[This is Part 3 of the Not-A-Yogi Guide series: About Iyengar.]
I had to start this post with the quote because of HOW THE CLASS MADE ME FEEL.
My first Iyengar class got me ANGRY!!!
The teacher told me to "push my knees back / grip my knee caps" (to straighten my legs). Then I happened to drop my neck to the side and see what it feels like ala Forrest Yoga, and he happened to look my way and told me "not be lazy and to hold my neck up." And then a “neighbour” chastised me for not looking in the direction my chest facing while we were twisting! (I was looking back as per usual right, way past my shoulder!”)
They made me feel like I did something wrong! I know it's my lie coming up, that I'm a bad person and that I'm not good enough. And my coping mechanism to get angry.
So my first Iyengar class did not start off well.
I came into class, knowing I had this project, and I challenged myself to be a beginner! Practice what I preach because I always spout that in class - I thought I understood how that feel - like to "come with an open mind and be open to possibilities and not get stuck in what I know, my limitations yadayadayada..." but I was put through the paces in THIS class!
It wasn’t a hard class. It was really fun what we could with the props. In one class we used chairs, but most the time, it was straps, blankets and blocks.
What was hard was being told to do things that didn't sit right with my body. I have been “protecting” my body for a while because of the issues I’ve had with my body; strained hamstring, neck compression - so I always try to find a way to make my body comfortable so I can stay with the practice, which is the beauty of Baptiste Yoga - it gives me creativity to make the pose fit my body. But Iyengar works on a similar but different set of alignment cues.
So I did show a couple more times because I wanted to practise NOT BEING ANGRY. And so I did stop being angry, in fact, I actually grew fond of Bhanu and his teachings and I try to come for his classes when I can.
Definition of Iyengar Yoga, according to Wikipedia:
Iyengar Yoga is characterized by great attention to detail and precise focus on body alignment. Iyengar pioneered the use of "props" such as cushions, benches, blocks, straps and sand bags, which function as aids allowing beginners to experience asanas more easily and fully than might otherwise be possible without several years of practice. Props also allow elderly, injured, tired or ill students to enjoy the benefits of many asanas via fully "supported" methods requiring less muscular effort.
Unlike more experiential approaches where students are encouraged to independently "find their way" to the asanas by imitating the teacher, an Iyengar Yoga class is highly verbal and precise, with misalignments and errors actively corrected.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN AN IYENGAR CLASS!
- The props are your best friend. (Blocks, straps, Bolster, chair, Blanket)
- Come abit early so you can set up your props (When you enter the class, look to see what the other students have on their mat, and just take them or ASK if you are not sure.)
- The teacher usually demos and we are expected to get into it without further instruction but once we got into it, he will “correct” your poses.
- The teacher sees you individually - he has eyes like a hawk! So don’t worry if you are not sure what to do, watch the others and follow first.
- If you are nursing injuries or issues with the body, try out the “cues” the best you can, without resistance, and see how you feel. If there is pain, modify and ask the teacher after class, for advice.
- This is like Hatha class, but gentle long holds with support.
- You will not sweat in this class.
- This is not a Vinyasa class, Static poses with smooth transition in between poses.
- Minimal muscular cues.
WHAT I DON'T LIKE ABOUT IYENGAR YOGA
- There is a lot of focus on doing the pose the “right" way. And you know how I feel about being wrong or right - I guess it's how you say it and the words used. I hate being made wrong. And I have to remind myself - that it's not about me. LAR.
- I did feel that in order not for us to do it wrong, he should have guided us into the pose instead of demoing; I wasn’t connected when he demoed.
- Because of the minimal cues, I found myself looking around to ensure that I was doing the “right” thing.
- I felt that I wasn’t supported mentally i.e. he did not keep my attention on the practice during the “holds”. I was left to wonder once he says HOLD, and then what? Go deeper? Or contract the muscles or relax the muscles?
What I Love about Iyengar Yoga
- What he said about savasana not being total relaxation but an active relaxation as the mind is still watching the body get relaxed. And that Meditation and savasana cannot be guided - it has to be experienced.
- That the focus is on breath and support. I know I have to stop being in my head, with getting it right or wrong. And making the teacher wrong when all the teacher wants to do is keep us safe according to the alignment of the Iyengar methodology.
HOW DOES IYENGAR YOGA RELATES BACK TO BAPTISTE YOGA
I am reminded of certain parts of the Journey into Power Sequence, with the holding of the poses, although we don't hold it as long. And the use of props are also encouraged in Baptiste Yoga to give support, and lightness. The language is different, but the focus on the alignment is there (with Baptiste, its the True North Alignment)
MY TAKEAWAYS FROM IYENGAR YOGA
Overall I felt energized and supported and I did leave feeling inspired and wanting more.
What I discovered is I was stuck in my head of what I cannot do when I should just be open to what I can do. #lightbulbmoment