Tuesday, January 18, 2011

So, What About The Yoga??!

I figure it's time I did a little writing about our yoga experience. Part of why I wanted to return to the Iyengar Institute for a 2nd time, was to have more focus on the yoga aspect of the trip. I love India so much, and it's easy to be swept up in the joys of going out and about the city to explore - which we did a lot of last time around. This time I was, and remain, determined to really focus on yoga. I've only had 2 outing adventures since being here... and otherwise it's been mostly yoga yoga yoga.

We have a LOT of yoga going on in our lives:
Mondays: class 7-9 am, practice 9-12, class 6-8pm
Tuesdays: class 7-9 am, practice 9-12, class 6-8pm
Wednesdays: class 9:30-11:30 am, practice 4-6 pm, observe medical class 6-8pm
Thursdays: class 7-9 am, practice 9-12, class 6-8pm
Fridays: practice 9 am-12 noon, class 6-8 pm (optional observe medical class 4-6pm)
Saturdays: class 9:30-11:30 am, practice 4-6 pm
Sundays, day off!!

So, between our constant need to eat (and leave time to digest before our next class), and our constant effort to sleep enough... the schedule feels quite full! It's hard to get done with class at 8pm, eat dinner, and take notes on class, and then fall asleep and then wake up at 6 again the next morning. I am DEFINITELY looking forward to not getting up at 6 am after this month is over. I am okay with 7 am, but it turns out that 6 am and I are really not friends.

We have 3 different types of classes: those taught my Mr Iyengar and his granddaughter Abhi, those taught by Mr Iyengar's son Prashant, and those taught by various senior teachers at the Institute. They are all quite different.

Two days a week (Wed & Sat morning) we have "ladies class" with Mr. Iyengar & his granddaughter. These classes have been amazing. Mr. Iyengar observes from the corner... and provides the sequencing, corrections, details and observations... which are then reiterated, demonstrated and elaborated upon by Abhi. His sequencing is really superb, which is no surprise! He is very demanding, and will make us repeat a pose or action until he feels that we have understood the point he is trying to illuminate in us. His classes are precise and generally work around 1 or 2 themes, which he starts off with in poses where these actions or feelings are relatively easy to find, and then gradually builds the complexity.

The classes with the senior teachers are really fun. Generally, they seem to build on the themes Mr. Iyengar teaches during the Ladies Classes... and are useful for reinforcing the things we learned earlier - which is quite helpful. These classes have the same quality of very precise instructions and sequencing, though the atmosphere generally is quite a bit lighter without the gravitas of Mr. Iyengar in the room! Last night we had a totally awesome backbend class taught by one of these teachers, which completely blew my mind.

We worked on backbends similar to this pose, except we got to keep on hands on the floor. We were smooshing our faces on the floor, and it was great fun! Ha ha. That is when you know you enjoy your yoga practice, I guess.

Finally, we have the classes with Prashant, which are a totally different ball game. It's sort of wild how different they are. Prashant is most decidedly NOT interested in the subtleties of alignment in the asanas. His sequencing is loose... so some of us will be doing one thing, while another group does a different pose, and a 3rd group does something else. As long as you do all 3, he is not usually concerned with the order in which you do them. He is constantly encouraging us to experiment and do our own research in the poses. Come out and come back into the pose again if needed. And a LOT of emphasis on bringing equal awareness to the breath experience and mental experience as we typically bring to the physical elements of the experience. It's quite interesting, and some of his classes have been really wonderful and thought provoking.

The first week we focused on standing poses, week 2 was focused on forward bends, and now we are starting week 3 - week of backbends. If I recall correctly from last time, our final week should be the week of pranayama (breathing), which I am looking forward to. I am definitely learning lots and lots of new actions and approaches ... but there is also just the general joy of being able to practice so deeply and regularly over so many consecutive days. That alone is really amazing.

Unfortunately around the 10th or so, I pulled a muscle (left internal hamstring). Not the worst injury in the world, but I had trouble walking for a few days, and was definitely NOT up for asana. I had a good attitude some of the time, but I also spent plenty of time moping and feeling disappointed and sorry for myself. I did end up getting some a little help, and a couple of tips from some of the senior teachers during practice time. I skipped out on a few days of class, and just went and observed and took notes instead of practicing.

I'm glad I went and took notes, but it was really hard to sit there and watch everyone having so much fun and working so hard without me! My spirit is so willing... but I guess my hamstring not so much. The injury is getting better... and I can walk around just fine (thank goodness!). Backbends are no problem for this injury, so I"m feeling very grateful for the arrival of forward bend week. The injury is most definitely still there and limits what I can work on during practice time quite a bit. But somehow I still manage to fill up 2 1/2 hours! I learned a few things that I can do to help it, and then beyond that it's mostly just trying to figure out what else I can do without further agitating it. I'm not quite the glowing image of health and adventure that I hoped to be, but what are you going to do? Get really good at backbends, I guess! :) ha ha.

Here is a picture of the yoga room (I'm using other people's pictures off the internet, since I can't upload pics today... I"ll keep trying!). We have our classes and our practice in this room... though it is decidedly more stuffed full of various props and benches than it is in this picture. You can see how the whole room is lined with pictures of Mr. Iyengar from his book "Light on Yoga," as well as many more recent pictures of his in various poses. It's so inspiring to practice with all those images around!

This picture gives you a little more of an idea about all the various props that line the periphery of the room.

Anyhow, I hope that gives you some sense of what Jane and I are up to over here... lots and lots of yoga! In our few hours of free time each day, I usually pick one of the following three options: go to internet, do some drawing, or take a nap. No time for all three! :)


Tami (Vegan Appetite) said...

Thank you so much for sharing your yoga experience.

Hope that hamstring is back to normal.

Maria said...

Hi Amey and Hi to Jane! Thanks for the update. Sorry abut your owie hamstring and admiring of your attitude in accepting, dealing with it. I know how gung ho you are about yoga so must be frustrating to be slowed down a bit. Kate has been great with the Monday AM class, learned the "trauma release" pose yesterday that was a big help for me. Also enjoyed the one class with Sumitra, she is a special soul and was quite gentle with us. A nice change from you! - just kidding : )
Sending best wishes for a quick recovery and glorious backbends. Namaste, Maria G

Jen hall said...

Amey I am so impressed! You inspire me tremendously!

Claire "Cruz" Ricker!! said...

I know we kind of weave in and out of each other's lives peripherally but I love your energy so much! I'm alternately soothing and aggravating a hamstring injury myself. They are such interesting buggers, those hamstrings. 3/4 of my body feels nice and bendy and juicy and my one leg feels grouchy! I think it's a good reminder that yoga is a practice and I've got my whole life to heal... something I tend to forget.

eve said...

I love reading this--I feel like I'm there! So interesting how each class differs depending on who is teaching (although no surprise, I suppose). Thanks for sharing this! Sending healing vibes to your hamstring.

Susanne Sturton said...

Hi Amey, found you blog when looking for pics of the RIMYI celebrations! Hope you don't mind but I posted some of them on our fb page (www.facebook.com/eastclareyoga as mine were a bit fuzzy. Hope yourself and Jane got home OK. Lovely to have shared your trip to India with you! Love Susanne