Those familiar with Astanga yoga will be familiar with the two styles that are generally practiced. They are the same but different. The first is to take a led class where the teacher counts through the movements, breath, and gaze in Sanskrit and one goes through the whole (or half) series as a group, ideally with everyone moving together, breathing together and working as one single organism. It can be quite wonderful to experience when it happens.
The second way is to do "Mysore" style, named after the hometown of Sri Pattabhi Jois. In Mysore style, the student still works with a teacher but the practice is done individually, with the student advancing through the series only when they have memorized it and can complete the asanas. I have heard there is some leeway here - that Pattabhi Jois only cares about the memorizing part, not getting everything perfect, but most teachers I have encountered do consider how the asanas are done as part of being able to advance. For the most part, however, the practice is a solo practice and it is possible to have minimal interaction with a teacher.
There is a beauty to the daily repetition of a Mysore practice and it does seem to me to be a good way to make sure yoga is part of one's life - that is to say that it becomes built in to one's schedule because it guarantees that one has a complete sequence memorized. It is pretty safe to say that most of us are not always going to be going to group yoga classes for the rest of our lives and, in Mysore style, we have the freedom to take our class with us where ever we go.
I have been thinking about these two styles of learning and doing as we approach the day when we pack up and head to Gillams. Here in NYC, I have the luxury of taking a led class with some amazing teachers and some amazing students. But it is the strength of my Mysore style that keeps me going in Gillams. If I don't have my practice built in, it will disappear. I think the same can be said about zazen. In NYC, I have had the luxury of spending a little time with my teacher and sangha each week, even if it hasn't been sitting zazen. I have been able to be at the Temple, do some work, and soak in the experience of being around people who are on the same path (and well ahead of me!). In Gillams, I have some CDs and I have downloaded some dharma talks, but really, it is all Mysore style zazen there. The practice must be a strong one or it will disappear.
Both styles have their advantages and problems. The best way is to create a balance between the two so they support each other, but it is definitely a dance. A lifelong dance.
And speaking of which....