WHAT IS YOGA?
Yoga has various definitions, the primary one being “to still the fluctuations of the mind” in order to rest in our true nature or in pure awareness. Other important definitions of yoga are “equanimity,” “skill in action,” and “disunion from sorrow.” Here in the West, most people are familiar with “asana” or poses, one of eight limbs of yoga, that help to bring about these equanimous and integrated states.
WHAT MAKES IYENGAR YOGA DIFFERENT?
Iyengar yoga is for anyone and everyone. It’s the world’s most widely practiced method of yoga. Iyengar yoga teachers are well qualified and experienced in helping each student to find their own level in each pose. Props are useful here to make each pose accessible to all.
Because Iyengar yoga focuses on postural alignment, you may discover that it is particular good for postural and structural problems. And the fact that you have to give all of your attention to the precise details of each pose requires effort and concentration which can relieve stress and anxiety. Iyengar yoga is all about quality of movement rather than quantity, to encourage safety throughout your practice.
Even though you might feel that an Iyengar class moves at a slower pace than other types of yoga class, you’ll find you have to work hard. The method is methodical, challenging and rewarding.
IS YOGA A RELIGION?
Yoga is not a religion, although it undoubtedly has spiritual roots and had its birth in India, a then predominately Hindu culture. B.K.S. Iyengar has described yoga as an art, science, and philosophy. Yoga gives guidance in the art of living and enhances the quality and worthiness of one’s life. Yoga is a science as it deals with health, strength, and conquest of the body as well as the mind. Most importantly, it can be considered a philosophy providing one with the means to “attain poise and face all the vicissitudes of life, sorrows and joys with equanimity.”
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF YOGA?
The benefits of yoga are countless! Physical benefits include increased strength, balance, flexibility, and vitality. Many students find relief from aches and pains that have long plagued them. Many chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis are helped by the regular practice of yoga. Psychological and emotional benefits include improvement in concentration, stress reduction, a sense of well-being, mental peace and gratitude.
DO I NEED TO BE FLEXIBLE IN ORDER TO PRACTICE YOGA?
You do NOT need to be flexible in order to practice yoga! Although yoga likely will improve your flexibility — along with your strength, balance, and mindfulness. Iyengar yoga begins with standing poses which often are easier for those students who are less flexible. Over time as flexibility develops, one can progress more easily to seated poses. Additionally, the Iyengar system uses props (blocks, blankets, chairs, straps) to assist all students to find comfort in poses.
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR TO CLASS?
You should wear comfortable, non-binding, yet fitted clothes which will help the instructor determine whether your body is properly aligned in yoga poses. Some students like to bring an extra layer to put on during the relaxation portion at the end of class. It is important that you be barefoot for class — this is for reasons of safety as well as learning.
DO I NEED TO BRING ANYTHING TO CLASS?
You don’t need to bring anything, but your own mat is highly recommended for hygienic reasons — and because you are encouraged to have one for a home practice. The studio is fully equipped with blankets, blocks, straps and mats.
CAN I EAT BEFORE COMING TO CLASS?
Ideally one practices yoga on an empty stomach. You should try to eat no later than two hours before class, although you may find you are able to eat something light like fruit, nuts or yogurt an hour before class. Try to wait at least 30 minutes before eating after class.
CAN WOMEN WHO ARE MENSTRUATING PRACTICE YOGA?
Yes. However, if you are menstruating, please let the teacher know and you will be given a modified practice depending on what day of your period it is. Some poses, such as inversions and strong abdominal poses, should be avoided altogether.
WHAT IF I FEEL PAIN IN A POSE?
“Ahimsa” or non-violence is the first moral restraint (“yama”) of yoga. When you experience pain, it is important to back off of or come out of a pose. It also is helpful to let the teacher know so that she can look at your alignment.
SHOULD I PRACTICE OUTSIDE OF CLASS?
Yes, yes, yes. That is why we call it “practice!” Just as with music lessons, the more you practice, the more quickly you will learn and reinforce the instruction you have received. Try to practice a few poses every day if possible. Shorter, more frequent practice sessions, are recommended over fewer and longer practices — although you will find any amount of yoga practice outside of class to be beneficial.
B.K.S. Iyengar strongly believed in the power of practice and countless individuals around the world have realized the benefits of a regular yoga practice. Your teacher is here to help you and WANTS to help you so please feel free to speak to me before or after class about your home practice.