Archive for June, 2016



I completed the third session of Iyengar Teacher Intensive and it has taken me a while to post my reflections on this training track.  Last year, when I went to the weekends I was extremely frustrated and couldn’t understand why my years of practice have brought me back to the beginning.  As in learning Vira 2 over. Adho mukha svasana, dandasana.  It also has taken me a year and half of practice to wrap my head around it. I would say I am still in the beginning stages.  To actually contemplate going through it is daunting. I know people getting prepared for assessment and it is extremely unbelievable the study they are putting in for the first stage. I have many challenges including age. It does help to have a lot of teaching experience, but the Iyengar teaching method is very different from basically leading a class.  These teachers are expected to ‘teach’. That means to the individuals in the class and to  know and understand their issues and be able to address them.  The system is very methodical in how to see the student.  It isn’t one size fits all. You really have to be an observer and see what is going on in class.

These are my challenges.

I am torn between two worlds.  I practice mainly Ashtanga style which has sort of melded with Iyengar style, which is actually neither? Again, torn.  But not really.  As a student of both, a teacher of neither, but a teacher of I don’t know what, to not sound trite nor erudite, I see Patanjali like I never did.  These methods are total head games.  How did two teachers interpret the same Guru and come back with two METHODS that evoke the SAME PHILOSOPHY.

They are the same yoga.  Method and mind. Sthira an Sukham all there.  The essence, the nectar, is the same.  So interesting that the transition from my half ass Primary Series practice into Iyengar and thinking.  The poses are the same.  And then STARTING over.  It is primarily about practice.  Jois didn’t want to hear method. If you want THAT, study Iyengar. It’s all there.

So in my humbled first year or so of Iyengar, and comparing it to Ashtanga, I came up with a breakdown, opinion, observations:

Asana-Is it different.  No.  Same poses.  In Ashtanga you work through a progression to more poses through a set sequence.  In Iyengar, you may work at many of those poses as a beginner, with mods and props.  (everything props in Iyengar, none in Ashtanga.)  Bharadvajasana, for example, doesn’t show up until second series.  In Iyengar, you work at it right away.

Sequence-Set in Ashtanga, always different Iyengar.  Just starting to grasp how to sequence in Iyengar.  In free style yoga, (like flow) there is no method. Some people sequence to provide challenging transitions or poses that build and Iyengar DOES build on actions to theme a class, but the logic is different.

Theming-By series in Astanga, Yoga Chikitsa, by theme and rotation in Iyengar (third week is backbend week at class, etc.)

Those are the superficial things. The depth is the exploration of the mind patterns. Through the focal points.  For Ashtanga, it is tristana, and through Iyengar it is patterns of action in the body.  Both create a depth of focus and wisdom through long periods of consistent practice.  Raja yoga.

The breath is always crucial in either practice.  In Ashtanga, it is the great dance.  I was watching a movie on free rock climbers in Yosemite. Also a dance.  In Iyengar it is an internal state. An internal dance.

I probably SHOULD give up the primary series, but in my thinking, and this is just my opinion is that I do teach vinyasa.  Ashtanga yoga is the heart of vinyasa not vice versa. And to really understand vinyasa, you have to practice Ashtanga and study it for a long time.  It continues to unfold.  The method also works. It more profound than cadence and count.  The longer you study and practice the more you see and get it.

Iyengar said that his yoga is the yoga of ACTION. Some of the actions I have learned in Iyengar has improved my vinyasa experience.  The action of the upper back and thighs.  Down dog is different now for me due to the method of accessing the back.  This action however is necessary to progress into headstands, otherwise you spend years kicking into a wall.

My daily practice of ashtanga vinyasa now includes specific work for the shoulders and my arthritic knees.  The Iyengar teacher suggested strongly you work at your weaknesses.  You don’t avoid them. It is fun working towards your strengths. I now also do longer inversions.  Sirsasana and sarvangasana.  I know how to load and unload the body to make them safe. I work into longer holds.  I can now look at a student and tell if they are doing Iyengar inversions or just inversions.   I don’t feel they are unsafe, unless they are not TAUGHT. I feel comfortable with that now.  I am working toward longer sirsasana and have a block at about two minutes 27 seconds. I can’t seem to break but don’t care.  A couple of years ago it was five breaths.  Iyengar was doing 30 minutes in his 90s!


The coolest thing is just loving to practice.  I am so loving practicing now I go to sleep and can’t wait to get up and practice. I go over practice. I love having teachers again. I didn’t have any for a while. I love having new bonds with new people.  Discovering all of these great teachers and now looking forward to workshops. I am planning on attending some more Iyengar workshops and will post on them soon. I am hoping for one later this month.  Will post on it and have some drafts coming up on some articles I have read lately.


Keeping Harmbe’s memory alive every day.


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