Iyengar yoga is something i discovered by chance 2 years ago, and I’ve loved it right from the beginning. I was attending this hatha class up the road from me for a couple of years before i discovered Iyengar yoga, it was a nice quiet, easy class taught by this very sweet German lady. It was perfect and gentle as i had just had a baby and needed something gentle to recover. After awhile i realised that i needed something more, i wanted to make some real progress and learn some challenging asanas. I was not going to learn that at my gentle hatha class so i went on the hunt for something else. I don’t know what drew me to this particular yoga studio but i contacted them and booked a trial class. It was amazing, i was so impressed and it was so challenging. I worked up such a sweat, and really felt like i had used my whole body for the first time in a long time. I signed up immediately.
It was tough at the beginning, a little like being in the military. There was no freedom of movement, just clear instructions to follow. It felt like there was no margin for error, everything needed to be perfect. And the props, oh my the props. Every posture needed a prop that you constantly needed to go fetch from the prop room. I felt like we spent half the class just fetching and moving props around. It seemed rather mad, and there were times in the beginning when i thought what the hell i’m i doing here. But quite quickly i started to understand the point and the benefits of it all. Let me just add here that i had never read a book by B.K.S Iyengar, i didn’t even look up iyengar yoga before that trial class, i just walked in blind, ready to discover something new. Maybe that was a good thing, perhaps if i had done some research before i went for that first class, i could have possibly picked a different kind of yoga. Also the class was in French, and at this point my French was quite bad, so i didn’t understand probably not even half of the instructions in that first year of practice. Practicing asana was not new to me, i had practiced a little over the years, mostly at home following instructors on Dvd’s, sometimes at yoga classes at the gym, but never continuously for long periods of time. So i thought i kinda know yoga, how different can iyengar be…
I get why some people don’t appreciate this type of yoga, it can seem limiting, strange, military like, i’ve even had 2 people tell me it looks like a torture chamber. I get it, from the outside it can be easily misunderstood, as it’s not a class where you will listen to music or get a back rub by the teacher when you’re in downward dog. But thats not why you practice iyengar, it’s not where you will drift off into some other world and have your teacher massage your head during shavasana. You are very present in your practice at all times during the class, the whole class is like a long meditation, you are focused and totally present in your body the entire time. It’s like going to school, you are studying the asanas, they are picked apart for you and reconstructed before your eyes. You pass through different levels, as you make progress, and the nice thing is that you will make progress, it is structured like that. You are constantly learning new things and new ways to do the asanas, so it is always interesting and different. Well it is at least with my teacher Patricia, i haven’t tested out any other iyengar teachers yet, but i plan to do so shortly. FYI my teacher told me today that she doesn’t follow the iyengar rules rigidly, she is very respectful of her students, their bodies and their enjoyment of what they learn in her class. She has added lots of her personal touches, i think it’s very complimentary. I like that her classes are never the same.
All i know is that so many of the teachers i respect have some iyengar background, it seems to me like a good place to start, to learn about yoga and learn about your own body. Iyengar yoga respects so many different states of wellbeing, Geeta Iyengar, his daughter dedicated much of her life to yoga especially for women. I have written about Judith Hanson Lasater before she is someone i’ve never met and have immense respect for, she was one of B.K.S Iyengar’s students for many years. If you look at the beautiful restorative poses she demonstrates in her restorative books, many are based on or very similar to poses you find in Iyengar yoga. Iyengar yoga has many restorative yoga postures. Even my fabulous Ashtanga teacher Flora Brajot integrates iyengar into her classes to enter poses easier and to avoid injuries.
So in conclusion, i’m not sure i will teach an iyengar class in my life, as i’m not officially Iyengar trained, but i will most certainly integrate as much as i can into my classes. I love the approach, the real learning, the real presence in your body. I so wish i will able to share some of that with others.
I have added a video of B.K.S Iyengar talking about yoga and demonstrating some asanas. Enjoy!