New to Iyengar?
You’re thinking about trying yoga. Maybe you’ve been thinking about it for a long time.
Maybe you have a friend who’s really into it, and you’ve been tempted...but the whole thing is intimidating. Or maybe you tried it and felt like a fish out of water, or didn’t see what all the fuss is about.
I’ll try to answer some of the most common questions.
How will I know if I’m doing it right?
Great question. And with Iyengar yoga, absolutely, there is a right way to do the poses. We’re not just flailing along however the spirit moves us, we’re moving with intention.
As an Iyengar beginner, you put yourself in the capable hands of a rigorously-trained teacher who is there to guide you. Iyengar teachers have years of experience. They understand the concerns and challenges of starting out. You’re not expected to figure everything out on your own--your teacher will help by calling out instructions to the whole class, and occasionally offering individual corrections.
Is having a lean body a prerequisite?
No, not at all. Nor is it a necessary goal. You will find yourself paying attention to your body in a new way. And with practice, feeling gratitude at what it can do.
What if I can’t keep up in class?
If you haven’t been exercising, you’ll find that poses which look pretty simple can be challenging. Even if you’re already in good shape, you may find the newness of the whole thing rather tiring. That’s all normal and fine.
Your teacher will encourage you to listen to your body, and find the difference between I’m-pushing-myself pain and I’m-hurting-myself pain. The atmosphere is encouraging, and though focused, not boot-campish.
Ready to Try Your First Class?
I’m probably too old, right?
Never. Many of our students are older, and find their yoga practice helps their bodies stay supple and strong. Iyengar practitioners and high-level teachers are practicing well into their 90s!
Even if you have serious problems with mobility, illness, or fatigue--Iyengar can help. (If that sounds like you, try our Gentle class.)
I tried yoga and it wasn’t for me.
What kind was it? There’s Hot Yoga, Vinyasa (flow) yoga, Power Yoga, Kundalini, and on and on. Each type has its fans--and variety is good--but that doesn’t mean that every type is right for everyone.
Iyengar yoga is slow and deliberate. It pays precise attention to form. One of its biggest innovations was the introduction of props to help students achieve poses they wouldn’t be able to manage on their own.
So if you tried a faster or hotter sort of yoga and it didn’t suit you, you might have a much different experience with Iyengar.
Is it religious or something?
Yoga is a spiritual practice and a philosophy. For beginning students, the teaching centers on asana (the poses). If you are religious, practicing yoga will not be incompatible.
But my knee (or foot, or shoulder, or…) is messed up. Will that be a problem?
Iyengar yoga has a reputation as being yoga for the injured, which is half right (it’s good for the young and fit, too). Teachers are trained in how to make accommodations, which means they can tell you how to adapt poses so that you can do them without causing further injury. Sometimes that means doing part of a pose, or not going into it as deeply. It could mean using a block or a strap for extra support. Or doing something else entirely.
I would never be able to do those crazy poses.
Some of the poses do look crazy! And you’re right, some of them take years of practice and hard work to achieve. And for some, certain physiologic genetic gifts don't hurt either. Not to worry.
Maybe at first, just touching your toes is a real milestone. But from there, putting your hands on the floor isn’t that big a leap. You may even find yourself doing a headstand before you know it.
Once you have a regular practice, you will surprise yourself, guaranteed. Our bodies are incredibly resilient, and even someone recovering from a serious illness who is very stiff and weak can make real progress.
Doing extreme poses is not the point, unless that’s part of your particular personal goal (in which case--go for it!).
The point of Iyengar yoga is to bring intelligence to the body, to awaken all its parts, which leads to a transformation of the mind and spirit.
Okay, did I lose you there? Let me come at the idea a different way. Yoga is meditation, but instead of sitting on a pillow with your eyes closed, you’re using your body to quiet the mind. In an Iyengar class you’ll be focusing intently on rotating your thighs, relaxing your facial muscles, inflating your chest, or ten million other things. And that focus allows all the busy tensions of everyday life to fall away, just as it does during meditation.
As a side benefit, your muscles will get stronger and you’ll be more flexible. Your sleep will likely improve and your body will become your ally.
Iyengar yoga is transformative.
It’s a big claim, I know. But ask anyone who has practiced it for awhile. Or just come to class, and observe the calm and rejuvenated expressions on your classmates’ faces afterwards. And feel the peace and energy in your own body, mind, and spirit from just that one class.