“Open to non Iyengar Yoga teachers”. The real meaning of this phrase didn’t hit me until I was standing in a ballroom with 600 Iyengar teachers, Iyengar students… and then me, the only non-Iyengar teacher for miles. Apparently, what was really meant by “open to non Iyengar teachers,” was that for the first few days of the Iyengar Conference, committed Iyengar students could attend. This was Iyengar at its fullest and finest. One look at my flowy clothes and jewelry gave me away as the outsider, the vinyasa teacher from New York.
The first morning started with advanced pranayama (breathing practices). I am thinking, “I have been doing yoga for 20 years. I can handle this”. We start off in a traditional reclining position with 3 blankets. I fold my blankets neatly as not to get scolded by the teacher, balance my body over the blankets and close my eyes, waiting for the relaxing music and the lights to dim. No such luck, the teacher starts off, “Begin Ujjayi #1”. I know Ujjayi breath (ocean sounding breath). I’m a bit confused by the #1, but maybe that just mean round 1. So I get started, making my best Darth Vader impression on each inhale and exhale. Then the instructor directs, “Ujjayi #2”. I’m still confused by this whole number scheme, and why isn’t anyone else making noise?! Then 5-6 minutes later, “Begin Ujjayi #6”. Ok so now what?
Clearly, Jill had forgotten to pass me the Iyengar Pranayma cheat sheet! Over the next 3 days I had a number of these experiences, and each one taught me to be open eyed and intrigued by what I was learning. It was different from what I thought was “correct”, and a constant reminder that nothing is absolute. We all move through the motions of yoga class and life, not really being in the moment. I love the “surprise” of finding out something new, it turns the light bulb on again, and again, opening up our mind and senses to a new experience. Otherwise, life would be pretty dull. So next time you are in class, and a teacher calls out a pose by a different name, or explains a pranayama practice differently than the way you know it to be, approach it with an inquisitive mind. Open up to the possibility that this is something interesting to learn, something new in “your book”, something to take notice of.