Yoga Rockford: The community of yoga

By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio
Those of us who take a yoga class know the benefits of this great practice. I could list them all here, citing flexibility, strength, mental focus and stress relief, but I think all of those have been well documented. What isn’t well known, or at least taken advantage of by most students, is the influence and support of the greater yoga community.

This connection to and experience with the community of yoga can add great benefit to our life and practice.
I have now been involved with the Iyengar Yoga community for 11 years, and have grown and learned so much about myself and my yoga practice through this involvement.

Taking part in weekend classes, workshops, or conferences with teaching given by a variety of different teachers has offered me insight from multiple perspectives based on years of practice. These experiences have also brought me friends and connections of shared interest and understanding. When I get stuck in my own practice, I know there is a community I can draw on for support and information.
My purpose in being very involved with the Midwest Iyengar Yoga community was to bring these communal yoga opportunities more easily to the general student. My goal as teacher and community member is to share yoga with a wider community throughout the Midwest. But I also want to engage yoga students in the greater life practice of yoga…yoga beyond the classroom.

As a casual student, it might be hard to know what the benefits are of getting out of your yoga “norm.” Workshops and yoga events outside the familiarity of your own weekly class may cost more money or take more time, but these experiences can have the effect of deepening your practice and your understanding of yoga, ultimately enriching your life in general.

To engage in practice with a larger group, to learn from a teacher who has studied for a lifetime, and to be able to talk about yoga and our experiences with it among peers and colleagues has an overall positive effect on our life.
Weekly classes are a necessary beginning, but the energy of yoga builds with the number and intensity of students in the room. In a workshop or large conference event, you can really feel on a large scale the energy yoga builds in every one of us. It energizes and gives support, even through the toughest of poses.
Frequently, I am surprised at what I am able to accomplish in a larger group. In addition, the teachers who are teaching at workshops or conferences are ones who have dedicated their lives to the practice and have studied with the Iyengars in India on a yearly basis for typically 30 years or more. Their teaching is a wonderful inspiration to take home to our personal practice.

Lastly, it is the time between classes at a conference that can be so enriching. There are remembrances and memorials to teachers past, plus art and music inspired by yoga. Those touched by yoga are there to share the experience—talking, chanting, watching, listening.
The Iyengar Yoga Association of the Midwest and its national counterpart, the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States, are hosting an event to bring this type of experience to the Midwest Yoga Community. During the From the Heartland Conference, being held in Chicago Sept. 15-18, students of all levels are invited to enjoy a long weekend experiencing the community of yoga. In addition to classes taught by some of the nation’s most senior-level Iyengar Yoga teachers, participants will be able to get involved in a chanting room, watch videos about yoga, see art with a yoga-based theme, and hear a lecture and music all inspired by the heart of yoga.

This is one of those unique opportunities to broaden your understanding of yoga, to open your mind and heart to yoga and your practice in a new way. Whether you are a beginning, casual student, or a dedicated and seasoned practitioner, this event will offer something to inspire your study and lighten your spirit. For more information and to register, please visit

For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit or call (815) 968-9642.

From the May 25-31, 2011 issue

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