Before I list all the reasons why I love Iyengar Yoga let me first say that I think we (as Americans / Westerners) put too much pressure on yoga and yoga traditions. We want it to do everything and be everything to and for us. It must cure our bad back, make us happy always, make us sweat, AND get us a date. We expect all this while we are unwilling to do any real work. I don’t mean we should be doing more Chaturanga Dandasanas or more hard poses. I mean, we expect something out of yoga for doing nothing. We expect all This now, after our very first triangle pose. It’s not our faults. Yoga has become so commercialized and so widely marketed that the concepts have been distorted.
I am the first to admit that the benefits of Iyengar Yoga are not as apparent at first. The method is organized in such a way that the student starts with the fundamentals, the basics. We start with Tadasana and the other standing poses so that we learn the perimeter of the body. We learn how to stretch our arms and legs and where to place them in relation to each other. From there the student learns the other categories of poses (seated, forward bending, inversions, backbends, etc). So at first, someone who has been lead to believe that yoga is for exercise, or strictly for a sensual experience (to make me happy), might not see the point of learning Tadasana. I mean, I am not going to trim my waist size doing Tadasana. But what the student doesn’t realize is that after working on Tadasana I can have a stronger headstand or even drop over to Urdhva Dhanurasana. We can still do all the “fancy stuff”…but maybe not in the first class.
The method works. I can say this with confidence because this has been my direct experience. I started with Tadasana and then built up from there. And the layers of awareness and depth just keep becoming more and more profound as time goes on. Of course, I have been practicing what I have been taught by my teachers, which has moved me along on my journey. Practicing does help but it is possible to reap some of the benefits of the method without practicing.
This has been the case with all certified Iyengar Yoga teachers. They are at first Iyengar Yoga students who have a home practice. They practice and explore what they are taught in class. The method is experiential. The student is taught to “go find out for yourself”. Try it and see what happens. It is this reason that the teaching is so excellent – particularly the senior teachers. The senior teachers have been practicing what they are taught, exploring and finding out for themselves, and then teaching what they know to be true.
The number one reason I love Iyengar Yoga is the quality of the teaching is excellent. I am not trying to toot my own horn here. I say this from the perspective of Aaron as a student, not as a teacher. The instruction I have received over the years has shaped and molded my practice which in turn has had a direct impact on my life. At first it was a direct impact on my physical body but then it became much more internalized.
Any student of yoga should be less demanding of yoga and more demanding of their teacher. They should ask about their teacher training and who their teachers are. They should want to know why they are being taught certain things and not others. Because our teachers are the reason we learn and grown in awareness of ourselves and others. Without a good teacher I am just trying to change the mind that I’ve got with the mind that I’ve got.