I went to an Iyengar yoga class today—even though I hate Iyengar yoga.
Well, the word “hate” is a strong one… too strong, perhaps?
Just looked it up—hate is defined as passionate or intense dislike.
Yep, that sounds about right…
I love my yoga practice, but I’m a yogi who loves to flow!
I crave that moving meditation that happens as my body moves through asanas.
I relish the heat created internally, with every inhale and exhale of ujjayi.
I achieve stillness through the act of linking breath with movement.
I adore saluting the sun, and gliding through each motion of surya namaskara.
But today, I set aside my vinyasas and attended an Iyengar class instead…
There is so much I passionately dislike about Iyengar yoga.
For one, it is incredibly slow-paced.
In order to calm my rapidly firing monkey mind—I crave action, movement, something to distract me from my screaming thoughts.
But Iyengar yoga can be slow-moving and static, disjointed even. So, I need to strive truly to control my thoughts—to stay focused.
And the props—good lord.
Don’t get me wrong, props can be incredibly helpful in certain postures…
Need a bit of lift in half-moon pose? Pop that lower hand onto a block.
Can’t quite reach one’s toes in seated forward fold? Whip out a strap for a bit of help.
However, in Iyengar yoga, props are a constant necessity.
There can be no flow when one has to incessantly stop and reach for a block (or two blocks!), or a blanket (or three blankets!) that need to be folded just so, and placed under one’s back—while a fourth blanket is rolled (not folded) and placed under ones’s knees.
So much work, just to get the props in place, before one can even actually begin the asana!
But then—once all the props are folded just so, and placed in the right spots—then start the holds.
After carefully calibrating oneself into the static posture being instructed—holding it—as the teacher surveys the room, inspecting alignment and adjusting.
Iyengar yoga requires so much patience.
So much focus.
So much subtle work—which is actually the most difficult.
“Pull up on your kneecap.”
“Externally rotate your right hip.”
Oh, right! I was holding my breath, as I struggled to “create space” between my hips.
Iyengar yoga has so much attention to detail.
There is so much focus on breaking down each individual part of the body.
Hell, it can take nearly five minutes just to get into Triangle pose properly!
I hate practicing Iyengar yoga, because it frustrates me.
My body wants to move quickly, much as my mind tends to—but Iyengar yoga doesn’t allow for this.
Iyengar yoga wants me to slow down.
Iyengar yoga wants me to push my heels into the floor and make sure my feet are parallel.
I do so begrudgingly, because I lack patience.
Iyengar yoga doesn’t care.
Iyengar yoga wants me to keep my feet engaged for just a few more breaths…
Iyengar yoga challenges me.
My yoga practice can often be challenging, but Iyengar yoga challenges me in a different way.
Iyengar yoga challenges me in ways that I so badly want to resist.
I feel trapped, and I want to bolt.
Yet I stay.
I breathe, and I keep pressing my heels into the floor.
I feel my right hip glide across the wooden block, which is helping keep the alignment of my pelvis correct, as I externally rotate that hip.
Yes, I comprehend what that means now—I have gained an understanding, through the teacher’s instruction, alignment adjustments, and with the help of the props.
I rarely attend Iyengar yoga classes, but when I do, I always learn something new.
I learn something new about my body, and how it moves.
I learn something new about myself—like how difficult it can be for me to slow down.
I learn something new about yoga—like how I can sustain a particular asana with more ease.
This is why I keep coming back.
Not every week, not even every month (although I should!) but eventually—I do come back to Iyengar yoga.
Despite the fact that I dislike it, intensely—I keep coming back because I need it.
I need to slow down.
I need to cultivate patience.
I need to become more familiar with my own body and how it moves—what it’s capable of.
I have a teacher who likes to say, “The pose truly begins the moment you want to come out of it.”
I feel this can also apply to one’s yoga practice. Sometimes the yoga we need the most, is the one we dislike the most.
We need to keep challenging ourselves—learning—trying new things.
We find our “comfortable seat” by sitting with what makes us uncomfortable.
This is how we grow.
This is why I hate (and love) practicing Iyengar yoga.
Author: Yoli Ramazzina
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Robert Bejil/Flickr