By Jennie Williford
Pranayama Yoga Studio
Every time I am questioned why I offer yoga in sessions, require a bit of commitment, take such time and care with the Iyengar Yoga method of teaching, and practice in levels and in a step-by-step manner, I recall my yoga beginnings.
I began yoga in a continuing education course at TCU in Fort Worth, Texas. At the time, there were no yoga studios in Fort Worth, and yoga itself was just being reintroduced to popular culture. My friends and I made a “girls night out” of a semester of yoga, paid upfront, and started something new.
Stiffness from years of other physical activities and a total lack of coordination made yoga class not much fun. I would not have stayed if not for the semester commitment. But, for reasons I did not yet understand, after the eight weeks, I found that not only did I feel physically better, but mentally I was more settled and less anxious.
We continued for a second semester, with a new teacher teaching the class. Her focus was not merely physical; she introduced us to the philosophy within yoga, and I immediately fell in love with this deeper aspect of practice. I remained with this teacher for two more years, taking classes and personal instruction. Ultimately, aware of her limitations, she sent me off to a studio in Dallas that taught many more specific forms of yoga. I had started with the more general and eclectic “Hatha Yoga,” a practice that focuses on physical postures. In Dallas, I was introduced to many new styles and lineages of yoga: Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Iyengar, Kundalini and Power.
I loved (and still enjoy) every form of yoga, but I found that Iyengar classes produced in me the effects of yoga that were highlighted in the philosophies: mental and physical stability, mental quiet, strength and flexibility in balance, and a strong connection of mind and body moving together. Through these classes, I saw changes in myself I never thought possible. Intense and joyful and scary and fun all rolled into one class made the experience of Iyengar Yoga never dull and always a challenge.
A few years later, when my old Fort Worth teacher was leaving town, she asked if I would take over her classes. This became another beginning for me on my yoga path. I had never taught anything in my life, and strangely, I would be teaching students whom I had taken class with years before. I needed guidance. The Iyengar Certification process at that time seemed daunting, so I completed a 200-hour Yoga Alliance Certification course to gain the confidence to be in front of a class.
However, facing my class of students, I found I still needed a path, a method, a place to begin. Observing these students with whom I had practiced so many years before, I found them still in the same place, while I had experienced such transformation through Iyengar Yoga. I wanted more than a general approach to the vast subject of yoga; I wanted to empower others toward their own transformations through yoga. So, I turned to the syllabus and system of Iyengar Yoga. Within weeks of following the yoga learning method laid out by BKS Iyengar, the students felt the benefits and responded almost miraculously to the difference. My fate as an Iyengar Yoga teacher was sealed.
So, sure, ask all your questions “why.” The answers are in my story: beginning yoga with a commitment to a session might keep you going, in spite of initial discomfort. Being introduced to the philosophy behind the physical practice, you might find inspiration to continue practice toward new poses and deeper effects. And, given a specific method that empowers you to practice on your own level and at your own pace might bring you the benefits and transformations yoga provides. Ultimately, the most important thing is to start your own yoga story … from the beginning.
For more information about Pranayama Yoga Studio, visit www.yogarockford.com or call (815) 968-9642.
From the March 26-April 1, 2014, issue