We all know the physical benefits of yoga. The standing poses strengthen leg muscles, increase suppleness and strength in the spine and tone the cardiovascular system. In forward bends, the sympathetic (fight, flight or freeze) nervous system is rested, stress is removed from the organs of perception and adrenal glands are soothed. In twists, the pelvic and abdominal organs are squeezed and flushed with blood. The twists improve the suppleness of the diaphragm and relieve spinal, hip and groin disorders. In inversions, such as Headstand and Shoulderstand, the health of your body and mind is greatly enhanced by flushing vital organs like the brain, heart and lungs with blood. Backbends stimulate the central nervous system and increase its ability to tolerate stress. They help relieve and prevent headaches, hypertension and nervous exhaustion. Restorative poses, such as Savasana soothe the body and rest the mind.
Given all these benefits in a one and a half hour class a week, why don’t more people do Iyengar yoga? Well for one thing, it’s not sexy. Iyengar yogis don’t expose their chests or buttocks. For another thing, it’s hard work. Iyengar yogis puff their chests and firm their buttocks. And then, it’s kind of serious. We don’t talk during class. We listen attentively to our teachers to learn to connect mind with body and awaken each cell of our being. And sometimes it hurts. Stretching muscles that are tight and strengthening muscles that are weak to restore the body to balance can bring up discomfort and pain. But we learn to breathe through the discomfort and label the sensation as “newness” rather than “pain”. We know that the mind and body easily get stuck in old ruts. Iyengar teachers are skillfully trained to help alleviate chronic pain and tension by tackling the root of the problem to avoid future pain. And then there’s that whole concept of discipline. Most people desire immediate gratification and results. Iyengar yogis know that a regular, committed practice is required to achieve freedom. To access freedom in movement of the body and freedom from incessant thoughts of the mind, you need a little discipline and a good teacher. And well, that’s kind of a smart way to live and fun when you do it with a community of people. So if smart is the new sexy, maybe Iyengar yoga is kind of sexy?
By the way, Iyengar yoga teachers love to think and talk about yoga so if you ever have a question, don’t hesitate to ask us after class. During class, we definitely want to know if your body-mind is sensing any pain so we can help you work through the obstacle. Let’s save longer discussions for after class.
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