My Iyengar Experience

I challenged myself this Fall by registering for a series of Iyengar yoga classes at the Arlington Unity Woods, the premier Iyengar studio in the area.  I congratulate myself for a) trying something new and so different from the style of yoga (power vinyasa) I normally practice, b) making it to more than half of the classes that I prepaid for, and c) doing my best to be available as a student – not once did I mention to anyone that I teach yoga full-time.  I tried to approach the poses as if they were my first time ever trying them.  By keeping an open mind, one can find that there really is a lot to learn from the Iyengar approach.  For me personally, it’s a practice of patience.

The last class was a week ago on Monday night.  If I had known it was going to be 90 minutes of restoratives, I probably would not have gone due to my lack of enthusiasm for solely doing restoratives.  As it turned out, I was very glad I attended – it was exactly what I needed.

For me, one of the most challenging parts of the Iyengar practice is getting use to all the props, particularly the various and specific ways the blankets need to be folded.  Patience and breathing is key to the blanket folding process.  And I think restoratives must be the final exam on blanket folding as everyone was told to have a minimum of five. If it was the final, I must say I think I did a fairly good job in passing it.

We started the class in Savasana (vs. when I practice at my home studio, Down Dog Yoga in DC, we typically start in Down Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).    After completing a couple other types of supported Corpse poses which we’re wonderful chest openers, we held Hero’s pose (Virasana) for five plus minutes.  Anyone familiar with Hero will understand that by minute three I was appreciative of the blankets under my bum.  Doing Shoulderstand on a chair wasn’t my favorite but it was fun to explore.  And whether you like the pose variation being offered, do it as self-exploration is partly what the asana practice is about.

I plan to continue to dabble in the Iyengar method as it has a lot to offer.  For those not familiar with Iyengar, here’s how I sum it up.  It’s alignment focused –though too many cues for me sometimes, but a safe style to start if you’re new to yoga.  It’s prop intense – this is important to know in that it makes all poses accessible for even the most inflexible.  Also by being forced to use props (like me who rarely uses them in a vinyasa class), proper alignment and patience can be discovered which is a freeing experience.  Freedom is also what yoga partly about.  Lastly, the poses are held for what sometimes can seem like forever which is what can make these classes challenging physically and mentally.

Mr. Iyengar turned 90 this month so obviously there’s something to his style that’s good for the body and soul. I must admit I did sleep like a baby the evenings after my Iyengar practice.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for posting your experience! I signed up for a Level I/II Iyengar class a couple weeks ago that starts in the New Year – and I’m actually quite excited by it.

    Have a wonderful holiday season!


  2. Posted by Mary on January 4, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Hi Melody,
    Happy New Year!
    I took an Iyengar series as well last year. At first, I really enjoyed focusing on alignment and breaking down the poses. Then I started finding it really tedious and stopped going before the session ended. I was glad to have tried something new, and I did learn a lot, but I find I really prefer vinyasa!


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