"Yoga is the golden key that unlocks the door to peace, tranquility and joy." — B.K.S. Iyengar
Iyengar Yoga Hawaii's Grand Opening turned into a full house this past Saturday, March 17th, when newcomers and current students filled the studio and even set up an overflow practice area in the hall. The Grand Opening was celebrated on the Saturday that also happened to be St. Patrick's Day. (Hopefully this heralds double good luck for this 1/2 Irish proprietor!)
During the free community class, we finally discovered the answer to the million dollar question: How many students can fit in the studio? My quip so far has been "come to class and let's find out!" The real answer, when the prop racks are wheeled outside to make room for practitioners, is 16. It's a small studio, and so I remind myself daily of the saying "mighty oaks from little acorns grow." My hope and aspiration is that Iyengar Yoga Hawaii will grow steadily like a healthy tree: With deep roots, in fertile soil, with a profusion of healthy branches, flowers and fruit.
After a break for munching and mingling, we reconvened in the studio for an Iyengar Yoga demonstration. The demo was based on my notes from an inspiring "Intro to Iyengar Yoga" event held at the world headquarters of Iyengar Yoga, the RIMYI, during my first visit there in 2008. The theme was Connectivity. Iyengar Yoga is a means of charging your batteries so you can stay connected...and we all know what happens to a device when it loses its connectivity, right?
With Steve demonstrating the standing poses, I explained how connectivity begins from the very first pose, Tadasana. One of the definitions of yoga is "union," but if we seek to connect the body to mind (and breath, and spirit) we must first begin by connecting the body to the body. In an act as simple as raising the arms up into the air, how can we create connectivity in the body? How can we maintain that connectivity as the poses become more complex, as actions and asymmetries are introduced, and elements of balance and coordination come into play? These are the questions Iyengar Yoga asks you to ask yourself in each moment of the practice. The answers change from moment to moment; it is up to us to trace these changes with a steady attention.
We moved onto a few seated poses, showing how an Iyengar Yoga practice can help with maintaining a healthy, upright posture throughout the day. Flexibility in the legs and hips, lightness in the torso, space and softness around the neck were shown. Ustrasana was chosen as an example for the backbends, showing the connectivity between spinal health, the full expansion of the chest to receive the breath, and emotional uplift.
One of my goals for the demonstration was to take the observer on a visual journey of what it looks like to go from being a beginner to a seasoned practitioner of Iyengar Yoga. What does the practice look like years down the road? I explained that so many of the beginning poses help to prepare the student for the practice of inversions, where the really deep and long-term benefits of the practice begin to be experienced. Steve demonstrated Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) and I showed Sirsanasa (Headstand), both with variations, as I enumerated some of the inversions' health benefits such as hormonal balance, digestive health, brain and nervous system health, blood pressure regulation and more. Here, the parts of the body connect into interrelated systems that work in harmony to maintain total body health.
We finished off the demo by showing a few minutes of the yogic breathing practice, pranayama (or at least what could be demonstrable to the eye, especially given the fact that I was still talking at the time!). With Steve seated in the chair and myself seated in Padmasana (Lotus pose) I explained that Iyengar Yoga teaches many different ways of sitting, according to one's capacity, with an alert spine and a quiet, receptive brain in order to practice pranayama. We showed the lift of the chest; the actions of the back, arms, and shoulders; and the passivity of the face and the organs of perception. Here, the mind is connected to the body and the breath. In this moment, nothing is missing. Nothing is absent. Nothing is present from the outside. It's just you with the breath, in and out and the moments of stillness in between. The vastness and the quietness inside are all there is. Here you can experience the silence within and maybe even catch a glimpse of the divine.
And that concluded our Grand Opening! I am so grateful to all of the students, friends, and friends of friends who came out to support Iyengar Yoga Hawaii on this auspicious day. Mahalo nui loa and see you in class!