The following is an entry from Canadian Iyengar Teacher and blogger Stephanie Tencer.  Her blog is http://yogabound.ca/my-blog/

The Vastness of Iyengar Yoga
(& Regards from RIMYI)

RIMYI

Unbelievably I am already 14 days into my month of study here, at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute. Where does the time go?! Every time I come, I think I am going write a prolific number of blog posts about my experience and then I sit down to write and…nothing. It’s so bizarre. Here I am, completely immersed in Yoga (between taking classes, observing classes, & self-practice, I quite literally feel like a sponge!), yet it’s almost like I’m too deep in the vortex to really make sense of everything. At this point though, I know from my past trips that consolidating the lessons I’ve learned, translating them, internalizing them, and sharing them will inevitably be a slow and gradual process. That process will likely unravel over the course of many months (or longer!).

While it will no doubt take time for the depth of the teaching to really penetrate, this trip, I’m making a concerted effort to at least document some of my observations and thoughts. I’m hoping that when I’m home working with and through the teachings, these observations will provide added context (and hopefully be of some interest to you folks 🙂 ).

One thing that I absolutely cannot escape while I am here is a constant reminder that the subject of Iyengar Yoga is incredibly vast. There is so much to learn! In fact, I feel confident saying that the potential to learn is limitless. This theme of unbridled knowledge has already surfaced more than once…

It is poignant when I observe the medical classes. I have always found the therapeutic applications of Iyengar Yoga inspiring. I love the problem-solving aspect of the work. How do I get ‘this body’ into ‘this shape’ to achieve ‘this goal’. Here though, because I am an observer, I don’t have access to the same background info I would have back home so I can only hypothesize as to what issues are being addressed. As a result, I’m less interested in the sequences (although some are obvious enough to follow) and instead I keenly watch how the senior teachers in the room work with their patients. I like to see how they use their hands (and feet, and elbows, and head! – I’ve noticed that they use their own bodies as a prop more often than we do at home.) They are incredible with their touch. To touch deliberately and at the same time delicately is such an art. Knowing when to touch, how much to touch, with how much intensity, etc…these are all things as yoga teachers we think about and explore. The senior teachers here are particularly gifted and it’s quite inspiring to watch them work. I have much to learn if I want my hands (and feet!) to develop further refinement and sensitivity.

The vastness of Iyengar Yoga has also been apparent to me in the asana classes. The other day Simhasana was referred to as a ‘basic asana’ (whaaaat???) and in another class there were multiple asanas that I didn’t even recognize by name. Why didn’t I know their names, you ask? Because I had never done them before!! They were asanas that go beyond the various syllabi that us as Canadian teachers have been given to work from. This was a huge eye opener for me. It made me realize that I have a responsibility to my own practice that needn’t be confined by the various syllabi for assessment. And while as a more junior teacher I inherently knew that I needed to practice beyond the introductory syllabus, now because the syllabus I’m studying is itself quite challenging, I’ve had less impetus to look beyond it. This is something I need to keep in mind as I get back to my regular routine back home.

SimhasanaBKS Iyengar in Simhasana, from Light on Yoga

In one of the classes last week, Sunita divided the class by age into 2 groups: 40 and under, and over 40. I was part of the younger group and I got to do a number of old school jumpings. Again, stuff I had never tried before. I jumped from Adho Mukha Svanasana through Lolasana into various forward extensions. I went from Eka Pada Sarvangasana directly to Supta Padangusthasana 1. I did Chakrasana. It was exhilarating! Sunita was clear – we are not to teach these jumpings/transitions unless we practice them ourselves and they are certainly not appropriate all of the time, but they do have their place. Again, the vast repertoire of Iyengar Yoga was reinforced.

One of the very special things about being here is that I’m gifted with 2-3 hours of daily, dedicated (uninterrupted!) practice. It’s my opportunity to play with new ideas or techniques that have been taught in class and to work through my personal yoga needs. Although the yoga hall is generally quite crowded, the flip side is that there’s an amazing energy that comes from practicing amongst so many other dedicated practitioners. These practitioners come from around the world and it’s lovely to be reminded of the global impact of BKS Iyengar’s work. As I practice, I sometimes even catch a glimpse of someone else and think, oooh that would be cool to try (although sometimes, haha, I think the exact opposite). Regardless, there’s no question that the hall is filled with a vast range of practitioners – vast in age, ability, & culture, all united by their love for Iyengar Yoga and their reverence for Guruji, BKS Iyengar.

It’s always a big deal to come here. I’m a long way from home and a lot of planning and coordination has gone into making this trip a reality. I’m feeling very grateful to have this opportunity and I already feel nurtured by the experience. It’s providing me with exactly what I had hoped – a solid dose of inspiration, motivation, & honest-to-goodness joy :).

Namaste.

Nadine SimsQ: Tell me a little about the history of your business? 

A: I have been teaching Iyengar Yoga in Bend since 1998.  My dream from the start was to have my own studio but since I was the only Certified Iyengar Teacher in Central Oregon, I had to slowly build my reputation and student base while teaching out of my home studio.

In October of 2010, I was presented with the opportunity to open our beautiful, spacious and fully equipped studio. I now offer seriously committed students the opportunity to apprentice with me.  In our system, certification is granted after approximately 5 years of supervised study and only then by passing two comprehensive examinations Iyengar Yoga Certification is recognized around the world as the Gold Standard of yoga teacher training and assures one of a committed, knowledgeable and professional teacher.

Q: What are the fundamentals of Iyengar yoga? 

A: Iyengar Yoga is the culmination of a lifetime of work by world-recognized, yoga master, B.K.S. Iyengar. As a child, Iyengar was poor, sickly and weak.  By the age of 16 he had already suffered from Typhoid, Malaria and Tuberculosis. Through yoga his health was restored and he felt inspired to share yoga with all humanity.  In 2004, Time Magazine awarded him “one of the 100 most influential people in the world”, so it seems he met his goal! The Iyengar method is based on a precise approach consisting of 1. aligning all parts of the body in each pose, 2. intelligent sequencing of poses to gradually but dramatically transform the body and develop inner awareness 3. use of yoga props.  This approach provides maximum benefit with minimum risk of injury.  It is profound, transformative and accessible to everyone.

Q: How does Iyengar differ from other forms of yoga? 

A: 1. Iyengar teachers demonstrate each pose and give clear and detailed instruction on how to proceed.  It is a real learning environment and students progress from one level to the next.

2. We start adult beginners with standing and seated poses that target shoulder and hip opening rather than flowing or Vinyasa classes. This helps to avoid the common wrist, shoulder and lower back injuries caused by repetitive, weight-bearing movements before proper alignment is understood. Mindful alignment is taught from the very first class and Iyengar students gain a solid foundation in how to do each pose correctly for maximum benefit.

3. Iyengar is not  hot yoga.  Aside from the obvious environmental concerns, it’s simply not necessary.  Yogis have always practiced in Himalayan caves without any heat!  Gymnasts and dancers work out at normal temps.  Most importantly though, Iyengar class sequencing adequately prepares the body for increasingly challenging work.  We also encourage our students to grow an independent home practice so that yoga becomes a lifestyle and not just a class they attend.

4. Mr. Iyengar is credited for introducing props (such as blocks, belts, chairs, etc.) to yoga.  Thus, his teachers are the most highly trained in how to use props correctly.  Props are one reason why Iyengar yoga can be done by anyone at any age or degree of fitness.  Both athletes and older students find them particularly helpful to overcome stiffness or heal from injuries. Iyengar Yoga is both rigorous but doable at any age under a Certified Iyengar Teacher’s careful and learned guidance.

Q: What are the benefits of practicing yoga?

A: Most people have already heard how yoga can improve ones flexibility, strength and balance, etc. Athletes can improve performance and possibly avoid injuries by starting yoga sooner than later!  Yoga instills focus and mindfulness which can support and improve every activity you enjoy.  Overcoming limitations in your body gives you a more positive outlook on life!

Q: How has yoga improved your life?

A: It has given me the strength to stand on my own two feet and live a life of integrity despite life’s challenges.  As a cancer survivor I experienced the healing power of restorative poses which enabled me to teach my full schedule even while going through chemotherapy.  It is the basis of my mental, physical and spiritual strength and balance.

Q: What would you like people to know about your studio? 

A: Try one class to see for yourself how this method of classical Hatha yoga can be of benefit to you.  We offer Free Introductory classes on a monthly basis or you can just drop in to any beginner level class.  Everyone is welcome!