Why Iyengar Yoga Is My Yoga by Joni Barbagallo

August 21, 2017

Iyengar yoga began its search for me when I turned 40 years old. Up until then, I had never tried anything remotely close to yoga. I was a long-time advocate of the aerobic dance movement and I never felt that I would have the mental and physical capacity to sit still long enough to do yoga. To be quite frank, I thought it might be a rather boring way to pass an hour. However, at age 40 I was challenged by a good friend to try Hot Yoga and I was hooked. I know - Hot Yoga…as if yoga asana isn't challenging enough; why not turn the heat up to 40 degrees? That makes things interesting. So, I sweated and sweated until I saw stars, sweaty stars… it was brutal.

So naturally, being the aerobic junky I was, I decided to join their teacher training program.  I figured it was the only type of yoga a person like me would ever be part of. Thankfully, for me, that training never happened. Instead, my teacher encouraged me to study with her own teacher. She instinctively knew that this sweaty path I was on was not best suited for me. Her very generous gift meant that I would not continue dripping puddles of water on her studio floor and that, in fact, she would lose my “business”. She was looking out for MY best interests rather than her own. I found that very refreshing, and thankfully we continue to be friends to this day.

I left my Hot Yoga days behind and headed to a studio in Montreal called, United Yoga where I was introduced to my new teacher Hart Lazer and to a style of yoga that flowed, used props and focused on correct alignment. It was here that I first heard the name BKS Iyengar.  Hart was a student at one point of BKS Iyengar. He always spoke so highly of his method and referred to him as a genius. In fact, he encouraged his students to buy any book written by Iyengar. He would tell some colourful stories about classes he attended with BKS Iyengar in India. His sharing definitely planted a seed in me. I started to feel the pull of Iyengar and his methods. However, the classes still sounded way too strict for me. I found it too intimidating, so I never attended any. 

Then at the age of 50, my life took a wild and very unpredictable turn. I was given a diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer and the prognosis was not very good. The tumor was an aggressive one! I needed a hysterectomy and 18 rounds of Chemo just to hopefully keep the tumor at bay. I was devastated. So, I turned to my Yoga teacher for help. He strongly suggested that I do one pose for 20 minutes every day for the next 6 months. One pose!!! That's it.  It was an Iyengar inspired form of Supta Baddhakonasana with a bolster, straps, blankets, blocks and weights.  It was quite the setup, but every day I did the pose. It was not always easy, but I did it like my life depended on it. I now know that it did.

By the end of my treatment I realized that I needed to make some big changes in my life in order to stay healthy. So, I made the move from Montreal to Kelowna. I was in search of a new studio, and there it was. I seriously looked out my apartment window that first night and Kelowna Yoga House was sitting in my backyard.

My pull and proximity to the Kelowna Yoga House seemed almost providential. The problem was I was in bad shape - still slowly healing and so very tired. I had lost so much of my self-confidence and I was riddled with physical limitations. I had no idea what kind of practice I was going to have, but I trusted the Iyengar method.  I knew that the practice would be safe and personal.  

At KYH I met my very knowledgeable and caring teacher Krisna. She provided me with modifications that slowly built back my spiritual, mental and physical strength, to the point where I took part in her ILLUMINATE Retreat last year. It was there that I felt a "nudge" from the beyond. At one point, during the start of one of the early morning meditations, I had a vision of the man, BKS, gently saying to me, "Everyone is on their own journey; just worry about your own now."  WHOA….Okay it! I have never felt that kind of intervention before. At that moment, I felt so much peace. Iyengar Yoga found me!

I now feel the need to share my experiences and encourage others, so I am beginning Teacher Training this fall. I want to pay it forward the Iyengar way!


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