One of the many reasons I love teaching is because the students challenge me to clarify my thoughts. Sometimes the answers to their questions come easily – like “should the legs be straight in Trikonasana”? The answer is yes. Didn’t take much brain power to come up with that answer. But every once in awhile a student will ask a question or make a statement which takes a number of days to come up with a concise and thoughtful response. This happened last weekend while teaching / hosting the Cincinnati Yoga Teachers Association monthly gathering.
After the class was over a student came up to tell me that she had taken Iyengar Yoga for XX years but is now doing another kind of yoga because she was told that she “has too much pitta and therefore needed to soften”. I inferred from this that the Iyengar Yoga she was practicing wasn’t allowing her to “soften”. This student has only been in my class the one time and I don’t know her previous yoga history so I can’t say if it was a good plan to switch to different kind of yoga or not.
I thought about this students statement a lot over the next 24 hours. Because I too am dominated by my pitta dosha and tend to be lively and firey, especially in my yoga practice. Over the past few years, with help from teachers, I have been able to “soften” some. And in the last 5 months since my son was born I have softened a lot, mostly because I have been too tired to over exert myself. I have been forced by fatigue to chose my efforts carefully. To practice smarter not harder.
In my experience there is a lot of breadth and width in the Iyengar Yoga method. The senior teachers want us to evolve and involve into mature practitioners who stick with it for the duration. Perhaps in the beginning (when the students are Beginners) it might see like the instructions are to make yourself “hard”. It might seem this way because students don’t have the capacity YET to detect subtle actions. They don’t know YET how to fine tune or analyze their asanas. It takes time to build up a vocabulary.
I have started to build up a new and more mature vocabulary and I am very grateful for that. I do think that this change would not have happened if I had switched to running instead or to another type of yoga. It was in going back to the same place over and over and over that I was able to see the change in myself. Instead of throwing Iyengar Yoga out I was able to assess my tendencies and changes, over time. The beauty of yoga (and also the trouble with it) is that it does take time.