I spent a lot of time and energy making plans to travel to South Africa for three weeks at the end of March. Instead my trip got cancelled with less than 12 hours before I was supposed to leave. I spent a very busy eight days in Vancouver with my cousin and her busy four kids before slowly making my way back home. My son had already left to spend three weeks in Saskatchewan, so I was a free bird, but stuck at home. I had already started to see a lot of online posts about taking classes with various Iyengar yoga instructors worldwide. I am not able to work at all during this COVID pandemic, so I decided to make the best of my time off.
I have started to study twice a week with Zain Sayed in Florida and biweekly with David Meloni in Finland. David is the highest certified Iyengar instructor in the world and Zain is also highly certified in the US, so it’s an amazing and very affordable way for me to study with teachers I may not have ever worked with. David’s Intermediate Advanced classes are 2-3 hrs long, very traditional Iyengar classes and very difficult poses. After each class has ended, I have been introduced to a deeper part of my body. I think my hamstrings have lengthened an inch or two after working with him because I can now easily do things that used to require me to warmup a bit. When I do Hanumanasana (splits) now, I can hold longer and lift my hands into the air. I did full pose Bhekasana (frog pose) for the first time in my life. It’s been so wonderful to achieve success in poses that have been challenging for me. I have often said to my students while teaching, be grateful for every millimetre you gain in your yoga asana. Those are small achievements that lead towards final poses. Even if you don’t care if you ever do the final pose, those millimetres you gain are slowly making bigger changes in your body. After two classes of work with Bhekasana, I felt something in my pelvis straighten out. David’s brilliance is in his sequencing: how he links work of basic poses to the importance of work in advanced poses. Firming your thighs and pulling the femur into the hip socket is just as important in Tadasana as it is in Hanumanasana. As you better in the work of those basic actions, you can engage the muscles of your body to hold your bones and spine in proper alignment. Yoga is about strong and flexible muscles, not just flexible joints. It’s also about realizing every small part working at its best creates something much better in the bigger picture.
Zain’s classes are a lot more creative with more nontraditional flow and movement that he has been experimenting with himself in his own practice. He was encouraged by the Iyengar family at this point in his yoga studies to be creative with his work. In his class, we don’t have as long of holds but instead break down the poses into various movements going in and out slowly and transitioning to other poses. Sometimes we don’t even go into the final pose! To be honest, I don’t even like this style of teaching much because it’s forcing me out of my lifelong habits, and that’s exactly why I keep studying with him: to get out of bad habits and open my mind up more. His classes are more difficult mentally than physically. He has also introduced me to a lot of wrist warm-ups, which are essential for working on the arm balance family of poses. This is a family of poses I have been more and more interested in since two years ago when I injured my shoulder and then last year when I had my surgery. After losing a lot of strength in my shoulders, I realized I was taking it for granted and have since worked diligently to regain the strength but in a much more intelligent way. Once something has completely broken down, it allows for you to rebuild it in the proper way. My shoulders and arms did not have a strong and firm foundation prior to now, which I may have known… but certainly didn’t really deal with.
Sometimes in yoga it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the areas we need to work on. But if you allow for it, life will lead you to where you should work at the proper time. I used to be scared of injury, and now I realize being injured can guide me to work on weak areas. In this life, it’s impossible to avoid injury, illness and death. It’s left up to us to make the best of these situations when they come into our lives.
This current time seems to bringing out two fears in society: fear of death and fear of loss of control. But the thing is, life always works out. Things will always turn out in your favour, even if it didn’t go according to the original plan. I hadn’t planned not to be in South Africa for three weeks; instead I have been given two to three (or more) months at home to focus on myself, my well-being, and my yoga practice. If I am honest, I seem to have received exactly what I needed instead of what I wanted. Thankfully, I have practiced yoga long enough to be grateful for this and adapt to what is happening here and now.
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