Now I’m going to tell you about notorious Iyengar yoga teacher in Rishikesh, Usha Devi. I was taking her class for a few weeks 2 years ago, and I got back for a few more weeks this year. Once again I concluded that nothing works on the body level as deep and as profound as Iyengar yoga. Before Usha, I was visiting classes of other hatha yoga teachers, all of them are very good masters, but once you go to Iyengar class, you know for sure that your body starts to work in much more profound way, and you engage not only big and superficial muscles, but deep, small, medium – all muscles that you can engage as much as your nervous system allows you to.
The effect also largely depends on who exactly teaches you principles of Iyengar yoga, as some Iyengar classes from other teachers here in Rishikesh may be quite boring, self repetitive, and not conductive to total involvement of student’s attention into the process of body alignment. Usha is the best teacher to get you working on the brink of your abilities, not only due to precise and detailed instructions, but also by really demanding maximum efforts from everybody in the class. This is done quite in a military style, and you will often hear words like “Hey, what are you doing?”, “Are you sleeping?!”, “Hey, what is this, I said open your fingers!”, etc. You may also get occasional slap on the buttocks or on the back if you aren’t following her instructions. For some very sensitive people, such military style of class may seem too much and not conductive to the spirit of yoga, where you should relax and let go of all the tension. But it surely serves the purpose of perfect body alignment and concentrating on mental attention on the body, on particular parts of the body that you’re currently working on.
Why do we need perfect alignment? It’s not as much to make you look perfect in the asana, as sometimes you may use straps, blocks and other props that do not look actually beautiful and appealing. Perfect alignment, as I see it from my experience, serves several purposes:
- Safety during yoga class. By following instructions of Iyengar yoga teacher, which are very precise and quite “medical”, as Usha describes them herself, you can enhance physical possibilities of your body in a safe way, being sure that you will not dislocate your knees, compress your spine, or tear some ligaments.
- Enhanced control of your body, and awareness of body processes. Iyengar yoga students who learn to control movements of smaller muscles and direction of skin, immensely enhance control of their body, which can be used afterwards in any style of yoga or physical activity at all.
- Improvement of health. This point logically follows previous two. Iyengar yoga is able to work profoundly on some problematic areas of the body, and alleviate physical problems. Usha herself is a great example of this. She got into serious car accidents two times during her life, that impacted her health significantly. Her pelvis and the bones of her legs were crashed, and the doctors told there was no way of her being able to walk again. Unbelievably as it may sound, with the guidance and strict help of her guru, B K S Iyengar, he got on her feet back again and now teaches Iyengar yoga, inspiring hundreds of people who visit her classes every year. In her class, I saw several people of age definitely over 60 who were as light and flexible as Russian ballerinas. One of such women told me that just a few years ago she was crooked and experienced difficulties in moving.
- Attainment of dharana though concentration on the body. During Usha’s class, you will have no opportunity to think of anything else besides following her instructions, which lie in watching and controlling your muscles, skin, and breathing. All the process is rooted in the body, and with good Iyengar teacher, your attention will be in your body during entire class. And as yogis say, wherever is your attention, that’s the place your energy goes.
There are few other teachers in Rishikesh that teach Iyengar yoga, but they are not as brilliant because they are not able to bring students’ attention to their body as well as Usha does, and cannot attain similar intensity of the class. For some people, however, because of same reasons, these other teachers may be a good option. As thought the benefits are numerous, increased intensity of the Usha’s class leads to increased nervous strain, which may lead to some nervous tension or even breakdowns for unprepared students. Of course, with time both body and psyche adapts to the level of intensity of the class, and there are many devoted students of Usha who feel great and attend her classes every day. Other people however, need some rests from these classes. In any case, it’s very beneficial to have additional meditation sessions, as shavasana in Iyengar’s class is very brief and may not be enough to relieve all nervous tension.
This, however, is not the reason to skip the class. If you’re serious yoga practitioner, or moreover, if you’re yoga teacher, you must learn Iyengar method of body alignment to make sure you understand your own or your student’s body and don’t harm yourself or your students. Afterwards, you can teach any style of yoga, but you will be greatly enriched with understanding of safety principles and mechanisms of intensifying body work.
With all that said, it’s not that easy to get to Usha’s class as her intensives are booked several months ahead, and her classes are always full. You should sign up for the next week class on Saturday, at 7 :30 PM, if you have place after all the students participating in previous week’s classes have signed up.
Time of classes: 6-7:30 PM from Monday till Saturday, every morning from 7:30 to 11 AM is a self-practice in the same hall.
Place of Class: Omkaragaganda Ganga Sadan Patanjala Yoga Kendra, next to Taxi stand near Ramjhula, Rishikesh. If you go from Rishikesh, you don’t need to cross the bridge, the center is on the same side of the bridge where Rishikesh city is.