How I Found the Yoga Practice that Worked for Me. ~ Elizabeth Farrell

Via elephant journal
on Jun 17, 2012
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Iyengar yoga is the practice I feel most grounded in and the one that has most influenced my personal yoga practice and teaching.

I began practicing yoga seven years ago in Cleveland. I started with vinyasa.

I then tried Anusara, a popular style at the time, but didn’t love the experience. After studying the practice, I discovered that Anusara consists of elements John Friend took from Iyengar, combined with features from other practices.

(Side note: if you look at some of the well-known yoga teachers in this land, most of them have studied Iyengar yoga).

Truthfully, vinyasa sequencing just didn’t work for me. Actually, it aggravated me and I always left class feeling agitated and unsettled.

It’s a constitution thing. In Ayurveda terms, I have a vata-pitta constitution. To calm my being, I needed an Iyengar approach—a practice that was focused, grounded and could bring me to stillness.

I sought authenticity, integrity and alignment; yet I truly needed some centering and grounding.

Off I went into Iyengar yoga, and studied with the same teacher for the three years I spent living in Cleveland.

Exploring Iyengar yoga changed my entire yoga practice. I had to start at the beginning, in a Level I class, because I had to re-learn the asanas.

I remember thinking I should start at a higher level, and my ego was upset that I had to start all over when I knew how to do most of the asanas. The experience was very humbling.

I learned the poses. I learned my body. I uniquely learned how to align my body in each asana.

And I left feeling grounded and aligned.

I found what I needed in this pragmatic, systematic and precise practice. I felt connected to myself. It opened me up cell by cell.

After Cleveland, I studied in Boston with a teacher named Peentz. Under her tutelage, I felt my practice change. I felt at home.

Iyengar became my foundational practice. I had been teaching in the inner city at the time and it gave me sanity. Practicing alignment while becoming aware of imbalances within myself and working to come to a place of balance enabled me to root into myself.

The process became simple. Aligning my body meant opening my deeper sheath, so that the energetic body could balance and come into harmony. The more I practiced in this way the deeper into myself I went.

My teacher in Cleveland, Karen, once told me as I struggled with alignment, “Beth, let the universe come to you.”

At the time, I didn’t know how to respond because her statement shocked my consciousness. It enlivened me. I had to look at how I was living my life and I was asked to examine myself.

That’s what part of yoga is about: examination and transformation.

Yoga is not about being able to perform acrobatics, or get “exercise,” or develop your core, or to a get nice booty. The process is a humbling of the ego-minded self.

Iyengar was the practice that showed me that through examining myself, I was able to transform.

I continue to use an Iyengar approach in my practice and to teach my classes. I prefer certified Iyengar teachers and mainly study with them.

I like that if my foot is out of alignment I am instructed to move it a few inches to realign it. I love being instructed to elongate my left leg and bring my right hip deeper into its socket. Studying Iyengar helps me to continue my process of refinement and discernment.

Is Iyengar yoga for everyone?


Yet, I do believe it has maintained its integrity in the ever-expanding menu of yoga styles, and it is a good place for a beginner to start to learn asana, or a teacher to learn alignment.

My caveat:

Yoga practice is personal to who we are, what we need, and the journey is our own experience. Find the yoga that works for you.


Elizabeth Farrell is a yoga teacher, Reiki Master, and writer. She quit her job as a special education teacher after years of working in the inner-city to teach yoga. You can find her online at




Editor: Lara C.

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12 Responses to “How I Found the Yoga Practice that Worked for Me. ~ Elizabeth Farrell”

  1. __MikeG__ says:

    I too started with Vinyasa and graduated to all the "advanced" classes before I started Mr. Iyengar's method of asana. And I too had the same experience when I realized my "advanced" Vinyasa practice had taught me almost nothing about alignment and body awareness. It was humbling for me when I realized that I did not know as much as I thought I did.

    I find the method created by Mr. Iyengar to be a much deeper and richer experience. There is always something new to learn and there is always a new facet of the experience to explore. The Iyengar method is about moving intelligence and awareness throughout the body thereby increasing the minds ability to focus and concentrate.

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  4. Sybil says:

    I spent 4 months with a Iyengar teacher after several years of hatha yoga. Although I liked what I was doing in class – I frequently left class feeling like a worthless heap of crap – as if I couldn't do anything correctly.

    I also struggled with the statements of "breath through your side ribs" and that I had an 'energy break' in my back. REALLY? What does that mean and when I asked, why couldn't it be explained to me?

    I stopped going to that class. Unfortunately, I have no other Iyengar options where I live right now but I'm hopeful to try it again at some point – and have it be a more positive experience.

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  11. Mymble says:

    Interesting read! And it's true, people are really different, and everything needs to find out what works for them.

    The first thing I ever tried was Ashtanga, and I can't imagine ever doing anything else. I was just captivated immediately. The thing I love about the Ashtanga practice is the combination of rigor and freedom, and vinyasa has been the most life changing thing I've ever experienced! The sun salutation – wow – what an amazing movement. Doing surya namaskara for an hour or so is a wonderful way to meditate.

    I've tried Iyengar a couple of times too. I had to laugh when I read the beginning of the article, because the descriptions of how vinyasa made the author feel, almost matches my own experience of Iyengar! And as for what brings me stillness – it's vigorous movement!

    However, my desire for movement can also be a weakness, so my teacher sometimes makes me hold poses for several minutes. The first time he did, I felt claustrophobic, and he actually had to literally force me to stay in the poses. Eventually, I felt calm, and now I have a better understanding of the Ashtanga practice. A practice of held poses linked with vinyasa – it's perfect for me.

  12. Mymble says:

    obviously – I meant that everyONE needs to find out what works for them 🙂

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