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Sunday, April 09, 2006

it's a girly thing

B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga
8233 West 3rd Street

Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 653-0357
website: www.iyogala.org

The B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Association of Southern California and IYILA are dedicated to the study, teaching and dissemination of the art, science and philosophy of Yoga according to the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar. All teachers at the Institute are certified in accordance with the assessment process set forth by B.K.S. Iyengar.

i had taken a couple of iyengar classes in the past, so when i heard about the iyengar institute here in LA, i naturally was curious to see if their iyengar teachings were any "purer" or "unadulterated" than those taught at the more mainstream studios such as yoga works, for example.

while scanning their website, i noticed this:

We’ve started a new class: Yoga for Women. It is taught by Chris Stein. Chris is the perfect person to teach this class. She’s been studying every year with Geeta Iyengar in India (where they have 3 women’s classes a week) and is in touch with Geetaji on a regular basis. She is a Jr. Intermediate II certified Iyengar teacher and known for her gentle wisdom.

realizing that there probably wasn't any other studio in town that taught this kind of class, and that it might be interesting to see what makes iyengar yoga for women any different from iyengar coed yoga, i dropped by chris stein's sunday 2:30pm class at their location near the beverly center.

as i walked into the studio, i was met by a mad rush of students leaving the premises. it turns out that there was a three-day workshop led by manouso manos, a senior iyengar teacher trained by BKS himself. all these iyengar diehards! it took a while for them to put all the props back in the right cubbies and straighten up the place, so while they were doing that, i filled out my registration card and looked around.

once the class of about 10 students got settled down, chris walked into the room and greeted us. many of them appeared to be regulars because she knew most by name. chris told us that she was still in a post-savasana trance-like state; she had just come from the workshop, and after a full day of twists and bends, the class was "rewarded" with 30 minutes of corpse pose. i call that a much-needed nap :)

as is the custom before all of their classes, we started with a chant, an invocation to patanjali:

Yogena cittasya padena vacam
Malam sarirasya ca vaidyakena
Yopakarottam pravaram muninam
Patanjalim pranjaliranato'smi
Abahu purusakaram
Sankha cakrasi dharinam
Sahasra sirasam svetam
Pranamami patanjalim

which, translated into english, is:

Let us bow before the noblest of sages, Patanjali, who gave yoga for serenity and sanctity of mind, grammar for clarity and purity of speech, and medicine for perfection of health. Let us prostrate before Patanjali, an incarnation of Adisesa, whose upper body has a human form, whose arms hold a conch and a disc, and who is crowned by a thousand-headed cobra.

today's focus was the shoulders and the arms. chris told us that due to hormonal changes as we age, our shoulders tend to want to droop forward, eventually causing our chest cavity to compress, possibly leading to heart problems. so she was going to make us work on keeping our shoulders back. i was hoping for some hip openers or maybe even some breast lifters (if there's such a thing!), but since i've always had problems with my posture, some extra work to keep myself from slouching was ok by me.

so we worked on tadasana (mountain), urdhava hastasana (mountain with arms raised overhead), uttanasana (forward bend), prasarita padottanasana (wide-legged forward bend), utthita hasta pandangusthasana (standing big toe pull), utthita trikonasana (extended triangle), utthita parsvakonasana (extended side angle), and adho mukha svanasana (down dog), ending with supta baddha konasana (reclining bound angle) before final savasana (my favorite, corpse).

true to iyengar reputation, most of chris's time was spent describing a pose and what the proper alignment was (rotate triceps towards nose, fingers together, shoulders down, deltoids flat, and so on), then actually making us do the pose to practice what we were told. in some cases, we were instructed to work with a partner. every now and then, she would either walk around the room to correct our poses or call out to us by name to suggest something we should do.

it was a class with minimal poses, minimal sweat (actually, none at all for me), and maximum use of props (six blankets plus a strap for reclining bound angle!). and best of all, it was FREE since it was my first class at the institute!

this is a great place for iyengar junkies. but since my taste for iyengar tends towards "infrequent, please", it'll probably be some time before i return. then again, you never know.

while i'm on this "yoga for women" kick, i found out that there's a "women's hatha yoga" class at the self-realization fellowship temple in hollywood and a "women for women" kundalini class at yoga west in los angeles. i'm still trying to figure out what i'm going to take and when, but it'll definitely be this week, so more on the outcome of those classes coming soon...