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.
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 http://sisterhawkreiki.wordpress.com
Editor: Lara C.
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