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Stretchy, Stretchy!

I’m not a particularly flexible person and the concept of yoga is pretty scary to me. Stretch and bend my body in ways it doesn’t want to go? For five days? With other people looking at what I’m doing: and probably judging? Um, thanks, but I’ll pass.

Yet there I was; “grounding myself” by spreading and stretching each toe as far as possible while wobbling around like a bobble head. This was going to be a long week at the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Center in Daramkot, India.

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What the Heck is Iyengar Yoga?

Basically, Iyengar is regular yoga with props to make it easier to get into each position.

Our Iyengar Yoga class hard at work in one of the poses
Our Iyengar Yoga class hard at work in one of the poses

Or at least, that’s how my wife, Carrie, and our friend Lauren described it to me before signing up at the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Center in Daramkot, India. Depending on the position, props could be wooden stools, rubber bricks, blankets, bolsters, pillows, straps, and rungs on walls. The idea is that it’s more important to do the yoga position correctly than to try and force ones body out of alignment. Needless to say, I used a LOT of props.

All of the props in their proper place at my Iyengar Yoga class at the Himalaya Yoga Institute in Daramkot, McLeod Ganj, India
All of the props in their proper place at my Iyengar Yoga class at the Himalaya Yoga Institute in Daramkot, McLeod Ganj, India

Every day, we would practice the same core postures for most of the class. Then, at the end, we alternated between sanding on our shoulders and bending over backwards for what seemed like an eternity. Either way, ouch!

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So Why Did I Do It?

Considering that Carrie just finished a two month yoga teacher training course in Rishikesh and the practice is an important part of her life, I figured I should at least give it a shot. Plus, the girls convinced me that it would be the easiest way to start because of the props. Mmmm hmmm.

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How Was My First Ever Week of Yoga?

Painful, incredibly frustrating, educational, stretchy, inspirational and something I’m glad I did.

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Every morning, our class would meet 15 minutes early to do a set of shoulder and arm stretches outside the classroom
Every morning, our class would meet 15 minutes early to do a set of shoulder and arm stretches outside the classroom

I won’t lie; there were several times in each class that I was ready to walk out the door and quit. Not only was it tough to get my body to cooperate, but I lacked even the most fundamental knowledge of yoga terminology, ideas and poses. Right off the bat, our teacher started throwing out things like “go to tadasana.” Today, I could tell you that tadasanameans to spread your toes, find a center of balance, thrust your pelvis up, straighten the back and pull down your shoulders. But for the first day+, I kinda just stood there getting more and more frustrated.

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Our Teachers at the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Center

As the course went on, the teacher – a seemingly cold Polish woman – began to warm up to me and was giving me smiles and helpful advice by the end.

The rude Spanish assistant is on the far right in the blue jacket
The rude Spanish assistant is on the far right in the blue jacket

For help, we had a guy from Spain who seemed frustrated that he was stuck with a class of beginners. Rather than offering constructive criticism and suggestions, he would come over, slap people’s arms and feet into the correct position and ignore all questions. I once got so frustrated once that I snapped at him for slapping me and walking away. Not my finest moment. Fortunately, the other assistant was a kind hearted woman from Canada who was gentle and incredibly patient with my beginner questions and problems. By the end, I was extremely proud of the fact that most of the poses were coming easier to me. Not that I was an Iyengar Yoga expert, but I could actually hold positions without losing balance and getting (too) frustrated. My personal favorite was the wheel pose (chakrasana), which I was incredibly surprised to find that I could actually do!

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These are the Iyengar Poses I Learned

All of the poses I did during my five day course at the All of the props in their proper place at my Iyengar Yoga class at the Himalaya Yoga Institute in Daramkot, McLeod Ganj, India
All of the poses I did during my five day course at the All of the props in their proper place at my Iyengar Yoga class at the Himalaya Yoga Institute in Daramkot, McLeod Ganj, India

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Nestled in the Trees of Daramkot, India

Nestled in the Daramkot trees above McLeod Ganjin Dharamasala, India, the Himilayan Iyengar Yoga Center is a thing of beauty. It was a completely new building – octagonal in shape – with a lovely courtyard and birds chirping in the distance.

The octagonal and tree-hidden Himalaya Yoga Institute in Daramkot, McLeod Ganj, India
The octagonal and tree-hidden Himalaya Yoga Institute in Daramkot, McLeod Ganj, India

Every morning, Carrie, Lauren and I walked across wide open fields, up and down stairs, through backyards, past stupas hidden in nature and over little bridges to get to class. This, along with our achy walk back, always was a favorite part of my day. For more information, check out the Himilayan Iyengar Yoga Center Web site

I spent a lot of time on the floor, looking up at this view of the Himalaya Iyengar Yoga Center in Daramkot
I spent a lot of time on the floor, looking up at this view of the Himalaya Iyengar Yoga Center in Daramkot

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Would I Do it Again?

Probably not. But the whole experience did leave me open to the possibility of doing more yoga in the future. This time, maybe with a little less grumbling and pain. What about YOU? Have you done Iyengar Yoga? Would you? 

Share the Journey

  • http://www.facebook.com/nell.stundell Nell Stundell

    Have been doing yoga since the age of 15.  Could not begin my day w/o it. Wish I could have joined your adventure. Not doing much at the moment…had an accident…foot in orthopedic boot, knee strapped in brace.  But, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy your adventure vicariously.

    • http://www.AdventuresofaGoodMan.com Greg Goodman

      Oh no! Hope that you’re feeling OK, even if you’re a bit immobile. Sending you all our love from Laos. And good for you for years of yoga. It’s tough! :)P

  • Sandy

    Go Greg!!!

    • http://www.AdventuresofaGoodMan.com Greg Goodman

      Hahaha, Thanks Sandy. I hope you had an entertaining mental picture of me hard at work in the yoga hall…