Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a yoga class from the third different teacher here in the Greenport, NY area. This particular teacher has practiced yoga for over 20 years and teaches in Manhattan and SoHo as well as Cutchogue, NY. Wow! This was a great class! The teacher began by dimming the lights in the room and having the class start in "Legs Against the Wall" pose. She told us that this is in the Iyengar style of yoga. We were to quiet our minds and focus on our breath, keeping our legs straight. Then we flexed our toes towards our face - and that's when the toe cramps hit me. I tried to concentrate on my foot muscles, telling them to relax. Eventually, it did get better.
Throughout the class the teacher spoke of the philosophy of yoga - the eight limbs of yoga and especially the yamas and niyamas. All of the asanas (poses) were attained in a very mindful, controlled manner. The teacher demonstrated a little, circulated the room most of the time, making gentle adjustments in students postures as needed.
We spent a good bit of time focusing on our Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Focusing on grounding our feet, lifting our hearts, pulling our shoulder blades (wings) towards each other, and using our hands and fingers to form the gyan mudra (mudra of knowledge). Mudras are sacred gestures somewhat comparable to Catholic and Christian gestures like the crossing of your heart and praying hands (anjali mudra). To form the gyan mudra, touch the tip of the thumb to the tip of the index finger, with the other three fingers stretched out. The outstretched fingers that point toward the ground channel the flow of prana (energy or life force) into our bodies upwards from the earth. The tip of the thumb correlates to the pituitary and endocrine glands. When you press the centers of the thumb with the index finger the two glands work actively. When practiced regularly, the gyan mudra increases memory power and sharpens the brain, enhances concentration and prevents insomnia, and relieves psychological disorders like hysteria, anger and depression. All I can say, is I definitely have a greater respect and understanding of the seemingly simple Tadasana pose.
The one thing I didn't care for in this class was some of her music - "Edelweiss" was one of her selections - it made it harder for me to focus on my breathing and posture because I kept thinking about the movie "The Sound of Music"!
Next posting I should have a review of the book I'm currently reading - "The Dog Stars" by Peter Heller.