Inspiring Body Works Iyengar Yoga Blog

“Educate your muscles”

Back from London.

Gabriella Giudilaro ran a four hour workshop on Oct 5th at Iyengar Institute Maida Vale. She closely followed Iyengar’s teaching: we must “educate”our muscles, she said. Gabriella reviewed several backbend poses after warming up

esAdo mukha virasana (the swan – to “release the brain and the abdomen”)


Ado mukha svanasana

(downward facing dog – work on opening upper arm opening).



Keep your elbow leveled with the shoulder (the right elbow on the photo should be facing ahead and the right hand should stay behind the right shoulder blade). Working that way, you’ll FEEL the difference.


Ado mukha vrkshasana.

Handstand. Preparation: two hands on the floor not far from the wall. Legs straight. Stabilize the pose before your lift one leg and go into the posture.

woman-yoga-position_~AA046310Pinca Mayurasana

Elbow balance. Preparation near the wall: practice first with your hands (palms facing the ceiling) holding a block slightly off the floor. Push on your forearms . Legs straight. Walk toward your elbow. Lift a leg and then the other one. Push your ribs down and back, make sure your shoulders are away from your ears. Push into your flexed heels, push your buttocks up. And breathe.


Salamba Sirsasana.

Head stand. Preparation. Fold your mat in four. Cross your fingers, making sure your wrists are relaxed not  pressing towards each other. Bring the crown of your head on the mat , tucking your chin slightly in, within the nest of your hands. Stretch your legs and then either bend your knees or lift one leg after the other to come into the pose. Lift your shoulders. If your upper back is stiff, use a pile of three blocks to help pushing your shoulder blades in towards your chest. If your arms are long you can use a folded blanket under your head. Roll your thighs in and flex your feet . Push your buttocks up.

3BSuzyHanging1 Salamba sirsasana in the ropes

dogupUrdhva Mukha Svanasana

Upward facing dog. Try to work it by tucking your tailbone without squeezing your buttocks towards each other.  Use your hamstrings and back muscles to lift yourself up. Pull your hips and your abdomen upand forward.

indiaY17Ustrasana (-The camel). Knees hip width apart. Tailbone down, thighs in. Hands on your hips. Lift your chest, bend you head slightly back, but keep your neck long, don’t let you head fall back. Then slowly arch your back and reach your heels with your hands.

410Urdhva Danurasana

Upward bow. Preparation. Lie on your back, head not far from wall. You can put your hands and your head against the wall (or even put a folded blanket under your hands). Then bend your knees. Feet on the floor wide apart, thighs in. Hands at shoulders level. Lift your pelvis off the floor and push on your hands. First come onto your head. Keep your elbows slightly apart. Walk three times with your hands towards your feet, keeping your pelvis lifted and without squeezing your buttocks. Then push on your arms  and bring your elbows towards each other. You don’t need to have your legs straight. Try to bring your chest towards the wall

dvi-pada-viparita-dandasana_01Dvi pada Viparita Dandasana without a chair

The weight is on the forearms the head and the feet.. Make sure your your ribs are pushed down towards your hips and you lift your pelvis up without squeezing your buttocks towards each other. Work  with your back muscles and tuck your tailbone right under.

Dvi pada dwipadaviparitakarani_mh_loviparita dandasana with a chair.

After backbends Gabriella came back intoes Ado mukha virasana to release the lower back.

Last but not least


Marycyasana 1

Twist. Make sure to keep both shoulders open

Gabriella gave five minutes relaxation  savasana

Savasana (the corpse pose)

which (I thought) was MUCH too short….

2 replies on ““Educate your muscles””

I read with interest the account of the Iyengar workshops. I love Iyengar yoga and in fact I’ve just started teacher training, but I dislike ‘draconian’ Iyengar teachers who dress students down and humiliate them – and so far about 50% of the Iyengar teachers I have studied with tend do this. I went to a workshop with a well known and respected Iyengar teacher last week, but felt embarrassed and distressed by her tendancy to launch in and attack students for their perceived misdemeanours. I’m used to this kind of behaviour, and can pretty much take it when it’s my turn, but it bothers me. I guess that this style of teaching imitates what happens in Pune, but this is within the context of Indian culture whilst studying in India. I’m not sure how appropriate it is to take it back to Europe uncut. Strictness and ‘fierceness’ can be proof of the teacher’s dedication and salutory for the students to help them to learn to pay attention to what they are doing and be properly present. I don’t argue, for example, with making total punctuality for class non-negotiable. However, tongue lashing a student who isn’t using their props correctly or is badly aligned or loses concentration seems to me to be wrong in the vast majority of cases. I can only feel that it is simply wrong to publicly attack and undermine a student. What do you think?

Hi Anna,

Thank you for your comment which is very interesting.
I’m not an Iyengar , but a Vinyasa trained teacher. I’ve learnt a lot from about six different Iyengar teachers in France and in the UK. As an “amateur”, I can’t say I’ve ever felt humiliated. It’s true that some teachers have a very rough way of talking to their students. I don’t think it helps anyone to humiliate others in public.
I haven’t been to Pune yet, so I can’t compare.
I guess as in any discipline, some teachers take it too seriously. Some may also struggle with big size classes. It must be a gift to keep cool with 25 or more students to deal with.
As a teacher, one’s patience can be challenged. I don’t train teachers but ordinary students. Therefore my students come to find a relaxed atmosphere. Some would resent too stricter rules.

Iyengar Yoga is a long and demanding process.
As a teacher (Vinyasa trained and not Iyengar) I try to learn from the students. How should I explain things to make them more intelligible, how should I talk to them individally, etc Sometimes they loose concentration and I have to find a way to bring their attention back to the practice. I therefore add a few lines at the end of the class like: “We should maybe try to spend one session without any chatting to see if it changes anything in the benefits we get from the practice.”
Regarding props, some people learn quickly, others find it difficult to use them. My first Iyengar teacher never got crossed with me even if it took time to me to know how to place the blocks or blankets properly. I’m very grateful to her.
I had other teachers later on who reminded us quite rudely how to deal with the props. As intermediate or advanced students, we are supposed to have learnt a few things.
Yoga helps us to feel detached, even from a teacher unpleasantness, as long as we respect his or her work. It happened to me to find the teacher a bit rough, but at the same time I was enjoying the pratice so much that I didn’t mind
her words.
Hope this helps. Namaste

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