My ongoing “research” on the mega studio in town has been quite revelatory. First, I’ve found some good teachers at a studio I’d discounted as too commercial. (It is commercial, but that doesn’t mean all the teachers are middling.)
A few nights ago, I took two “Hatha” classes. The first teacher was as detailed in pelvic alignment as any Iyengar teacher would be. She actively observed students and corrected foot placement or overarched lumbar spines with care. The second teacher, an Ayurvedic specialist, made an even-stronger impression on me, combining physical precision and straightforward philosophy (with none of that annoying, flowery Yoga Talk).
Sure, most don’t give as much individual attention as I’ve observed at Iyengar studios, but that’s probably a function of the studio’s business model. Classes are often large and their composition seems to vary from week to week.
Bottom line: the mega studio is reminded me of the benefits of trying different styles of yoga.
Getting out of your element
While I’ve chosen Iyengar yoga as my fundamental practice, I’ve always explored other asana traditions, from Ashtanga (and its vinyasa/flow spinoffs) to Bikram. It can be fascinating, not just the different asana approaches but the novelty of an unfamiliar crowd and vibe.
By trying the gamut of yoga styles and teachers, you develop a sense of discernment. You know what’s “out there.” You have a clear, firsthand basis for choosing one path over another. No fair mocking hot yoga when you haven’t even tried it!
Perhaps I’m also drawn to variety to avoid becoming too insular and narrow-minded. I’ve never been a group person. In high school, I hung out with different crowds at different times, and disliked being pigeonholed. Throughout my life, I’ve preferred interacting with individuals, one to one, rather than hanging out in a clique of peers (the whole Friends concept is alien to me).
Likewise, I suspect that sticking only to one yoga circle might be limiting. Don’t get me wrong: I believe that choosing a main teacher or lineage is necessary, the way a grad student must pick a major field of study and a faculty supervisor. But never to explore related fields is too safe and comfortable; it might breed complacency.
I’m sure that some exclusively Iyengar students would be challenged by the repeated sun salutations of a vinyasa/flow class. Likewise, I’m sure that some exclusively vinyasa/flow students would totally rethink “familiar” asanas, if finely aligned and held for much longer than 15 seconds in an Iyengar class. Getting out of your element is humbling and enlightening, not only for students but for teachers, who must guard even more against ego and tunnel vision.
Exploring your own yoga community
Even within the Iyengar community, I’ve rarely tried new studios once I chose my regular teacher. So, the concept of “trying something new” applies here, too. One of my New Year’s goals is to drop in on a class with all Iyengar-certified teachers in my city. I might have seen their names or vaguely met them in class, but why not go further to discover who they are? As you know, I prefer dealing with people as individuals, so this seems an ideal way directly to support the community. (With drop-ins averaging $20, plus my existing class commitments, it could prove too pricey, but I’ll try!)