Updated: Feb 13
I am fortunate to have time available in the mornings. No worries about getting off to work or making breakfast for any little ones. Time is one of the luxuries of retirement.
This morning, and for the next seven mornings, I am sharing two hours of my morning with Prashant Iyengar, the son of B.K.S. Iyengar. His work is founded on the teachings of his father, but Prashant is a noted teacher and author in his own right. These online ‘thematic’ classes, entitled ‘Revisiting the basics in Iyengar yoga’, are classic Prashant, as anyone who has studied with him in Pune will know. His focus is always how we must look more broadly than simply ‘doing’ an Asana or ‘doing’ yoga.
A quick look at Zoom’s gallery view disclosed over 750 people from all around the world who had tuned in to these online sessions. Quite an audience! And, yet, not really an audience at all from a teaching perspective. With 750 people, the sessions cannot possibly be interactive. Using his niece, Abhijata, as a live, in-person student, Prashant launched into his lecture.
I am not going to provide play-by-play colour commentary on the session, but will focus on what I took away from today’s two hours. Prashant emphasised that defining the ‘basics’ of Iyengar yoga is not formulaic and is different for everyone. He compared Abhijata, who began studying yoga with her grandfather at the age of 17, with someone who begins to study at 27 or 37 or 67. The basics will be different for each one of these students. There are differences in flexibility, in stamina, in objectives. And these elements evolve as the student evolves. At 17, a student is likely to be interested in ‘toning’ the body. At 67, the student is likely more concerned with maintaining mobility, strength and balance. And these are just the physical aspects. Yoga in life will be different for someone at 17 than for someone at 67, because life is generally different at 17 than at 67. I understood this quite implicitly – I began the study of yoga at 56. How I wish I had begun earlier!
In addition, there are differences in environment. One would start a practice differently in the heat of summer in India vs the depths of winter in North America. And, so, he had us decide ourselves what the ‘right’ way was to start our practice this morning. I began my practice in Adho Mukha Svanasana. I had already done Jocelyn Hollmann’s 6am class, so felt I needed a strong, grounding pose, and not a vigorous pose like Adho Mukha Vrksasana, nor a soothing supine pose such as Supta Baddha Konasana.
We spent some time with Utthita Trikonasana and Utthita Parsvakonasana, exploring how a student could focus on building strength or flexibility with these. Strength comes from focusing on each muscle and holding for long periods. Flexibility comes from quickly and repeatedly going into and out of the Asana.
And, breath. This wouldn’t be a class with Prashant if there weren’t a discussion of breath. How breath informs the Asana. How breath informs the student. And, the need for breathing in the Asana, not holding on for dear life! It’s surprising how often we forget to breathe in an Asana.
We did a number of other poses… Sirsasana, Bharadvajasana, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, and, of course, Savasana, but always with the focus on Prashant’s words.
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Carole Carpentier has been a student of Iyengar yoga since 2008.