Iyengar Yoga for Physical and Mental Wellbeing

I often recommend that my patients practice yoga as a means of pain relief and stress reduction.  A yoga student myself, I’ve been practicing with Anneke Faas and other teachers at Adeline Yoga in South Berkeley for the past several months.  I’ve found all the teachers at Adeline to be incredibly skilled, attentive, and willing to meet each student where they are at, while the atmosphere of the studio feels safe, non-competitive, and inclusive.  Curious to understand more about the Iyengar style of yoga taught there, I asked Anneke to expand upon the teachings offered at Adeline.

What makes Iyengar yoga unique?  

Iyengar yoga is a systematic approach to the body, the mind and spirit. Iyengar yoga acknowledges the student where they are in time and space. Beginners work with the basic shapes of poses, bringing awareness to their limbs and how the limbs affect the trunk. Once establishing that knowledge and control of the limbs, the intermediate student intensifies the challenge of both the asana and the concentration. There is a deep understanding that an intermediate student may not be the most physically able, but that they are mentally astute and aware of their practice.

I know from experience that Iyengar yoga will help one to become strong and flexible.  Tell me about the stress reduction benefits of Iyengar yoga.

For many of us, our stressful lifestyle results in a nervous system that is out of whack. Yoga asanas practiced in a mindful and deliberate way can dramatically improve how our nervous system functions by strengthening and lengthening the spinal muscles so there is less compression on spinal discs. Deeps twists can release paraspinal adhesions and give freedom to spinal nerves. Backbends stimulate the entire nervous system and most importantly the inversions relax and strengthen the neurons of the brain.  The nerves of the brain are gently soaked in blood and changes occur to relax the nerves. When we are stressed, we hold tension in the body, when we practice yoga asanas, we release that negative tensions and both the mind and the body are nourished.

Anneke guides a student in Ardha Chandrasana, a wonderful asana for alleviating menstrual cramps. Photo credit:  Kara Cooper

Anneke guides a student in Ardha Chandrasana, a wonderful asana for alleviating menstrual cramps. Photo credit: Kara Cooper

How does Iyengar yoga help with physical complaints like digestive issues and menstrual cramps?

Our upright posture puts a lot of stress on the abdominal and diaphramatic muscles, causing sagging and interrupted blood flow to the abdominal organs that can adversely affect digestion. Different groups of asanas help to overcome these problems. Inversions create a healthy flow by reversing the effect of gravity on sagging organs. Reclining poses stretch the abdominal muscles and provide a massage to the organs as well as improving blood supply. These are just a few examples.
Menstrual cramps can also be reduced by simply stretching the uterus. If a student is suffering, they simply need to tell their teacher and there are several things one can practice to help reduce unwanted menstrual cramps. As teachers, we want to see our students use the asana practice to help them and there is a specific menstrual practice that we can give to students. Even if you don’t menstruate - you should practice this sequence, it is so quieting and rejuvenating - we all need it once a month for sure.

What can people expect to learn in your upcoming 10 week fundamentals series?

Students will be taught a strong foundation of how to practice standing poses. Standing poses are learned first, as we all need to be clear how to stand correctly. Standing poses strengthen and stretch the muscles from the feet, up the legs, to the hips, through the torso, the arms, neck and head. Then as the standing poses are established, students learn some seated postures, twists, and the beginning of the inversion, shoulder stand.

What sets Adeline Yoga apart from other local studios?

Adeline is committed to serving the community through the brilliance of Iyengar yoga. There is so much attention put to quality of teaching and such little attention on appearance and external facade. Adeline has been in south Berkeley for 10 years and is established as a place for community well being. A place to practice and bring peace of mind to the whole person. Iyengar yoga is brilliant example of top notch teaching, where we follow methodologies and take our training very seriously. Any certified Iyengar teacher has thousands of hours and years supporting their craft. We work together as teachers and commit to serving our students.

I encourage anyone curious about Iyengar yoga to take the Fundamentals Series with Anneke starting on July 13th- her classes are simultaneously very focused yet light-hearted, and she is always willing to help with specific challenges of individual students.  Anneke also regularly offers workshops to deepen students understanding of certain asanas or body systems; coming up on July 16th is Cooling the Mind with Forward Extensions.