What to Expect in Class
This page is intended to give the prospective student an idea of a class in addition to the description under the menu tag of Iyengar yoga.
Expect to learn! An Iyengar class is laboratory of learning. It is intended to enhance your practice and this is best achieved by coming with a beginner's mind no matter your level.
The practice is progressive, building a stable foundation before attempting more demanding work. Beginners start with standing yoga poses and are gradually introduced to a fuller range of sitting and reclining yoga postures, forward extensions, inversions, twists, backbends, and arm balances. Yoga is learned through repetition, practice and analysis.
The Iyengar yoga technique emphasizes precision and alignment, and quality and consciousness of movement is prioritized over quantity. You learn to move while working within your limitations. Yoga props such as blankets, blocks, and belts may be used to improve your understanding of poses or to help if you have difficulties and make the postures safe to do.
A student of Iyengar yoga builds strength where there is weakness, mobility where there is stiffness and gains a practical tool for mental concentration and understanding themselves better. Regular attendance is recommended strongly in order to learn and be properly guided.
Students with limitations, conditions or injuries must contact the teacher to discuss the appropriate class to attend. Iyengar teachers are trained to deal with a variety of conditions and situations with the use of props and or teaching poses in stages to address students needs. But you must inform the teacher before class so that your needs can be addressed.
Class begins with the invocation to Pantanjali to whom we offer our gratitude for documenting the path of yoga in the Yoga Sutras. (scroll down for a translation)
I look forward to seeing you in class!
INVOCATION TO PANTANJALI
YOGENA CITTASYA PADENA VACAM
MALAM SARIRASYA CA VAIDYAKENA
YOPAKAROTTAM PRAVARAM MUNINAM
PATANJALIM PRANJALIR ANATO’SMIABAHU PURUSAKARAM
SANKHA CAKRASI DHARINAM
SAHASRA SIRASAM SVETAM
THE MEANING OF THE INVOCATION
by Geeta IyengarThe two slokas (verses) that we chant to invoke Lord Patanjali begin the Bhojavritti, Bhoja’s commentary or Yoga Sutras. It says, first of all, that Lord Patanjali is considered to be the incarnation of Adishesha, which is the seat for the Lord Vishnu, the very creator of this world. It is said he took birth three different times giving three different sciences for people to improve themselves.The first is yoga.
yogena cittasya padenaa vacam
To purify the mind (citta), purify the consciousness, Patanjali gave the science of yoga (yogena) to us. To purify our use of words (pada) and speech (vaca), he gave commentary on grammer to us so thatour use of words and way of speaking is clarified, distinct and pure.
malam sarirasya ca vaidyakena
To remove the impurities (malam) of the body (sarira), he gave us the science of medicine (vaidyakena).
yopakarottam pravaram muninam
Let me go near the one who has given these things to us.
patanjalim pranjalir anato’smi
Let me bow down my head with my folded hands to Lord Patanjali.
Then, after knowing the work of this Lord, the second stanza says what Lord Patanjali looks like. To do meditation first the form has to be in front of our eyes.
From the hand up to the head he has the shape (karam) of a human (purusa.)
sankha cakarasi dharinam
In his hand he is holding the conch (sankha) and the disc (cakra.)
sahasra sirasam svetam
On top of his head (sirasam) he has got a thousand (sahasra) hoods of cobra, because he is the incarnation of Adishesha, the greatest cobra. Svetam means white
I bow down to that Patanjali.
We chant so that at the very beginning that feeling of sanctification comes from inside, with the feeling of surrendering oneself, because nothing can be learned in this world unless you have the humility to learn. So the moment you think of the Lord at the beginning of doing a practice, you know that you are very small in front of that greatest soul. Once that is understood then the other problems which always arise while practicing, mainly concerned with the ego, will be affected. You know that you are “coming down” to learn something, and that you can’t learn anything unless you come down: if you think you are on the top and you know everything, then you are not a learner at all. In that sense, the chanting helps. We decide to chant these two slokas from the very beginning. When Guruji asked us to practice yoga we stayed with this recitation. But we didn’t do it in the classes because when people came as beginners, they had this idea that it is a religious prayer of concern only to Hindus. It took people a little while to understand. whenever we had some public program, celebration such as Divali or Guruji’s birthday, we would recite the prayers. People started taking interest and asking us what the prayers mean. When it was understood, everybody accepted it. For several years now we have been chanting these prayers before the classes.
This explanation of the invocation to Patanjali is adapted from an interview given by Geeta at RIMYI in 1992 during the Canada intensive. The interview was conducted by Margo Kitchen and videotaped by Heather Malek., transcribed and edited by Judith M. a consultation with Marline Miller. Adapted by Francis Ricks.