Stretchy, Stretchy!

I’m not a particularly flexible person and the concept of yoga is pretty scary to me. Stretch and bend my body in ways it doesn’t want to go? For five days? With other people looking at what I’m doing: and probably judging? Um, thanks, but I’ll pass.

Yet there I was; “grounding myself” by spreading and stretching each toe as far as possible while wobbling around like a bobble head. This was going to be a long week at the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Center in Daramkot, India.

 

Me working hard at my form during Iyengar Yoga training in Bhagsu, India
Me working hard at my form during Iyengar Yoga training in Bhagsu, India

What the Heck is Iyengar Yoga?

Basically, Iyengar is regular yoga with props to make it easier to get into each position.

Or at least, that’s how my wife, Carrie, and our friend Lauren described it to me before signing up at the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Center in Daramkot, India. Depending on the position, props could be wooden stools, rubber bricks, blankets, bolsters, pillows, straps, and rungs on walls.

The idea is that it’s more important to do the yoga position correctly than to try and force ones body out of alignment. Needless to say, I used a LOT of props.

Every day, we would practice the same core postures for most of the class. Then, at the end, we alternated between sanding on our shoulders and bending over backwards for what seemed like an eternity. Either way, ouch!

 

Our Iyengar Yoga class hard at work in one of the poses
Our Iyengar Yoga class hard at work in one of the poses

 

All of the props in their proper place at my Iyengar Yoga class at the Himalaya Yoga Institute in Daramkot, McLeod Ganj, India
All of the props in their proper place at my Iyengar Yoga class at the Himalaya Yoga Institute in Daramkot, McLeod Ganj, India

 

Iyengar Yoga poses
All of the poses I did during my five day course at the Himalaya Yoga Institute in Daramkot, McLeod Ganj, India

Why Did I Try Iyengar Yoga?

To impress a woman, of course 🙂

Seriously though, considering that Carrie just finished a two month yoga teacher training course in Rishikesh and the practice is an important part of her life, I figured I should at least give it a shot.

Plus, Carrie and Lauren convinced me that it would be the easiest way to start because of the props. Mmmm hmmm.

 

I spent a lot of time on the floor, looking up at this view of the Himalaya Iyengar Yoga Center in Daramkot
I spent a lot of time on the floor, looking up at this view of the Himalaya Iyengar Yoga Center in Daramkot

So How Was My First Ever Week of Yoga?

Painful, incredibly frustrating, educational, stretchy, inspirational … and something I’m glad I did.

I won’t lie; there were several times in each class that I was ready to walk out the door and quit. Not only was it tough to get my body to cooperate, but I lacked even the most fundamental knowledge of yoga terminology, ideas and poses.

Right off the bat, our teacher started throwing out things like “go to tadasana.”

Today, I could tell you that tadasana means to spread your toes, find a center of balance, thrust your pelvis up, straighten the back and pull down your shoulders. But for the first day+, I kinda just stood there getting more and more frustrated.

 

Every morning, our class would meet 15 minutes early to do a set of shoulder and arm stretches outside the classroom
Every morning, our class would meet 15 minutes early to do a set of shoulder and arm stretches outside the classroom

Our Teachers at the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Center

As the course went on, the teacher – a seemingly cold Polish woman – began to warm up to me and was giving me smiles and helpful advice by the end.

For help, we had a guy from Spain who seemed frustrated that he was stuck with a class of beginners. Rather than offering constructive criticism and suggestions, he would come over, slap people’s arms and feet into the correct position and ignore all questions. I once got so frustrated once that I snapped at him for slapping me and walking away. Not my finest moment.

Fortunately, the other assistant was a kind hearted woman from Canada who was gentle and incredibly patient with my beginner questions and problems. By the end, I was extremely proud of the fact that most of the poses were coming easier to me.

Not that I was an Iyengar Yoga expert, but I could actually hold positions without losing balance and getting (too) frustrated. My personal favorite was the wheel pose (chakrasana), which I was incredibly surprised to find that I could actually do!

 

Our Polish teacher leading the class
Our Polish teacher leading the class
The rude Spanish assistant is on the far right in the blue jacket
The rude Spanish assistant is on the far right in the blue jacket

Yoga Nestled in the Trees of Daramkot, India

Nestled in the Daramkot trees above McLeod Ganjin Dharamasala, India, the Himilayan Iyengar Yoga Center is a thing of beauty. It was a completely new building – octagonal in shape – with a lovely courtyard and birds chirping in the distance.

Every morning, Carrie, Lauren and I walked across wide open fields, up and down stairs, through backyards, past stupas hidden in nature and over little bridges to get to class. This, along with our achy walk back, always was a favorite part of my day. For more information, check out the Himilayan Iyengar Yoga Center Web site

 

The octagonal and tree-hidden Himalaya Yoga Institute in Daramkot, McLeod Ganj, India
The octagonal and tree-hidden Himalaya Yoga Institute in Daramkot, McLeod Ganj, India

Would I Do it Again?

Probably not. But the whole experience did leave me open to the possibility of doing more yoga in the future. This time, maybe with a little less grumbling and pain. What about YOU? Have you done Iyengar Yoga? Would you?