Saturday, April 11, 2009

Iyengar Yoga from a Lineage Teacher

When I took yoga in college as my gym class, I had no idea I was learning most of the asanas incorrectly. Tree pose looks so simple. But I didn't know that the pelvis must face forward and the hips remain level. It doesn't matter how high your foot goes on your opposite leg. And it's okay to lick your fingers, and wipe them on your thigh to help your foot stick. So, here I am relearning everything I thought I knew.
Thursday night I went to Yoga Sutra in Philadelphia. The teacher, Russell, learned Iyengar Yoga in India from BKS Iyengar and some of his immediate students.  He was able to talk us through micromovements to get into the asanas. He knew how to modify them with pillows and straps and bolsters and rolled up blankets and blocks. Yoga asanas are no longer -- either you can do it or you can't. There are ways to get the stretches and the strengthening that are the true purpose. The goal is not to try to look like the photos in the books.  The goal is to be healthy.
I seem to be relearning a lot lately.  I took a swimming class when I joined my gym last year. When I learned to swim over 50 years ago, the teacher told us to keep our bellies parallel with the bottom of the pool. That was exhausting and it strained the neck when I breathed.  The gym teacher said to let the trunk rock side to side and reach as far forward as possible with each stroke. Wow! Comfort and speed with one simple adjustment.  Very much like yoga -- simple adjustments make exercise more productive and invigorating. 

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