Hold the Pose. Learn. Change.

Beyond complicated choreography and synchronized movement with breath, beyond wildly creative variations and lengthy lists of instructions, there is a field where poses are held longer, felt deeper and contemplated with clarity and humility. I'll meet you there.

In the words of Rumi,  "When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about."

YogaWorks, Union Square Studio

YogaWorks, Union Square Studio

On Tuesday evening, August 26th, yoga practitioners around the world participated in a simultaneous practice to honor the life and teachings of the recently deceased Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar. Many yoga studios opened their doors to anyone who wanted to share the practice with a group of teachers and students. I chose to experience the practice on my mat at home. The sequence (below) was compiled by the Iyengar Yoga Association of the US. Practicing the sequence at home, I was touched by moments of reflection upon my teachers, Guruji's students and the clarity--both physically and mentally--that this method of practice has given me. While the sequence provided a framework for quiet reflection, what struck me most was its simplicity. I don't know that I've ever practiced a set sequence at home. I tend to meander through moment to moment and often change course from my intended direction. This set sequence of poses (with timings) served as an anchor for body and mind. The practice left me feeling profoundly grounded and refreshed. 

Serendipitously, my experience above was sandwiched between two weekends of in-depth study with two master teachers from the Iyengar lineage. A retreat with Genny Kapuler at Heathen Hill Yoga and a series of workshops with Kofi Busia at ISHTA Yoga have left me with the same distinct impression of clarity and simplicity.

Genny's classes go something like this: Sit and quiet down, visualize anatomical structures as a tool for organizing the body and anchoring the mind. Practice a simple series of poses with inquiry into the aforementioned structures. Tadasana was practiced between almost every pose.

Kofi's classes go something like this: Story, pose, story (a good laugh), pose, repeat. Again, Tadasana between almost every pose.

I spent a lot of time in Tadasana and long holds in most of the other poses. My takeaway from practicing with these teachers is that the poses themselves have much to teach us. When I stay in the pose longer, when I watch my physical and mental reactions, when I finesse the alignment and economize the effort,  I learn and I change.

I've listed below three sequences that have inspired my home practice over the past two weeks. Each can be practiced in 20-40 minutes. Set a timer for the poses with specified timings. I encourage you to hold the poses longer than usual and observe what arises.

B.K.S. IYENGAR DEDICATION SEQUENCE

  • Tadasana - 3 minutes
  • Uttanasana
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Utthita Trikonasana to the right and to the left
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Uttanasana
  • Tadasana - 3 minutes
  • 5 minutes seated quietly (I sat in Virasana on a block)

ENERGIZING SEQUENCE -- Inspired by my weekend with Genny Kapuler

  • Virasana on a block - Gomukhasana arms on both sides
  • Tadasana
  • Vrksasana right and left
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana - 3 minutes
  • Virabhadrasana 1 right and left
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana / Chaturanga Dandasana / Urdhva Mukha Svanasana / Adho Mukha Svanasana (Genny calls these "Adho, urdhva, chaturs." Practice 3-5 rounds with slow control. If Chaturanga is too vigorous, lower your knees to the floor.
  • Pincha Mayurasana (or dolphin pose)
  • Viparita Karani - 5 minutes
  • Savasana

GROUNDING SEQUENCE -- Inspired by my weekend with Kofi Busia

  • Tadasana - 3 minutes
  • Virabhadrasana 2 right and left
  • Prasarita Padottanasana A 
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Dandasana
  • Upavistha Konasana
  • Sirsasana (or repeat Prasarita Padottanasana with head on a block) - 5 minutes
  • Sarvangasana (use at least 2 blankets under shoulders for sarvangasana or practice supported bridge pose with pelvis on a block) - 5 minutes
  • Savasana