicing in the shala (when the rugs still had a fair bit of colour!). It’s an aesthetically amusing mix of serious drishti’s and smiling faces.  I believe it’s also out of print, so a rare find if you get a copy.
6. For the anatomy geeks…
Functional Anatomy of Yoga: A Guide for Practitioners and Teachers
David Keil
Santa, if you’re wondering whether you should squeeze your gluteus maximus while backbending down a chimney give this one a read.  When David’s book was about to be released the yoga community was very excited (and rightly so), so if it’s on someone’s list I’d probably get it, we don’t want any tears.
David presents anatomy in an easy to understand way so you don’t have to be a medical professional to understand it.  It includes introductory information on the muscular, skeletal and nervous systems before going into further detail on the structure and function of key areas of the body such as the knee and hip.  David delves into anatomical patterns in yoga postures such as twists and backbends and discusses the impact of anatomical variation.  He address some common yogi problems, like sit bone pain and gets a thumbs up from me for acknowledging debates over technique – there is no one size fits all!
7. For the sporty kids…
Yoga for Runners and Yoga for Cyclists
by Lexie Williamson
These are two very well presented, books.  They cover the demands of running and cycling on different areas of the body such as the glutes, IT band, hamstrings, neck and back.  Both books include sections on the respiratory system and appropriate breathing techniques for each sport.  They also cover training the mind – so for any kids looking to improve their PB, reduce their intake of mince pies and stay injury free, these are much more than a stocking filler.   Lexie gives clear posture guides with variations to suit the individual.  There’s also a series of mini-sequences for warm-up, recovery and strength building.
8. For the naughty kids…
These kids don’t need books, they need to practice! Pick them up in your sleigh and get Dasher to drop them on a yoga mat pronto!
Safe travels Santa!
Marie X
P.S. I’ve left some organic locally grown carrots out for Rudolf and a raw, vegan, gluten free, low Gi agave mince pie for yourself – they’re next to a glass of kombucha, which is 47% so go steady, ok it’s not kombucha its gin, but you know it’s Christmas!

Nothing has pressed my buttons more than a Mysore-style practice and revealed so starkly my healthy, pesky and sometimes detrimental tendencies.

In March 2012 I took the leap from led classes and a romantic home practice (I.e. fancy postures I felt good doing and danced my way through) and stepped into a Mysore-style class at the much-loved Palatine Road venue with its single-glazed windows and rickety floors.

As Matt and the rest of the students began to sing the opening chant, I stood on my mat feeling like I’d accidentally walked into a cult gathering with its special language and esoteric ways. Then I began the first salute and instantly felt exposed: where was the guidance, the instruction, the teacher? Oh mummy, I was in this on my own, but not like at home where there’s no one to spot my mistakes; here, the teacher may see or hear me miss a posture or breath. And he did. As I was in my full stride, I vinyasa’d confidently from Purvottanasana to Janu Sirsasana A only to hear, “Where’s the other two?” I hadn’t a scooby doo what Matt was talking about, I’d never done those postures in the correct order before.

And this is where the beauty of Mysore-style teaching comes in. I was shown Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana and Tiryangmukha Eka Pada Paschimottanasana and how to practise these according to my ability while the girl opposite me sat with leg behind head, and the chap behind stuck with standing sequence.

Still, I couldn’t help but compare myself to those graciously folding forward while I struggled not to topple over in Tiryangmukha. “I’m so embarrassed, I feel like an eejit, I bet Matt’s wondering why I bothered” came the mental rhetoric which was thankfully buffered by the stronger concentration applied to finding steadiness in crazy postures such as Marichiasana D and Bujapidasana.

Yoga comparisons

It wasn’t until shoulderstand I had a lucid moment of seeing my thoughts and reminding myself these were just a reflection of deep-rooted thought patterns (I learnt soon after these are called samskaras). Fast forward two years, a fair few Mysore-style Intensives, and a now unromaticised home practice, the mind space Mysore-style helps to gauge is becoming wider with each practice. The group energy helps to feed me when I really want to stop, and my self-criticism and comparisons are instantly exposed before they take root. And so a new, healthy pattern, samskara, is being forged: awareness of the self-judgement and the ability to form non-attachment, vairagya, to the oh-so addictive negative thoughts.

“It’s like being transported into a parallel universe”, a friend recently said, and while I get the sentiment, it would be more accurate to say “it’s being in the actual moment”, one that’s more or less free from the projected mind stuff so long as the awareness remains and the asanas don’t become another tool to beat oneself with. And sometimes I experience this too, but through the continuity of practice, I’m becoming ever clearer on all the internal crap that was rumbling on inside of me. So without it being too much about navel gazing, which can be the other side of the ego coin, I do my closest approximation of the postures, observe what arises, and simply move to the next without needing to find why such a thought or feeling is there.

Yoga can be a transformational practice: physically toning the body, but more importantly, steadying the mind so we feel ‘whole’ – Mysore-style is an acute way of accelerating this process. With its emphasis on the individual and your classmates, I suppose it could be likened to group therapy, however, the words are replaced with our expression of the asanas.

Yes, the intensity of Mysore-style can be daunting, but isn’t all change? And that’s what Mysore-style represents: the opportunity to open Pandora’s box in a safe and supportive environment, so we can take what we’ve experienced on the mat to get rid of the stuff that no longer serves us, and reconnect with that which makes life simpler, more honest, and above all, happier.

Step out you’re comfort zone. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.

Visit here for details of the next Mysore-style Intensive

Mysore Manchester












Charlene teaches regular classes with Yoga Manchester and Yoga Express. Visit her teacher profile for more information.

Charlene McAuley

Getting into Mysore-style

Mysore-style may sound like some kind of youth slang, but it’s been getting me up very early in the morning to practice yoga, so it must be good. It’s the traditional way that Ashtanga yoga is taught, and it’s called Mysore-style because Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who developed the Ashtanga sequence, was based in Mysore, India, and people from all over the world still go to his shala there – which is now mostly run by his grandson Sharath Jois– to practice in this particular way.

What happens in a Mysore-style class is that everyone starts their practice and works in their own time. So, unlike a normal class where the teacher calls out the postures, you just work your way through the sequence at your own pace. The teacher comes round and adjusts you in your postures, either helping you with your alignment, or to go deeper with a particular pose. It’s a bit like a one-on-one class in a group setting, because you get a personal engagement with the teacher, but you also reap the benefits of being in a group with other people, which really spurs you on. If you don’t know which postures comes next or you get stuck, you can just wait and the teacher will come over and help you. It’s a really nice, relaxed way to practice.

I’ve been practising yoga for about three years now – I’m still very much a beginner really, but I was bitten by the Ashtanga bug, so when I found out about the early morning classes Matt was running, I was keen to try them out. I can remember asking Matt whether he thought I’d be good enough to go along to them – I thought of it as something for more advanced students, but I soon realised that anyone can go regardless of how long you’ve been practising; it’s actually a really good way of learning the Ashtanga sequence and getting more deeply into your practice, regardless of whether you can reach your toe in trikonasana, or if you can bind in marichyasana D (which I really can’t!).

We start early – 6.00am, and do some breathing exercises, and then we go into the practice until about 7.45am, but I promise you, it’s worth it! Afterwards you feel so good and ready to take on anything. There have been lots of days where I’ve done the Mysore-style practice and then gone straight on to work. When you get to a meeting at 9.00am and everyone else looks half asleep, but you’ve been stretching since six, it really makes you feel like you can take on the world, and any difficult queries your boss or a client has got for you.

For details of the next Mysore-style intensive, click  here

Dani Abulhawa

Watch the video below to see a Yoga Manchester Mysore Class  in action