My original yoga “parentage” was in the Iyengar system. Known for its precision, and for inventing the yoga props we use today, the Iyengar system provides a fine foundation. In workshops, teachers—including BKS Iyengar and his daughter, Geeta, both of whom I studied with in 1989—offered alignment cues about as fast as you could process them, and sometimes faster. As a hypermobile person, I often flopped into flexibility-focused asanas without much thought as to how I was practicing them. Yoga cues helped me refine my practice, so that I wasn’t simply continuing my unhealthy alignment habits.
But sometimes, when I’d attend traditional Iyengar workshops, I’d leave with an agitated nervous system. I’m guessing this is because the speed with which alignment cues were being disseminated made it difficult for me to integrate them all. There simply wasn’t time for me to process them, feel them in my body and make adjustments based on what my own body was telling me. And then there was the fact that many teachers “barked” out yoga cues, rather than sharing them. This method of teaching sometimes made me feel pressured to perform, and sometimes put me on edge.
I’ve since branched out to study with lots of other master teachers, most notably Donna Farhi and Judith Hanson Lasater. Both studied in the Iyengar system decades ago and have since forged their own paths. Both still consider healthy alignment to be important, but their ideas about alignment, and the way they communicate them, are entirely different from their Iyengar training.
Simplifying Yoga Cues
Both Donna and Judith build their classes around a few principles and allow time for individual exploration. This way of presenting information is more effective, at least for me. It’s a methodology I’ve adopted in my own teaching. This is because I believe that our own experience in our practice is ultimately our best teacher. Giving students time—and silence—to explore for themselves gives students more agency. It gives them the ability to figure out what’s best for their own bodies and minds at a given time. After all, I can’t possibly know what’s best for another person.