There are no coincidences, especially in yoga.
I opened my first B.K.S. Iyengar book on a recent morning to learn more about the poses I’ve been practicing. I’m trying to
memorize learn the Sanskrit words for all the poses, including postures like eagle (garudasana) and plow (halasana). As a student of yoga for the last decade, with greater emphasis and practice over the last five years, it’s about time.
I’ve been that student in class who glances up when the teacher says Utthita Parivṛtta Aṅjaneyāsana. Sheepishly I look at the other students who seem to know what they’re doing, and I follow along. Somehow, I get into the posture and do my best, hoping the instructor will give instructions for where to place my feet, where to look and what directions my hands should face. In other words, I’m always hoping the instructor will teach me, since I still feel like a beginner. (For those who don’t know, that posture is actually revolved crescent lunge with extended arms, one of the more difficult poses for me because of my stiff hips and tight hamstrings.)
But, back to it—there are really no coincidences.
That particular day when I opened my first yoga book, Yoga Wisdom & Practice, which is a short picture book with teachings and philosophy from B.K.S. Iyengar, something special happened. I read the first page, where he briefly describes his early life. His birthday was December 14, 1918. I looked up and could not believe it! That was the date I opened the book! Ninety-nine years to the day of his birth I opened his book to start learning the philosophy of someone so important to yoga, to the studio where I practice, and now to me.
I’m attracted to Iyengar yoga because it feels different from other types of classes I’ve taken. I like the focus on proper alignment, the amazing props in the studio and the way so many postures help us get into more advanced poses.
My teacher recently expressed that we peel back layers in this practice. There are the shapes of the poses, or the first layer and these shapes can be replicated standing, sitting and hanging from ropes. Then there’s a second layer of breath and feeling. The flow of energy and breath is important here. I asked my teacher why we never do happy baby pose. She said we do half happy baby (single leg at a time) as a stretch leading up to a pose to put our feet behind our heads! And then, in our next class, we did this very move! I could not believe I was inches away from the full expression (though not beautifully done). It was all because we had prepared our bodies, which felt different from a typical flow class.
Iyengar yoga classes feel so different. It sometimes doesn’t feel like there’s a rhyme or reason, and then, voila! We are deep into poses I never thought were possible. Mine don’t look nearly as straight or strong as Mr. Iyengar’s but I’m doing them! Leaving class always feels like an accomplishment, and I always wish I could practice more.
Was it coincidental that I opened the yoga book on Mr. Iyengar’s birthday or was it the Universe conspiring with me? Is it happenstance that I have twice been led to Iyengar studios taught by yoga masters who have their own philosophies? Could I continue doing vinyasa (yes, but only one teacher really speaks to me and his class is too far at the moment)? Whether or not you believe in coincidences or signs, I’m very happy to have found this style of yoga. And the picture at the top of the page is me in my first-ever unassisted handstand, a pose I’ve been attempting for well over six years. Thanks to great coaching and lots of preparation, I finally got it!
Look for my subsequent articles as I will be writing about yoga and this passion-journey on which I’m embarking. I hope you will stay tuned for more non-coincidences and ideas as I write about my experiences with the philosophy, poses and newfound flexibility I’m hoping to achieve.