Saturday, August 16, 2008

New from Iyengar Yoga Land

So this Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher named Gabriella is in town giving a workshop. Anne has, for years, told me how much I would enjoy her classes and how great a teacher she is. I happen to be free this weekend and so I decided to go with Anne to her workshop. (Plus I was excited because my recent foray into Iyengar Yoga Land at Feathered Pipe was so fantastic. )

As far as workshops and classes go, I never like to be in the front row. I used to like it but I do not anymore. I prefer to dwell on the fringes or in the back row. Anne, however loves to be in the front row. I was running late and Anne was already there because she did the earlier session. So Anne saves me a spot in the front row. Right in the center.

Let’s just say I got a lot of feedback.

At one point during the trikonasana work, Gabriella sighs and stops talking altogether. Then she remarks, “I have paused because I just do not know where to begin. Let’s see. Hmm. Come watch her pose.” (Plus you have to imagine an Italian accent with this.) She grabs my arm and has me demo trikonasana making clear to the group that every mistake she has witnessed in the entire room could also be seen quite clearly in my pose! At the end of the demo she looks at me and says, “Do you have all that? There were so many things.”

Throughout the remainder of the class she regularly visited my mat to tell me the ways that I do not know how to work, the things I obviously do not understand and the lack of integrity my body reflects. (I am thinking- “Honey, if you only knew the half of it. I have "integrity issues" right now creating a split within myself that is bigger than the Grand Canyon. My torso’s inability to act as a unit is the least of it!”)

At the end of class Anne comes up to me and says, “Two sisters walk into an Iyengar Yoga class, guess which one gets singled out?” She also said, “Well if it is any consolation, you are definitely not making it up.” (The back story on this is that for over twelve years now Anne and I have gone to workshops together and without fail, every time, if one of us is going to get singled out, yelled at, made an instrument of "the teaching" for the benefit of the group, it is me. Every time. No exceptions.)

Then Heide (My new best yoga friend) comes up to me and we laugh about it some more and she says, “Well she wouldn’t have given you such a hard time if there were not so many things that were going wrong!” This struck me as relatively hilarious.

So the news from Iyengar Yoga Land evidently is that my yoga sucks. Luckily my trikonasana is not high on the list of things I feel bad about or willing to get worked up about in my life right now. (Some other things have priority. Things that actually matter, for instance.) In general, I maintained a pretty good humor about it. She really was trying to help me and I really do believe she saw these "tips" as ways to help me improve in my practice. That was really obvious to me- she was sincerely trying to assist me. But sometimes the way help can come! Wow.

It is an interesting study in teaching methodology, isn't it? It seems to me that in Iyengar Yoga they are not so much about giving real direction about how to improve as much they are into giving a long list of what is not going well. Then as a student you are supposed to take all of these "don't do that's" and "this is not enough's" and sort through them on your own to come up with whatever is actually "right" or "optimal". It is kind of strange way to go about things, really.

Even stranger is that I am going back for more this morning. (This must be why I am back in therapy.)


Mandy said...

poor thing, no wonder you don't like to be in the front row.

BTW I would go back for more as well.

Meg said...


Pamela said...

Okay, THIS is funny, in a "perhaps I should just stay in bed" sort of way! :-P

Just when we think we have it pretty well together -- WHAM -- so many things to work on ... the old "As it is on the mat, so it is in life!"

For the record, I would have ditched the sister bonding thing and squeezed in on the back row. (I am taking back everything I said in my comment on Anne's blog about liking to be the demo!)

By the way ... I totally love the new photo at the top of the blog. Much better in my opinion. You can see your beautiful face shining in an awesome pose ~ and a great hair day to boot.

You are loved ... trikonasana flaws and all!


Lisa said...

So many great teachers that help you to improve without cutting you to pieces...I'll pass on the abuse!

Lisa said...

interesting interview with John Friend where he talks about being the model of "doing everything wrong" in Parivrtta Trikonasana in his first Iyengar class (after teaching yoga for several years)

Hope you and your divinely beautiful asana have a more pleasant experience today.

Love ya.

NeoMystic said...

You are so funny. I love Gabriela. (You sassy Italian women!) Her comment to my friend, whom I dragged to a Gabriela workshop many years ago against her will, was "Why do you keep looking at me with those sad puppy dog eyes?!" as we were going into urdhva danurasana #557.

George used to have a saying (and a sticker) that went something along the lines of "At least you can be used as a bad example!"

All with a grain of salt, of course.

I'm glad my crunched torso isn't always a metaphor for my soul. But sometimes, ya know, it is!

catherine said...

I hear you sister! My introduction to Gabriella was a 17 day trip in India which happened to be during a (very confusing) spiritual awakening. Brutal!! I was able to turn the experience into a lesson in non-judgement. (I think that was my coping mechanism.)

Leanne said...

wow...that is so not looking for the good. I think I would have been in tears!( I know- I am a wimp) BTW- I love love love the new blog pic!

Elaina said...

Okay, If YOUR yoga is no good, I can only imagine what mine would be labelled!! :)

karen said...

this is karen from the gabriella workshop, i am an iyengar student and i came up to you saturday and told you i love your blog and that i am all the way to picture number 2 on your scorpion demo pics - this post was hysterical, i laughed until it hurt. i really didn't understand her comment to you that you were in pieces, george keeps saying that mr iyengar says he is in pieces and we westerners are 1 piece, that we can't move our foot without moving everything, i thought being in pieces was a good thing, able to work body parts independently - anyway your poses are beautiful to watch and i only wish i could be such a bad example.