A few days ago I read this post on naturalmedicine.io, encouraging people to write about yoga. In this post, I'll share how I discovered yoga and in what ways yoga has enriched my life. I'll also write a bit about Iyengar yoga since that was the first yoga style I came across.
An Iyengar yoga retreat in Portugal
Back in the year 2012, I had a busy job in Stockholm and it was time to plan my holiday. I wanted to go someplace warm but I had no one to travel with and felt I wanted to have sort of an active holiday, in a healthy way I mean. At the time, this was kind of a new concept to me. I was also not really used to do solo traveling, or at least not without feeling very lonely.
I came across a website about yoga holidays. I had never tried yoga before and didn't know much about it. At this time I was working out a lot at the gym, doing weightlifting and various cardio training. I wasn't really interested in any form of physical exercise that didn't involve getting really sweaty. But I was curious and also felt drawn to the location, the Algarve coast in Portugal. So I signed up for a one week Iyengar yoga retreat and booked a flight ticket 🛫
I didn't really do any research on Iyengar yoga, I just googled a bit and saw pictures of people hanging upside down in ropes 😬
I still remember how I felt on that flight, I had a terrible headache, I felt overworked and stressed out. I got really excited though on my way to the retreat and almost immediately fell in love with Portugal 💚
The next morning the first yoga class started. My teacher was a bit surprised I had joined this intensive retreat as a complete beginner but said it's completely fine. It was hard work! I'm not a flexible person and at that time even less so. Working with so many muscles I wasn't even aware of with that precision was all new to me. I followed along the best I could. But it felt so good, I felt right away I had so much potential inside of me, unused potential. I felt this new connection to my body and after the first yoga class, my headache was gone. My body started to let go and release. Of course, it also helped that I was in this beautiful Portuguese villa being fed three times a day with delicious vegetarian food. By the end of the week I was actually hanging upside down in ropes 🙂
We had two classes each day but there was also time for other activities. I met some really nice people at the retreat and I also had the opportunity to explore the Algarve coast. I have such great memories of this holiday. It was really a turning point in my life. From that on, I started to plan more solo traveling, and of course, when I got back to Stockholm I looked up and found an Iyengar yoga studio.
What is Iyengar yoga
I knew nothing about Iyengar yoga at the time but soon I came to learn that it's a yoga style where you use a lot of props to help the body to get properly aligned. The teacher also corrects you a lot. It's not really a flowing kind of yoga, instead, you spend time on getting correctly into the posture and then you hold it, in the beginning not so long, but with more experience several minutes. Some people call it yoga for perfectionists 😉
Even though I don't practice Iyengar yoga anymore I still think it's a great yoga style to start with. Since so much emphasis is put on alignment you really learn and get a feeling of the asanas (postures). If you then start to practice more of a flowing yoga style, like vinyasa, you feel safe getting in and out of the asanas fast. In my opinion, Iyengar yoga gives you a great foundation.
Also, if you want to become an Iyengar yoga teacher, you have to go through comprehensive training. You have to have practiced Iyengar yoga for a minimum of three years and the teacher training is a minimum of two years, just to teach introductory level! Source. This is surely a serious commitment but as a student I always felt safe with my Iyengar yoga teachers, knowing they had rigorous training. This is not something I can say for all yoga teachers I have met. I do think it's a big responsibility being a yoga teacher and to make physical corrections on someone else.
Of course, there's a lot more to say about Iyengar yoga but I'll focus on my own experience in this post.
I practiced Iyengar yoga for some years, don't remember exactly. But at some point, I felt I needed something else. More flow. I also missed the connection to the breath.
How yoga has impacted my life
Since my first very intense experience with yoga, nearly eight years ago, I have practiced various yoga styles. Yin yoga, Hatha yoga, Vinyasa, Ashtanga yoga, etc. Yoga is an important part of my life and for the last couple of years, I have had a more or less daily yoga practice. I'm attending a tantra course here in Berlin and I have been so focused on the yoga taught there I haven't really done any other kind of yoga. But now I actually feel it's time for a change. I feel I need more movement again. I'm thinking of finding an Ashtanga yoga studio and resume my Ashtanga yoga practice. Ashtanga yoga is a physically demanding style of yoga and for the last couple of years, I have felt that my body is too weak. I have had some health issues and have had to slow down in all areas of my life. But now I feel it's possible to start to push my body again, even though I'll do it gently. It's all about finding that balance. And yoga has really taught me that. To start to listen to my body and to feel more connected with my body. Before I started doing yoga, I often overrode my body. I just wasn't aware. I just wanted and expected my body to perform in any way I wanted it to. It was just there for me to use.
This view really shifted for me. Yoga was the greatest tool I had when I was faced with some health issues. Yoga has also helped me so much to calm my mind and relieve stress. But even more important for me, discovering yoga was also the starting point of my spiritual journey. Through my yoga practice, I have come in contact with a deeper layer inside of me. I have also started to meditate and since a couple of years, I have also discovered tantra. I'm learning about how to work with energy and the life force we all have inside of us. It's a humbling journey for sure but I feel so grateful I'm on this path 🙏
Thanks for reading.
Love and blessings to you all 🌸
(All images are my own).