Exploring bossy yoga

I'm not bossy-- I just know what you should be doing.

It’s been fun over the past couple of years to explore different types of yoga offered at my studio in Watertown, MA, as well as other places.  They offer flow, restorative, ropes yoga, yoga and meditation, chair yoga, and many specialized classes for particular groups (like yoga for cyclists and runners) or particular body parts (like hip opener workshops and such).

My studio also features Iyengar yoga classes.  Here’s what Yoga Journal says about it:

By paying close attention to anatomical details and the alignment of each posture, Iyengar Yoga is the practice of precision. Poses are held for long periods and often modified with props. This method is designed to systematically cultivate strength, flexibility, stability, and awareness, and can be therapeutic for specific conditions. B.K.S. Iyengar founded Iyengar Yoga.

I was talking with a friend about Iyengar classes, and she said to me, “I like them, but the teachers are kind of bossy”.

This is so true, now that I think about it.  In an Iyengar class, the focus is entirely on alignment, which requires a number of small but crucial adjustments of inner or outer rotations of limbs, weight shifts, foot position, etc.  The result is a deep and often intense experience of what it feels like to be embodied.

But getting there is often not pretty.  In Iyengar class, I often feel like I’m trying to back a large truck into a small parking space.  This is not what the teacher says, but it is what I hear sometimes:

Okay, bend the left knee– not that knee, the other knee.  Now, rotate the left hip back and the right hip forward.  More.  More. Even more!  Stop. Pull the torso back– no, not that way– back!  Lift out of the ribcage.  Breathe.

It’s kind of an intense experience, my body being bossed around in class.  I have to surrender individual control and will to what’s happening.  There’s no place to hide.  I can’t soft pedal or adjust the tension like in spin class.  It’s all out there, and the teacher sees all and attends to all.

Oddly enough, Iyengar class doesn’t make me feel vulnerable.  It makes me feel attended to and seen.  It’s a place (one of the few places, actually) where I just don’t mind being bossed around.  The teachers see me, and are brave and caring enough to help me in a literal hands-on way to achieve alignment and strength.  I’m into it.

Readers, do you have experiences of being “bossed around” in physical activity classes or workshops or events?  Do you like it?  Do you not like it?  How does being seen, identified as doing what you’re doing, and adjusted, advised, etc.  affect you?  I’d like to know.


Exit mobile version