Iyengar Yoga for the crowd: character active, want to increase the flexibility of the body of people (especially the body hurt, who is recovering). Physical and psychological benefits: Los Angeles Institute of Yoga BKS Yi Yinjia Leslie Peters said: "Ai Yinjia yoga is characterized by emphasis on correct body posture, and emphasis on detail." Attend need the help of some tools such as tape, boxes and blankets and so on. With them, you can put the emphasis on action to do the same time the accuracy of position. Some pose for 1 minute or longer sometimes, in order to achieve coordination, the purpose of correction of bone and muscle.
Iyengar Light on Yoga A personal odyssey by Gerry Visco Y oga keeps the mind and body young. But this admission may date me—I started doing yoga in high school during the late 1960s, not long after the Beatles jetted off to India to study Transcendental Medita- tion with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Our local YMCA offered a yoga class, so I begged my father to drop me off every week. If the Beatles could do Headstands, so could I. From the very beginning, I loved yoga; it challenged my body and focused my mind. Ever since then, I’ve continued studying yoga, trying just about every style with many dif- ferent teachers. I liked all of them for various reasons, but I favored the Iyengar method, the most challenging. It suited me because it was logical and thorough, and promised a solid practice from its well-trained teachers. photography by kellie walsh for 4 eyes photography; hair & makeup by stefanie Duell. I began practicing Iyengar yoga in 1992 when I took a yoga class at Columbia University, where I work, on my lunch hour. One day, we had a substitute teacher—and some- thing about the more careful attention to the various parts of the body really appealed to me. It wasn’t just some haphaz- ard series of postures strung together, and we didn’t just lie around relaxing, although, of course, we ended in Savasana. So, I sought out qualified instructors—and discovered the Iyengar Yoga Institute and its wonderfully talented teachers, some of whom are pictured in this article—Mary Dunn, Robin Janis, James Murphy, and Carrie Owerko. All of them have been instrumental mentors in my growth as Iyengar senior teachers a yogini. They even inspired me to become a teacher-in- James Murphy, Robin Janis, and Carrie Owerko practice training in the Iyengar method. Eka Pada Urdhva Danurasana 36 • Fit Yoga August 2008 Fit Yoga August 2008 • 37 tadasana Parivrtta Sirsasana ply 100% of myself and be present in the poses. With ev- Then, there’s Handstands. Even though I started do- eryone working so hard, a great spirit suffuses the room. ing them in 1993, I lost the ability to kick up after I took Sometimes, I imagine if we concentrated hard enough, some time off for abdominal surgery. It took a number of maybe we could levitate. years, but now I get up most of the time. And I still can’t I’ve always been more strong than flexible, and be- reach my hands together in Gomukhasana (Cow Face cause I sit at a desk all day, I’m one of the stiffer mem- Pose), though I try every day. And who knows when I’ll bers of the class. Poses such as twists come more easily achieve full Padmasana (Lotus Pose)? My pelvic area now, especially after years of working to open my chest. is especially tight. But that’s what I like about Iyengar My Downward Facing Dog has improved since my dor- yoga. I’m there to practice, not to show off how accom- sal spine doesn’t protrude like before. plished I am. The Light of Yoga yoga when her teacher left. In the meantime, her mother, inspired by eled to Pune to study with Iyengar, he set the tone by telling Palmer, “Out iyengar teacher Mary Dunn pioneered BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga, traveled of class, she is your daughter; but the style in the U.S. with intelligence, to study with him in India. When in class, she is my daughter.” Dunn empathy, and a stalwart spirit Iyengar came to the US for the first treasures the experience. “Mother time to teach yoga in 1973, he stayed and I laughed in the dark when we Since she began teaching yoga in with Mary Palmer in Ann Arbor, fell into bed exhausted after full days, 1974, Mary Dunn has taught thou- where he taught hundreds of students delighted in what we were learn- sands of students at all levels from at the local YMCA. ing,” she says. “We got to know each total beginners to senior citizens to Dunn took his classes when he other in many new ways that set the advanced practitioners and teach- went to California in 1974. “He put basis for a marvelously satisfying ers. Dunn, a founding organizer of me on the stage,” she recalls. “I was adult closeness.” Since then, Dunn the first Iyengar Yoga Association in naïve and didn’t have any bad habits has made many trips to India to work the United States, was instrumen- he had to break. I said to myself, ‘This one-on-one with her teacher. tal in establishing the Iyengar Yoga person knows so much.’ I trusted him Her own teaching style has always centers in San Francisco, from the beginning.” Dunn been clear, direct, and accessible. San Diego, and New York. still marvels at her early An article for the IYAGNY newsletter open to change evenly. A proper Headstand flows in one straight line, from From 2003 until 2005, I encounters with Iyengar. about Tadasana (Mountain Pose) re- It’s not easy to get into the Iyengar teacher-training pro- a firm foundation, with every part of the body extended took the teacher-train- “He was dynamic and veals the former high-school English ing course she ran with strong, demanding yet also teacher’s poetic economy of words: gram; in fact, I failed my first audition. But after a few more toward the ceiling like the spire of a cathedral. With this teacher James Murphy good-natured,” she says. “From the very first direction, ‘Join years of practice, I was accepted in 2005. The program, alignment, some Iyengar practitioners can hold Headstand at the Iyengar Institute in “He demanded a lot from your feet’ we learn to transfer focus run by Mary Dunn and James Murphy, was rigorous, but I for 20 minutes or more. New York City. his students from the be- from our head to what is most distant Sitting in her airy ginning, allowing them to from it, our feet,” Dunn wrote. “As we enjoyed learning more about yoga and how to teach it. Upper West Side apart- have the wonderful experi- develop our connection with the foot’s My first teaching experiences, though, were a bit dis- Something for everyone ment, Dunn reminisces ence of doing more than system of arches, our feet become maying when I realized that many students are reluctant to Yoga is not exercise. Mr. Iyengar says yoga is the art with me about her begin- they thought they could.” wellsprings of energy we can use to try something new. “Where’s the flow series? Why aren’t of living. It’s a method where you transcend your limita- nings in yoga. “I never Meeting Iyengar fuel our entire being.” planned on being a yoga teacher,” changed her whole life. “It wasn’t “Teaching has given me a life’s you playing music?” they asked. Although Iyengar yoga tions. It teaches you how to observe your own body and she says. Back when she was a until I studied with Iyengar that the work of which I’m proud,” she says. includes “jumpings” that flow, it is mostly about holding a mind, which can help you in all your other activities. young mother of two daughters, scope of the subject began to reveal “I feel I’ve made a difference, and it’s pose in ideal alignment. And while music is great, it’s easier Iyengar yoga is often mislabeled as the style practiced by Dunn couldn’t even touch her toes, itself,” says Dunn. “I became aware given me innumerable friends and a although she regularly participated in there were pathways in the body al- wonderful sense of purpose. Being a to focus without distractions. Nonetheless, the students dancers or teachers. The truth is Iyengar yoga speaks to ice skating, swimming, team sports, lowing the intelligent understanding yoga teacher is a way of connecting kept mentioning how their old teacher did things. all types of bodies and capabilities. and tennis. “You should try yoga,” her of movement, the creation of silence. with people about the things that mat- Since yoga is about allowing change to happen and I’m no dancer—I’m just an average athletic person who mother, Mary Palmer, encouraged her. Asana and pranayama opened doors ter most, not only for my own life but “It’s the most amazing thing!” to awareness—emotionally, physi- to look at the big questions.” being open to new things, my job was to show them why likes to work hard. My yoga has evolved over the years, A bit skeptical at first, Dunn began ologically, intellectually, and spiritual- Diagnosed with advanced this method works. The flexible students jumped easily and at this point, I could be classified as an intermediate taking a local yoga class once a week. ly.” Her studies made her realize the peritoneal cancer in 2007, Dunn has into Headstands, but they were wobbly once they got there. practitioner. In the beginning, my main challenge was A half-hour into her first class, she universality of the human condition since had three major surgeries and decided this was just what she needed and helped her cope with her own chemotherapy. She maintains a blog They thought just getting up was enough, but the challenge to open my joints and relax the stiffness in my hips and to physically express herself and give difficulties. “To become a teacher, where she talks about her ongoing is to hold a solid Headstand. That means it’s better to do shoulders. Virabhadrasana II used to be so painful for me. her mind an intellectual workout. you have to have both detachment treatment (marydunn.blogspot.com). it against the wall than be in a “banana” shape, where the Should I mention I’m a wimp with some inversions, too? Dunn moved to Berkeley in 1973 and profound empathy,” she says. Our thoughts and hearts are with with her family and began teaching When Dunn and her mother trav- Mary at this difficult time. —G.V. back bows and the body is out of alignment. In Headstand, I study regularly with Carrie Owerko, this issue’s your chest needs to be open, the legs active and balanced cover model. Her arduous classes have taught me to ap- 38 • Fit Yoga August 2008 Fit Yoga August 2008 • 39 Setu Bandha Sarvangasana Variation Where it all began Roped In Living master BKS Iyengar, one of the foremost teachers One of the tools Iyengar relies upon is Yoga Kurunta, of yoga in the world and creator of this eponymous style, be- the use of ropes, as part of a regular yoga practice. Geeta S. Iyengar, his daughter, describes seven rope gan teaching in Mysore, India, at the age of 18 and was then techniques in her book, Yoga: A Gem for Women. The sent to Pune. Often called “Guruji,” for beloved teacher, he word kurunta means puppet, describing how the yoga practitioner suspends on the ropes. will turn 90 in December. Assisted by his daughter Geeta and Practicing yoga this way opens the body, releasing son Prashant, Iyengar continues to teach at his center, called tension in the spine and pelvic area, and allows easier access to even the most difficult poses. An effective way Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI). to work with elderly or stiff practitioners, the ropes also Most Iyengar teachers make a pilgrimage to Pune to help correct scoliosis. People with neck problems can study with him, but Iyengar yoga centers extend all over practice Sirsasana (Headstand) with ropes. the world, with several thousand certified teachers and Some other benefits of Yoga Kurunta: hundreds in the United States alone. Mr. Iyengar has writ- • Good for backbends and concave back postures, ten many best-selling books on yogic practices and philoso- forward bends, Downward Facing Dog, remedial or restorative work phy including Light on Yoga, Light on Pranayama, Light on the • Spinal traction helps relieve back pain and tension Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Light on Life, and others. All these books are essential study tools for most yoga teachers and • Excellent for stretching hamstrings, shoulders, and chest practitioners of all styles everywhere. What’s most amazing • Adds speed, lightness, agility, range of motion about Mr. Iyengar, though, is his willingness to go beyond his limits. He uses his own body as a laboratory of sorts, Although using ropes can be a bit daunting at first, James Murphy says, “It’s actually a lot of fun.” He uses which is why the Iyengar method continues to evolve. them often in his classes at the Iyengar Yoga Institute If you go to an Iyengar class, be assured that you’ll be of New York because the gravity and movement in guided by an experienced and knowledgeable teacher. rope work awakens the body and brings freedom to the joints. Iyengar teachers are required to undergo an ongoing cer- Practitioners should learn the art of Kurunta with an tification process throughout their careers—with assess- experienced teacher. Ropes provide a great tool for any ments on six levels from Introductory to Advanced Senior. yoga studio but, of course, they need to be securely take time to explore with confidence that I won’t fall. And after a month or two The Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United bolted to the wall by a professional carpenter. As my practice matures, I discover new things about of daily attempts to stand tall and grab my toe in Utthita States (IYNAUS, iynaus.org), a national non-profit group myself every day. A few years ago, I realized I wasn’t stand- Hasta Padangusthasana (Extended Hand to Foot Pose), I dedicated to the teachings and philosophy of BKS Iyengar, ing properly. I’d grip my stomach, and I wasn’t keeping the can finally do it. And if I can do that with daily effort, then I oversees the certification process. The Iyengar Yoga middle of my torso long—which made me wonder whether can do any pose if I’m diligent. Institute of New York, located in New York City’s Chelsea this constriction was what caused the Yoga is not about achieving the area, where I study, is a non-profit group affiliated with abdominal issues that led to my sur- Being able to touch the perfect pose—it’s about intention. It’s IYNAUS and is the headquarters for the Iyengar Yoga As- gery. Ditto my chest: A lifelong habit ground in Uttanasana... being in the moment, but it’s also the sociation of Greater New York, which includes New York, of caving in my chest and collapsing or drop back into Urdhva process, the effort, the concentration. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. Students and my rib cage could have contributed to Dhanurasana... Being able to touch the ground in Ut- teachers from any style of yoga can certainly benefit from my asthma. tanasana (Forward Bend) or drop back the Iyengar method—and who knows, if you try it, you is not any better than As all my teachers emphasize, the into Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward just might want to continue. doing the simplest poses with best way to go beyond your limits Facing Bow Pose) is not any better devotion and intelligence. gerry Visco is a freelance writer and photographer and is with a daily home practice, even than doing the simplest poses with completed a two-year yoga teacher-in-training at the Iyengar if it’s a short one. Although it can be devotion and intelligence. Institute in New York City. difficult to juggle a full-time job and a full life with all the Yoga is an exploration of your body and mind. We try New York City distractions, I developed a basic routine. to bring freedom, lightness, and space into the body as we Every day, I swim at the gym on my building’s rooftop strengthen it. Through Iyengar yoga, I’ve learned not to iyengar Yoga institute of new York and spend as much time as possible before or after doing rush but to concentrate and give the process my all. Half- 150 West 22nd St., 11th floor an asana sequence. Sometimes, I’ll pick one or two poses effort and half-attention to anything will result in medi- New York, NY 10011 I’m having trouble with and keep at it. I’ve managed to ocrity. Developing my practice with my Iyengar teachers (212) 691-9642 improve my balance in Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon provided a foundation that helps all my poses as well as iyengarnyc.org Pose) and Vrksasana (Tree Pose). It’s great going into class my own life challenges. 40 • Fit Yoga August 2008 Fit Yoga August 2008 • 41
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