It's all about the props!
A progression of different poses to see what your body can really do!
Iyengar Yoga….Really a different type of yoga, perhaps a practice like no other you have experienced before. The practice migrated out of Pune, a sprawling city in West India, and after time, it made its way here to Newcastle.
Iyengar Yoga is a very comprehensive method. Its unique style incorporates props into the practice allowing people with injuries, disabilities or elderly to apply modifications to different poses with ease. Some people even refer to it as ‘Yoga with furniture’! So, if you’re just starting out and not sure what yoga style would suit you, then Iyengar could start you off with ease.
This practice differs from your everyday yoga. Even if you have tried bikram yoga, hot yoga, power vinyasa or yin yoga, I assure you that this form of yoga is unique and intriguing at the same time. Aside from incorporating props to assist your body in performing different poses, the practice was low intensity and slow paced. It was quite amazing to see what my body could do by progressing through the poses with no rush.
I spoke with owner and senior teacher Amanda Hood, and she explained the philosophy around why props are important. Throughout the practice equipment is used as a way to bring a particular sensation to the body. Using props provides a certain experience and brings awareness to the body. After all, yoga is a discipline that brings your mind into the present moment.
We all live crazy busy lives. And it doesn’t take much for our minds to wander- we’re all guilty of it right!? But the beauty of the Iyengar practice focuses on alignment as a technique to really bring your mind into the present moment.
Now I’m not some sort of crazy yogi that can stand on my head for 10 minutes. But I have tried a heap of different types of yoga over the past few years. So I thought I would give a level 1 class a go to see what this crazy furniture yoga was all about! The class was led by co-owner David Morley, who has been running the Hamilton yoga school for 17 years now. The class started with everyone on their back, eyes closed, soles of their feet touching in a butterfly position. But instead of everyone’s mats spread out in rows across the room, all the mats were clustered along the back wall….different right!?
Throughout the class we used belts to assist our legs up on the wall, blocks on the ground to give height when doing different sides bends and folded up blankets as a pillow like structure to assist our necks when doing shoulder stands against the wall. The class progressed through the different positions at a slow pace and assistance was given along the way. The practice was definitely intriguing as it is unusual compared to the ‘everyday yoga’ that comes to mind.
The Iyengar practice is divided up into four levels of expertise. It is suggested you stay at introductory level for the minimum of 10 weeks before you are invited into level one. After a year here you will have the opportunity to progress into level two, although you don’t have to if you are happy at this stage. Level three is then only offered to students if the teacher believes you are capable enough. These top classes can sometimes only have one or two students in them as it is a small caliber of people reaching this ability.
An intriguing point of difference of the Iyengar practice is the length of each class. Most of the classes run between an hour and a half – two hours, with workshops sometimes running even longer. So I asked Amanda; Why such lengthy classes compared to other forms of yoga!?
“There’s so much to cover, we really progress. There is a huge range of poses and they can be grouped into categories. You really need that much time for your body to prepare itself and it takes you deeper into it. There’s just so much content to cover, I just don’t know what can happen in 45 minutes! Sometimes in level three we might do back bends for the whole two hours!”
Before relocating to Newcastle, Melbourne-girl Amanda spent the past two years travelling around Australia meeting up with other Iyengar teachers, practicing along side one another. She thinks you can learn a lot from other teachers by practicing together and wants to work on getting a community of teachers together more.
There are about 10 certified teachers within Newcastle that specialize in the Iyengar practice, with four of them at the Hamilton school. The practice is quite strict and you cannot mix different styles. For a real experience to see what your body is capable of, it is something to put on your list of must do’s!