Monthly Yoga: June, Iyengar-based Hatha

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About this series: For 2012, I vowed to try a new type of yoga each month and write about it here. This is the sixth of 12 reviews–keep checking back for more!

Seeing as for the month of May I counted Seane Corn’s visit as my monthly yoga “requirement,” for June we return to our regularly scheduled series. This month, I visited the Beyond Center for Yoga and Pilates in Brockport, NY—not too far from where I live and work! The Beyond Center is one of very few places on the west side of Rochester that offers yoga (although good news on that front is that a studio just opened in Spencerport and there will be another one sometime soon in Greece). Still, it’s a strange trend that we have so few over on this side of the city and so many concentrated on the east, but it looks like this is slowly changing.

Cute studio! (Prop room/office in the back, pilates machines [which we did not use] off to the side.)

The class I attended back at the end of June was actually the Level I-II class offered at Beyond, which basically puts it at the beginner-intermediate level. I decided to try this level, seeing as I hadn’t yet taken an Iyengar (or Iyengar-based Hatha, according to the web site) class before and wasn’t sure what to expect. The owner, Stephanie, greeted me when I arrived and was very friendly, asking what kind of yoga I regularly practiced and explaining some of the differences between Iyengar and vinyasa; Iyengar focuses primarily on holding poses rather than using a flow sequence like vinyasa yoga. This particular class took on more of a foundations-style environment with a focus on correct alignment, so while it moved much slower than what I’m used to (even slower than the foundations classes at breathe yoga), I still found it enjoyable.

Class started with a meditation in a variation of hero’s pose (using a bolster). This definitely started to wake up my feet and calves with how long we were in the pose, and I really had to fight to not be so restless. Oddly, I think just sitting there and breathing in this pose was the most difficult part of the class; if you remember my experience in a restorative class in February, you know that I don’t do well not fidgeting after long periods of stillness.

We used several props throughout class: two blankets, a bolster, a strap, a block, and a sandbag! After our meditation, we moved on to some cat and cow pose to wake up the spine. When we worked our way into downward facing dog, we spent a lot of time focusing on alignment with regard to our shoulders and wrists. One way we accomplished this was by setting a block between our hands and gripping that to get more of a feeling of openness in the shoulders. (We also practiced this by coming down onto our forearms for dolphin pose, still keeping the same alignment in the upper back.) The class also included some forward folds and leg stretches (basically reclining big toe pose, or Supta Padangusthasana, but with a strap), the latter with a focus of keeping our hips even on the ground to work the hip joint.

When I had first grabbed the props I was told to take before the start of class, I was pretty confused as to what we would use sandbags for. I had never actually seen anyone use these small weighted canvas bags in a yoga class. Toward the end, we finally got them out to use. The students in the class stood with one foot on a block and the other foot set on the window sills around the room (about three feet from the floor). From here, we used our straps to hook the sandbag so it hung from our outstretched legs. The idea here was to be able to find flexibility in our hip joints, like with the reclining big toe pose. We then worked trikonasana (triangle pose) into the alignment that we had just found with the sandbags; we all partnered up to help each other find the same action in our hips and legs. Stephanie walked around the room checking students’ alignment and helping them make adjustments and modifications based on their anatomy and any conditions or injuries they may have had. She was very attentive to their needs and didn’t try to overcorrect anyone, from what I could see; correcting students rather than providing assistance or adjustment is a pet peeve of mine, seeing as it tries to make your yoga into someone else’s, in my opinion, and thankfully Stephanie didn’t do this. As she said to one student who mentioned having back problems and was trying to determine whether she did the pose “right,” a little bit “incorrect” can be good, especially if you risk injuring, or re-injuring, yourself! This part of class was my favorite, and seeing as trikonasana is one of my favorite poses, I really appreciated the insight on improving my alignment in triangle.

For our savasana, we took supta baddha konasana by reclining with a bolster propped up with a block and our knees supported by a rolled-up blanket tucked around us. The entire class did not use music, other than a bit of relaxing music before class began. Sometimes silent savasanas like these are very relaxing and enjoyable, so it was a nice change from hearing music. At the end of class, Stephanie read a quote from B.K.S. Iyengar, which I unfortunately don’t remember, as it was rather long, but it was inspiring.

The class had been a bit more relaxing than I anticipated, but with how Type A I can get about yoga if I’m not too careful, sometimes this is actually a good thing. Overall, however, I enjoyed my trip to the Beyond Center and would like to try one of the Level II-III classes when I get a chance. If you’re interested in attending, the studio offers one free week of classes on their website. (Just sign up and print out the form emailed to you. Be sure to actually fill out the new student free class request in the box provided; I had forgotten to do so the first time I filled it out.) The schedule changes throughout the year, so there are always new offerings. In addition to the Iyengar-based classes, they offer gentle yoga classes, along with a newer vinyasa class and a community class once a month; the rest of their classes are pilates. In a nutshell, they provide many different types of classes to suit all types of needs, making them truly unique to Rochester’s west side.

In the future, I may try another Iyengar class to get a better idea of this type of asana practice and the philosophy associated with it, so don’t be surprised if you see one here! This is a very popular type of yoga, and with how different it is from what I’m used to, I definitely want to understand it better (and getting more comfortable holding poses for an extended period of time is a good way to do that).

Exciting news coming to The Novice Yogi soon! I’ll announce it shortly!

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One response »

  1. Pingback: I’m Back! + The Year 2012 in Review « The Novice Yogi

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