I wanted to clarify the intentions behind this whole pose of the month stuff that we do here at YL. It is a tradition that I grew up with so to speak. Jiva Mukti did it when I practiced there, Saraswati River yoga also had a pose and subject of the month, even when I was practicing Karate we had a kata and technique of the month. I love the opportunity to dive into a topic and/or pose as a student and also as a teacher. I ask the staff and advanced teacher trainees to see what they would like to see highlighted for the month coming up, and after some back and forth, we pick a pose and/or topic and try to match them up so there is some connection. Sometimes it is a students who makes a request. (You send a request via email). I will often times pick a pose I don't like to practice or to teach, just so you know I am in the same boat as you!
We offer a pose of the month for two basic reasons. One is to give people who might struggle with the pose some info that can change their approach. Whether it is bending your knees in down dog, turning hands out a bit in Bakasana, using the wall for support, finding a strengthening pose for head stand or hand stand preparation, or doing a completely different pose that might access the same muscle groups as the pose of the month. Since my training is in yoga therapy, I might see something in your body that you haven't- and so can make a suggestion for a modification you may not have tried before. I also have the advantage of actually seeing your body, which is not something so available to you when you are in the pose. So please, ask me! If not in class, before or after. I can almost guarantee we can find a way for you to approach whatever pose it is in a sattvic and satisfying way. All the teachers at Yoga Loka are trained to investigate in the same way.
The other reason for pose of the month applies to those who find the pose easy, and maybe even mindless. Hopefully during the month that person will find a way to intensify it, whether it be through an advanced modification, or more attention to the finer details, even sometimes making the movement smaller.
In any case, we will all have a more intimate relationship with the pose, whether you end up liking it or not. Remember, aversion and desire are not to be upheld in our yoga practice, we are trying to defeat that duality that ultimately costs us so much.
So please, don't stay away from class when you hear the pose of the month is one you don't like, or even one that causes you pain. Let's work together to change that relationship. Staying with it brings us one step closer to changing the negativity in our relationship to ourselves. We can also begin to realize how much power we have when we walk up to something difficult or distasteful, look it in the face, and then find peace in the encounter.
Subject of the month:
This month we will honor B.K.S. Iyengar. Mr. Iyengar passed away August 20th at the age of 95.
Mr. Iyengar definitely changed the shape and face of yoga, for the benefit of us all. It was 1956 when Mr. Iyengar first came to this country and introduced yoga to the population. There have been many wonderful tributes chock full of information on Iyengars life published, so rather than doing a so so job of writing about him, his teachers, and the way he came to practice yoga, I encourage you to click through to a few articles listed below.
Here is a quote from Mr. Iyengar in the BBC article that I love:
"When I still find some parts of my body that I have not found before, I tell myself, yes I am progressing scientifically... I don't stretch my body as if it is an object. I do yoga from the self towards the body, not the other way around."
As you can see from this quote, and if you have read any of Mr. Iyengars work, you understand that while he focused so much on the placement of the body, it was not the body he was ultimately interested in. Here are some other quotes that drive the point home, and may help to answer the question: Why do we do asana anyway?
“It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.”
"Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open."
Pose of the month:
For our poses this month we will focus on the use of PROPS! This is something that Mr. Iyengar used extensively in his teaching. Props do many things for us- they assist in modifications, they can intensify a pose, or lessen the effort and strain we may feel from injury or anatomical "stuff". Also, they do not lie! We can fool ourselves without props, but once we use the wall, chair, block or a strap in a particular way we most likely will find which hip is open, which is not, if we are curling forward or staying straight up and down. Did I mention they can sometimes be very fun?
Props can seem daunting, clumsy and unnecessary. This month we will learn how to use them so they are not such a mystery. They are just another one of our tools for illumination.
Another quote from Mr. Iyengar sums it up-
"Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you have to choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it."