During my Lonely Planet research trip to Hawaii, I dropped on 75-minute classes at two Hilo studios: Balancing Monkey and Yoga Centered. Neither offers Iyengar yoga , but one teacher’s bio mentioned that she’s in training for Intro II certification. Curious, I attended her “basics” class–and a half-priced “community flow” class at the other studio.
Guess which is which:
SEQUENCE 1Sukhasana (on two adjacent blocks) Adho Mukha Virasana Spinal Stretch (to wall) Vrksasana (back against wall) Garudasana (legs only) Virabhadrasana I (front foot on two blocks stacked against wall) Parsvakonasana Dandasana (on bolster) Marichysana I (on bolster) Marichyasana III (on bolster) Triang Mukhaipada Paschimottanasana (on bolster) Adho Mukha Virasana Adho Mukha Svanasana Resting Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (torso on bolster, feet on blocks) Savasana
SEQUENCE 2Supta Baddhakonasana (on bolster, legs propped) Supta Padangusthasana I, II, twist Dandasana Paschimottanasana Adho Mukha Virasana Adho Mukha Svanasana Sun Salutations (three sets) Tadasana, Uttanasana, Lunge, Kneeling lunge, Forward bend sitting on heel with other leg straight, Lunge, Uttanasana, Tadasana, Repeat with other leg Sea Salutations (several sets, see video below) Tadasana, Uttanasana, Malasana, Roll backward into Halasana with arms overhead, Roll forward into Malasana, Uttanasana, Tadasana, Repeat with other leg Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (balancing, with strap) to Parsva Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana to Parivrtta Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana Ardha Supta Virsana (on bolster) Hanumanasana (on bolster) Resting Pigeon Stretch Adho Mukha Svanasana, one leg raised, foot against wall (a standing split) Ustrasana (prep only, hands against wall) Ardha Matsyendrasana (prep only, seat on floor, no clasp) Viparita Karani (on bolster)
It’s probably obvious to experienced yoga practitioners that an Iyengar yoga teacher would be unlikely to teach Sequence 2 (especially to drop-ins and beginners). Hanumanasana? Even in the teacher-heavy classes that I attend, we rarely practice Hanumanasana.
That said, here’s what I experienced in the two classes, both which were taught by pleasant, young, female, novice teachers. Regarding the Iyengar trainee’s sequence, I had no major quibbles, although it lacked a unifying theme and ended 10 minutes early. She spotted students’ weaknesses and gave a nice chair+bolster modification to a guy who couldn’t hook his ankle in Garudasana.
Regarding the flow class, I had doubts about the sequencing, yet I personally enjoyed it. In my home practice I do Sun Salutations almost daily, but the Sea Salutations were a surprise! Having sampled a number of flow classes over the years, I find them packed with poses–and invigorating and fun. There’s value both in learning fundamental form and alignment–and in dynamic movement, challenging poses, and unexpected stuff like rolling from Malasana into Halasana.
I wouldn’t teach Sequence 2 to beginners. And it did raise a few question marks. (Why do a standing split before Hanumanasana? What was that Ustrasana tossed in at the end?) I also missed a teacher’s precise verbal instructions and eagled-eyed corrections/adjustments. (Why didn’t she address all the “floating” hips in Supine Pigeon Stretch. Hmm, her own hip was floating in her demo.)
But I can see the appeal of how yoga is taught at non-Iyengar studios. Yoga might be presented as an external physical stimulus, but exploring the body’s abilities can be awakening. If (and I know it’s a big “if”) one can take care of oneself, why not go for it sometimes?
The supported postures are very important, but so are the ‘back of the book’ postures that young people have more access to – we don’t want to lose those postures and what they have to teach us.
Those of us who have been around a long time need to continue to teach these postures.
The AGM in Saskatoon a few years ago had the theme of vibrancy – this is what we need to teach, and help students experience – Virya (unflagging enthusiasm or the essence of vitality).
Her point is worth thinking about: for your own practice, for your own teaching, and for the future of Iyengar yoga.