23 July, 2013

Iyengar, ropes, and props

Today was Iyengar yoga with Lori Neumann at California Yoga Center in Mountain View.

I had never taken an Iyengar class before but I thought I knew what to expect since it had to be similar to Ashtanga. Wrong. This was my first time here and I almost didn't make it, with the fabulous traffic. The studio was reasonable-sized and one wall was adorned with many many ropes connected and hanging. I had no idea what they were for or if we would use them. There were only 7 or 8 of us, all women except for me. There was a spread of ages from a little younger than me to senior citizen. It was interesting to be in a class with that much diversity.

Lori had us do most of the poses using interesting types of self-assist. We did a lot of poses against the wall, such as Triangle and Half Moon (with one side of our body against the wall). We did Gomukhasana against the wall, first getting the bottom arm pushed tightly against the wall, and then turning around to get the top arm pressed tightly against the wall. It was extremely intense. Then we did a series of poses like Pyramid and Seated Twist, using a folding chair with the backrest removed as a prop. It was interesting. Never thought of it before. And in the middle of class, she had us work on form in Downward Dog, by slipping our legs through the rope straps on the wall and then practically draping our body forward with the ropes holding our thighs, and allowing the upper body to fall forward into Downward Dog. It was a very different feeling than anything I could do myself without a serious assist.

The class was not a flow class. It felt like a slow workshop and we probably spent more time not doing poses than doing poses. I didn't even necessarily feel like there was an opportunity for any type of connection with a quiet inner place. I did gain much benefit from the effect of these props we used, and learned something about alignment in the class. But I am left wondering "Is this what an Iyengar class is like?" That's the funny thing about having one-off experiences with genres of yoga, is that it's not clear if I have a good understanding. After class, I spoke with Lori for a few minutes, recommending to her some teachers at Be Luminous, since she's going to be visiting Seattle soon. She was very enthusiastic about Power Vinyasa, and about heated yoga, saying that she loved these kinds of classes. That surprised me, because I would have expected an Iyengar teacher to look down upon a Baptiste class. I don't know why I assume that. I just did. Maybe because I hear how Ashtanga practitioners talk about it. But, again, Lori is one instructor, and may not be representative of the Iyengar community as a whole.

I had a little distraction coming into this class, probably deriving from the fact that I wasn't sure I was going to make it there on time. And I probably also had a little distraction knowing that I would be facing California traffic to head to the airport immediately after class. I created that urgency for myself with the choices I made, and I did not (much) freak out over the timing. But I think, whether I experienced it or not consciously, there was a bit of anxiety in me.

And that ends another yoga field-trip to Mountain View.

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