I have been in San Francisco last week and did a lot of amazing yoga. I did Mysore a couple of times, which was great.
I also went to a yoga studio called Yoga Tree. This place is really cutting edge for people interested in yoga. It is regularly mentioned in the yoga journal and has some of the top teachers in the US teaching there. When you arrive, you really feel that this is a special place for yoga.
My friend has been going on for months about a teacher called Rusty Wells. As soon as I arrived in San Fran it seemed that lots of people knew about him. He is one of the more famous teachers around.
We arrived at the studio and it felt so dramatic, there were people waiting at the top of the stairs to check us in. I was shocked at how many people were waiting outside of the studio for it to open…there were apparently 160 of us.
When the doors finally opened, we walked in…Or rather ran in. If you wanted to take this class, you had to be ready to grab a place!
And the studio was huge! Absolutely massive! And it was packed with us yogis.
Loud music was playing and we were all waiting. Then Rusty walked in. It really felt like the yogi had arrived. I am used to the yoga teachers being in charge of the money and the checking in…Rusty was definitely not involved with those things.
The music went off and he started doing some chanting…it was amazing. He had such a powerful voice…and with 160 people chanting with him…it was energizing and powerful. We chanted for about ten minutes. Then he said some beautiful words about our teachers in life that support us, and how we will never be on our own or given more than we can take. It was really moving.
Then we started the yoga. Booming music was playing the whole time. I am definitely a serious music lover, but in many ways I think it is good for me to not have music when I am doing yoga.
I always have a soundtrack playing in my life; sometimes it is good to just hear myself breath. In fact after yoga class, I sometimes make myself just walk outside and enjoy the sites and sounds rather than immediately putting my I pod on, as I often do.
So while the music was absolutely amazing…this guru certainly has great taste in music, it felt a little more like an aerobics class than a yoga class…especially after having a regular Mysore style practice.
The practice was challenging. I was sweating buckets and the poses were difficult. It was definitely in some ways harder than the Mysore practice.
However, I never really felt that I was in any of the poses. We were just moving from one posture to the next, without really understanding any of them. When we got into triangle and the wheel, I felt so excited because I actually understand how my body should feel when I am in those poses.
Rusty wasn’t making any adjustments, and he only had one helper to come around and adjust 160 people.
It made me appreciate just how amazing the Mysore style of Ashtanga really is. We are working for months and years to perfect each pose, to really understand how each muscle should feel when it is in a certain posture. It makes you have to be in your body because you have to feel where you should be. The teacher is there to constantly remind you of where you should be in the posture, and how you can move more deeply into it.
I also like how we have to be in charge of our breathing counts. This is just another aspect of Mysore that forces us to be present and in charge of our practice.
I can certainly see the amazing benefits of Rusty’s class. With all of those people in there, the energy is so powerful. And I certainly got a serious workout. But for me the Mysore style is taking the practice to a whole different level. It is really about finding your own practice and understanding your indiv idual body. It is definitely nothing like aerobics.
We did end the class with some amazing OM-ing and he once again said some beautiful touching words that worked so well with yoga…and that in Mysore we have to find ourselves.
But I am more sold on the benefits of the Mysore style of yoga than ever!
hi there, thanks for this blog. i really identified with what you wrote here. I have a history of taking Ashtanga led classes but recently relocated to SF… & of course, joined Yoga Tree & experienced just what you descibe here. After going there for a month it really felt much like a niteclub at 9 in the AM- not what i was interested in. I think Rusty has a good heart/soul but i feel those big classes are risky & that there is sufficient attention paid to detail & how the experience feels in your own body. After a month of frustration with (aspiring) “yoga rock stars” at YT i have instead made the committment to wake at 6AM to go to Mysore 6x week. Not as much flash : ) — definitely something more solid, lasting, & true- to me at least.
oops, typo: meant to say there is *not* sufficent attention paid to detail… : ) Michelle
Hi, I’m glad you enjoyed the yoga scene in SF. Rusty is a nice man. I practice Mysore style with other teachers. Cheers, Arturo (my blog is cronyogitect.blogspot.com)