Photo Credit to BKS Iyengar Studio of Dallas

For those who might be new to my blogging style about classes, I am not one to give the detailed sequence of what was taught. Sequences are very typically context oriented, meaning the time, place, people doing the poses, and teacher teaching the poses can change any one sequence A LOT. Abhi said yesterday that out of 1300 people we will be having 1300 experiences and she can’t assume what those are. But, what IS important can be the concepts and philosophical gems that can be applied to ANY physical practice you may do. Prashant Iyengar also covers this concept in his first online lesson where you as the student are able to choose your own pose and then apply the techniques he teaches to that physical structure. As we are constantly reminded by any Iyengar, it is not WHAT you are doing necessarily, but HOW and WHY.

Our first class with Abhijata Iyengar on Thursday morning was a breath of fresh air to say the least. She radiates with a smile that is catching and an enthusiasm for teaching and sharing in yoga that will brighten anyone’s practice. She even got photobombed by her daughter. Though she “claimed” it was her first time teaching on Zoom, it sure didn’t seem like it. She reminded us very quickly that she didn’t come with a specific “plan” as much of the Iyengar approach to teaching is to “see” who is in front of you and go from there. Well, the 1300 participants are not in front of her, but she did a great job pretty instantly coming up with a format and focus that was perfect for the venue.

First, she was clear that these are unprecedented times. NONE of us have experienced anything like this, so to treat our practice or our lives as if nothing out of the ordinary is going on is foolish. Each pose we do now is unprecedented, the actions and feelings we are experiencing are unprecedented. These times are unprecedented. So, we must adjust and act accordingly. In asana she wanted us to take care and not exceed 80% physical effort, but always encouraged 100% awareness.

Many of us have realized that the Zoom format of teaching and taking a class is a cost/benefit experience and Abhi picked up on this immediately. We may not be able to see the students clearly, we may not be able to receive adjustments and corrections from the teacher so specifically for us. However, NOW is the time to develop and hone our sensitivity and “perception”. In a usual class we may be told to do something, so we act, then we usually feel some sensation regarding that action, but can we actually perceive what has actually happened? When we are not seen by an outer source, we must perceive ourselves more clearly. This is the work of yoga.

Yoga takes us from experiencing delusion to clear seeing. Our experimentation in asana is that process of doing, feeling, and then seeing more clearly the result. In perfect Iyengar humor, we experimented with a brick at the inside arch of the foot in a couple of poses to truly “see” if the ankle stayed steady or not. In the balance of Ardha Chandrasana (half moon), we all got a good chuckle from our “hip-hop dancing ankles that have no rhythm”! With so many obstacles to face on this path and in life, and with so much force put upon us at this time from the outside, we must find ways to be soft and nurturing and yes, even laugh at ourselves as well.

In the end, Abhi had us look to the breath as our own guide and teacher. We have to release some of the push and pull of our physical limbs and make adjustments and perceptions through the use of the more sensitive breath. Find your shape, but then let the breath guide you to more of that shape. Notice what is fighting or holding you back and let go.

In Savasana and throughout class, there was always the reminder of Mother Earth, her care and support, her need for our patience and slowing down of pace. Geeta Iyengar very often said “surrender to Mother Earth” in Savasana and I LOVE this image and this feeling every time it is said. Abhi also reminded us to surrender our ego to Mother Earth, to turn our minds in and away from all the distraction, and be grateful and thankful for our privilege to be together and partake in yoga each day.

I enjoyed teaching class this morning, sharing what I can along the way…I am about to embark on watching the recording of today’s class with Abhi, so more later on that.

Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.