Beginning yoga students are in a class of their own. In a literal sense they need their own sacred space in order to learn. A dedicated class away from those who know the basics and are more interested in the next stage of learning yoga. In a figurative sense, they are raw students, as BKS Iyengar would say, and have no habits to break from wrong practice. In the realm of yoga they are tabula rasa. Frequently they are timid, curious, stiff and occasionally hyper-flexible. As a teacher of yoga, it is my quest to teach the basics and set the novice on a life-long transformative journey.
We begin with standing poses. To be sure that students get off on the right foot, we teach the poses feet first. Once a beginner has the correct foot position, the foundation will stabilize and the legs can be trained to rotate and straighten. It is surprising that one may not know if the leg is straight or bent, rotated externally or internally, but that is the nature of the beginner. We use basic instructions to state which actions will straighten the leg, for example, "press the foot and lift the knee cap". While some students may understand these words, others will have to be shown and some will need the instruction of a skillful touch of the teacher’s hand to awaken their legs. Once this is accomplished, the upper body can be addressed with the same sensitivity.
Self Study from the periphery to the core is one of the guiding principles of yoga. In the process of learning the biomechanics of their physical body, new students increase body intelligence. With repetition of the poses, proficiency in alignment develops. Neuromuscular connections are awakened, confidence is increased, balance improves, and expansion and extension emerge. Over several weeks the raw beginner transforms into a more knowledgeable practitioner. Skillful practice is cultivated and motivation is internalized.
Physical body, breath body, and mental body begin to awaken. Yoga is so much more than stretching muscles, the most superficial level of the practice. As the student learns the physical shape coupled with the actions muscles must perform in order to align the skeleton, awareness deepens. Engaging the art of concentration to observe the components of the pose is the start of the inward process. Once a muscular mental body is cultivated and students can pay attention to what is happening on their mat, stress levels decline and concerns with daily living activities are left with their shoes at the studio door.
At Iyengar Yoga Source we teach Introductory classes and introduce 25 poses to new comers. In the store on our web site you may purchase a poster with the poses and names in English and Sanskrit or download the digital file.