A Light on Yoga – How Iyengar Illuminated My Yoga Journey

 

I started my yoga journey by guiding myself through the weekly sequences in Iyengar’s Light on Yoga.  In his preface, Mr. Iyengar emphasizes the importance of learning with a teacher but I’d ignored that and brashly pushed forward on my own.  One day in about “Week 12,” I leaned over to pick up a tray and couldn’t straighten my back.  Hobbling to the phone, I called the local Iyengar studio and signed up for my first class.      

During that first class at the Julie Lawrence Yoga Center in Portland Oregon, two things became crystal clear: first, I’d practice yoga for the rest of my life, and second, I wanted to be a teacher.

“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees,” B.K.S. Iyengar, 1918-2014.

Afterwards, as I made the 4.5 mile walk back to the ashram where I was living at the time, I mentally replayed everything that we’d done in the class:  The teacher’s insistent recipe for sitting with an erect spine; the introductory prayers we chanted aloud; the fastidious anatomical cueing of each asana (seat); the logic of the sequence; the thrill of being upside down; and the conscious relaxation.  I practiced what we did everyday until the next class and returned eagerly with questions.  A practice I’d repeat with every teacher I’d come to study with.   That first class was a lens that focused my reason for being on the planet.  For me, Yoga weds passion with career and illuminates a path to and through old-age/death.    

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Now, 20 years later, here I am.  Still practicing, still teaching.  It gets better every day.    

– Louis Jackson, Nandi Yoga Instructor

 

The Precision and Joy of Iyengar Yoga

I was drawn to this practice because of its precision, timing and sequencing, the foundations of Iyengar Yoga, which help guide one towards freedom of mind and a compassionate and spiritual life.  The intricacies and minute teachings always pull the students and me into the energy of this particular way. Whether we practice asanas, pranayama, study the sutras of Patanjali, chant and/or meditate together, the connection to the lineage of teachers is truly present.

“It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence,”  B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life.

The disciplines of continuation, perseverance, repetitions of the practice and the concepts of involution for evolution back to involution, the self-study and just simply the everyday life Practice of the Yoga Sutras on and off the mat absorbs me and keeps me going on this path.

 

Birgit Reimer, an Iyengar Yoga Instructor, has been teaching for more than 20 years and travels every other year to the Ramamani Iyengar Institute, to study with the Iyengar family.  www.yoga-is-all.com

 

Asanas of the Week: Prenatal Yoga

We honor all mothers on this special day, including those who are having their babies this year! Here are two yoga poses that will keep us coming back to the mat throughout pregnancy, and even thereafter.

Photo Credit: Michelle Hyman, Prenatal Yoga Instructor at Nandi Yoga — San Mateo, California

Nandi Yoga Gift Guide: Everything A Yogi Mom Needs This Year

Mother’s Day is the best time of the year to give gratitude to our moms. This year, Nandi staff hand-pick the most popular, high-quality gifts that many yogi moms will cherish on and off the mat. 

We welcome you to visit Nandi Yoga in-studio to check-out our top 10 gifts:

Steadiness and Ease in Motherhood

Being a mother is a lot like practicing yoga.  Both test your strength, flexibility, and lifelong explorations of the body and mind. They can be gentle or challenging from time to time. In both, we start the day with our best intentions to focus, be steady, and be present. Sometimes we push beyond our edge and overstretch. There are even those rare occasions when they can cause pain. Often times, they make us feel pretty good, and we are always glad we came.
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There is a well-known yoga sutra, “stirrha sukha asana,”  that loosely translates to “steadiness and ease in your position.” In my classes, I often talk about finding steadiness and ease even as we move through the most challenging yoga postures. I also think about this sutra a lot in my journey through motherhood. How do I maintain a sense of calm, comfort and steadiness as my almost 5-year old throws a fit over a lost matchbox car precisely at the time when we need to be walking out the door in order to not be late for school? Also, when I pick up the kids late from child care after being stuck in traffic on Highway 101 for more than one-hour? By the time I get the kids, we are all whiny, cranky and hungry. In moments like these, I am definitely not calm and my heart rate is clearly an indicator that I am not at ease. And these are the moments I must learn to take my yoga practice off of the mat. Use my breath to calm the  heart-rate down, close the eyes, and allow myself to simply be in this crazy and wonderful moment of motherhood; with no judgment, wishful thinking or wants — simply acknowledgement and celebration of who I am as a mother.

 Michelle Hyman, Prenatal Yoga Instructor

Jumpstart Mother’s Day: Compassion to Ourselves and Others through Yoga Practices

Often times as mothers and caretakers, we forget that we are more than just snot wipers, master mac and cheese makers, boo-boo kissers and diaper changers. We also are women who may have once danced naked in front of the bathroom mirror or bought lacy lingerie. However,  many mothers I know keep their lacy lingeries tucked in storage and have exchanged them for full coverage cotton briefs.

Practicing yoga can help us bring the women back into mothers. Often times, we lose the connection with our bodies after pregnancy, whether we have a c-section, vaginal birth, or return back to pre-pregnancy weight — our bodies, ourselves are different. Even after months and years after having a baby, many moms find it difficult to appreciate themselves — from not-so-perky breasts to maybe slightly wider hips. Through our yoga practice, we are given the opportunity to relearn our body, find our strength and connect our breath with movement.

 

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As mothers, we are also provided lifelong learning opportunities like self-compassion. We will do anything to help ensure our children grow up free from suffering; yet, we forget to direct compassion to ourselves.  We easily corner ourselves with the endless chatter of self-critique thoughts  like, “I should have… if only I did it this way…what will people think of me?” How do we, instead,  allow ourselves to acknowledge the moment and accept it as it is? And in that acceptance, allow us to feel compassionate towards ourselves.

Heading into Mother’s day, let’s dedicate to be ourselves with kindness and no judgements. Let’s allow ourselves and others to take care of us with compassion. And maybe even find some time to dance naked in front of the mirror.

– Michelle Hyman, Prenatal Yoga Instructor

 

Taking the First Steps

 

Yoga is like learning to play piano. It takes practice, practice, practice and everyone starts with their first lesson.  Yoga helps to build flexibility, strength, and balance, but you don’t need to have any of these in order to begin. We each bring to the mat our entire life’s experiences and history. We may be flexible or we may feel pretty stiff. Some students come with old injuries. Others come with years of weight lifting or ballet. In other words, each student is unique but the poses can be modified to suit the individual.  

 

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The biggest concern I hear from students is the perceived lack of flexibility – they warn me that they cannot touch their toes.  It doesn’t matter – if you can move and breathe, you can do yoga.  Everyone can benefit from using props to find ease – blocks bring the foundation higher, straps make the arms longer, and blankets provide ease on the floor.  The goal of each class is for students to leave feeling better than when they entered the studio—and to have fun.

– Bonnie Smetts, Ashtanga Yoga Instructor