As part of the Teacher Training requirements, we need to attend four basic types of Hatha Yoga classes: Anusara, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Restorative and Iyenger. I had saved the “best” for last, as we’ve talked quite a bit about the Iyengar style throughout much of the training and I have been somewhat nervous to try it. I decided to take the class at Yoga Garden on Divis this evening and it was an experience.
The focus of Iyengar yoga is alignment. You spend a lot of time in each pose, focusing on each body part and where it is supposed to be and act during each pose. I enjoyed this part of the class, however, I had a very hard time connecting with my breath and found it very difficult to find a rhythm because of all of the constant interruptions. In order to focus on the alignment, you end up using a ton of props and various “accessories” during the class to get the alignment just right. At one point, I looked around the room and each of the 7 students in the room had: 5 blankets, two blocks, 2 straps, 1 sand bag and one pole. You heard me right, a pole.
There was a lot of discussion in the class, asking about how to do something or what should I do with some body part. This is fairly unusual, as conversation and discussion with the teacher during a vinyasa class are generally not recommended. Each student is supposed to have their attention focused inward, not involved in discussion with the teacher about specific poses. I don’t disagree with this aspect of yoga — I think students should be able to ask the teacher questions about specific poses, but it’s usually a more one-on-one thing as opposed to disruption to the larger class.
Speaking of discussions, I’ve never been in a yoga class before where we had a 5 minute discussion on a philosophical topic about yoga. Again, I enjoyed it, but it was not something I’m accustomed to. The teacher had asked us if it was possible to find “God” in Asana, or yoga poses. A few people spoke up. Considering my mind state lately, I jumped at the opportunity to share my thoughts. I said most definitely. By focusing your attention inward, you can find your inner Self, which in my opinion, is God. The teacher countered by asking if you couldn’t do the same thing riding a bicycle or playing guitar. I said “Yes, but you didn’t ask that. You asked if it could be found in Asana, which it can — much like riding a bicycle or playing guitar. The difference being, though, that when you are in Asana you are focusing inward and looking for that quiet space. When you are riding a bike, I hope your attention is on the road ahead of you.” He didn’t appreciate my answer. I didn’t appreciate his.
Needless to say, it was an interesting discussion and not part any other yoga class I’ve been to in the past few years. I think the most interesting point in the class came when he instructed us to use our poles and sit on them (legs perpendicular) so that our sits bones are balanced on the pole in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Not only was this challenging, but very uncomfortable. I had to remind myself that this was the point of yoga, as I breathed through it.
I don’t feel I got that great of a workout tonight. I don’t very grounded or centered. I wasn’t able to connect to my breath. The interruptions were annoying. But, it was a different experience. I really enjoyed some of the poses, including uttanasana (standing forward fold) as we really focused on each muscle being stretched in the forward bend. It was probably the deepest standing forward bend I’ve experienced, for sure.
I’d go back to an Iyengar class. I was expecting something much more harsh and serious — but it was fun. Would I choose it over a hatha flow or vinyasa class? Probably not. But it was fun for a change.