Author’s Note: This month Steve begins teaching a weekly All Levels class here at Iyengar Yoga Hawaii (hooray!). A resident of East Hawaii for the past decade, Steve is a long-time practitioner of Iyengar Yoga and a respected teacher in the greater Hilo yoga community. I recently sat down with Steve to find out more about his thoughts on teaching and practice, and to share those thoughts with you. Here is our conversation.
KZM: Let’s start with one question that is really two: What brought you to Iyengar Yoga, and what made you stay with it?
SSK: I was always super, super inflexible when I was younger. I couldn’t even sit with crossed legs with the rest of the class when I was in the 4th grade! Later, my back developed a problem from playing football, so I started looking for relief. When I found yoga, it wasn’t Iyengar Yoga right from the beginning, but it was Iyengar Yoga that first “clicked” in my mind and made sense.
What kept me coming back? I had really strong teachers, Eddy Marks and Mary Obendorfer. They were the best that I could have had, for me. Mary was my main teacher. I remember from that very first Iyengar Yoga class. I walked in, and when I walked out I felt two inches taller! I felt like I was literally walking on a cloud. Mary’s knowledge and love of yoga, and her teaching style, helped me stay with it. That and the fact that Iyengar Yoga was the first kind of yoga that “clicked” for me.
KZM: How would you describe the impact that Iyengar Yoga has on your day to day life?
SSK: Even though I don’t surf like I did when I was 30 years old, I’m a better surfer now than I was then. Beyond surfing…anything…working in the yard, moving a heavy piece of furniture…I can do it all in a more intelligent way now.
KZM: Why is that kind of intelligence important?
It’s important because of my previous injuries. I’ve learned to live in my own body with the injuries that I have had and still function and be comfortable when I move.
KZM: What would you say to someone who wants health, and is perhaps curious about Iyengar Yoga but hesitant to come in and try it?
SSK: I’d quote B.K.S. Iyengar who said that “yoga has to be experienced.” There are no excuses. Come and do it. Don’t give it a try. Just come and do it.
KZM: That is so Yoda!
SSK: Sure. I mean as far as excuses go, I’ve heard them all – and I’ve probably said them all at some point! Take “I’m not flexible.” Well I’m not flexible, either. That’s why I have to do yoga!
KZM: Is there anything else you would like to tell your students and prospective students?
SSK: Because of my own circumstances, i.e. injuries etc., nothing has come easy for me personally in yoga. So when you see me up in front of the class and I look like I can do it, that was years and years’ worth of effort. And because I’ve had to work at everything and make the most of my body, I think it’s made me become a better teacher. Especially in the last few years, I’ve learned that practicing yoga is not about getting into some posture. It’s the process of working towards it. That’s the yoga. It doesn’t matter what your body can or can’t do when you are in a class with a trained Iyengar Yoga teacher. We can always give you something that you can do.
Thanks to Steve for humoring my request for a Q&A! And thank you to you, the reader. Steve’s All Levels class at Iyengar Yoga Hawaii is held on Wednesdays from 5:30-7:00 p.m. Mahalo and be well!