Lately I have been brooding over the fact that I don’t have a ‘teacher’ to work under. I pour over blogs and Facebook posts that have pictures and stories of yoga shalas and communities with an authorized teachers where the community is immersed in serious practice and the practitioners are like minded in their pursuit of yoga and the lineage they practice in. While I am able to get out of town for workshops and practice with a small local group with the same interests, I often wish I had that here. I know. Whoa is me.
My solution has been to work with a small group that are in the same situation that I am and practice at home. And hope for something different some day. And enjoy practice.
Fortunately there are TEACHERS of the lineage of Krishnamacharya in town so I am enjoying going to Iyengar yoga IMMENSELY.
How did two teachers with the same teacher develop such different forms of yoga?
As I practice and study I find as many similarities as differences. Iyengar is very adamant on not teaching vinyasa krama, or movement with breath. His ideal is that the yoga pose has what he refers to as a ‘holistic’ or ‘wholistic’ experience. The forms have a lot of theory in order to experience the pranic quality. In Ashtanga vinyasa, the focus is on the quality of prana, or breath over the theory of form. The form follows and the only way to experience it is through consistent practice.
The ashtanga practitioners who have been consistent with the practice for years attest to this. The novice is never sure. They don’t really understand the bandhas or the energetic promise of experience, especially in the West, we want to know why, or HOW does it work. We in the West even doubt in the experience.
Crossing the lines of styles is also verboten in certain circles. There is a distrust among the Ashtangis about Iyengar, I remember Richard Freeman saying yes this is kind of the ultimate SIN to throw some Iyengar in, but my favorite teachers, like Freeman or Tias Little do this SO WELL.
In the Iyengar classes I have taken, we practice many of my familiar primary series poses. Parsvottanasana for example:
Is the same pose in both practices, with the Iyengar being a little wider base in the jump out, then turn, the approach is very adho mukha and that approach is very uttanasa, which I GOT yesterday. Brilliant.
I love the break down. I also love the vinyasa. But the breakdown helped me realize something about the pranic quality or the EXPERIENCE, that maybe I wasn’t getting the answer too, or I WAS getting the answer to over a LONG PERIOD of practice.
When I went back to classic styles a little over a year ago I thought, oh yeah, well I have these standing poses DOWN. Turns out, I was wrong. There is always MORE, especially in the Foundational work of yoga. If I have one critique of the current state of yoga, it is the total lack of Foundations in practice. Everyone wants to do a handstand, like, yesterday.
Handstands are fine and fancy poses, but so are the bridges, blocks, streams, and walls.
I am going to do a Foundations workshop series this spring. When people ooh and aah over yoga poses on social media, that is the first thing I point out, those people practiced Foundations a long time. I don’t know of any exceptions that that rule. That is my current yoga theory. The lessons never stop on planet earth.
Coming soon, a post on Trikonasana