IYAC/ACYI recently held its 2019 conference and AGM in Winnipeg.
For several students – some long-time practitioners and others newer to Iyengar Yoga – this year’s event was their first IYAC/ACYI conference & AGM. Below, Duncan McNairnay, Lois Tessier, Emily Denton, & Hilary West reflect on their experience.
DUNCAN MCNAIRNAY, Winnipeg MB
As a student, I found the 2019 conference in Winnipeg completely accessible. It was well organized by friendly, welcoming people in a beautiful space. Although it was mostly teachers in attendance, I would recommend it to any serious student.
It was wonderful being guided through the asana and pranayama by so many experienced teachers, with so many different perspectives and approaches. It was my first time at an IYAC conference and I felt a strong sense of community to be practising with other yogis from across Canada.
I really appreciated the Sutra Reflection before every practice as it gave a broad purpose to the intensely detailed actions we were working on every day.
LOIS TESSIER, Winnipeg MB
Although a regular Iyengar yoga student these past three years, I have never considered membership in IYAC, or attending their AGM. But, with encouragement from Yoga North, I signed up.
I’m glad I did! It was a unique opportunity for excellent teaching by a variety of senior teachers in the same conference.
Unexpectedly, a highlight for me turned out to be attending the AGM. There, I witnessed the dedication and commitment of the national community to Guruji and Geeta’s vision and teachings. I feel sure can attend any Iyengar yoga studio in Canada and be at home.
EMILY DENTON, Winnipeg MB
I was very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend my first IYAC AGM this year. I felt surrounded by such a wealth of knowledge, and the time to dig in deep to practice and philosophy. The asana practice sessions were incredible – both in their depth and in their clarity. I felt both enriched by the variety of teaching styles and particular ideas from the teachers from all over Canada. It also felt very familiar, and I appreciated the emphasis on coherence in Iyengar teaching which roots the poses, the actions and the sequences in the same base of shared knowledge.
Workshop-length classes are always a chance to go deep into a practice, and build steadily towards a pose. For example, I appreciated taking 30 minutes minimum to work steadily up to Ustrasana – the first time I have ever done that pose unsupported with absolutely no twinges, no weak spots in my lower back. Now that I know it’s possible… I guess I have some homework to practise! Some teaching also came to us directly from Geeta Iyengar, whose instruction came through videos. We witnessed her lifelong dedication to yoga and to her father. Her image of the inside of our mouths softening and widening, like the Hindu god Krisna who held the whole world in his mouth cavity – this has become a reminder to me multiple times a day, joining with all my teachers’ words – soften your palate, drop your tongue to the bottom of your mouth, do not allow the tip of the tongue to be hard. I am not there yet, but sometimes I catch a glimpse of what it would be like to have intelligence through the whole body, so that there is strong effort where it is required, and complete calm and no tension where none is required.
As a student I felt welcomed as part of a Canadian community of Iyengar yoga practitioners, and excited to share a practice space with Canada’s committed Iyengar yoga teachers and other students. Over the weekend the various senior teachers returned to the phrase Chitta Vritti Nirodha, and reviewed many ways we can attend to and reduce the fluctuations of mind, body, effort, spirit. The long sessions of asana and pranayama sequenced by such experienced teachers at the AGM moved me a long way towards the experience of stillness while being fully alert.I also appreciated Lisa Towson and Erin O’Neil who, with words and music, reminded us to extend the benefits of our practice past our own strong bodies and calm minds and out to Winnipeg, to Canada, and to the world.
HILARY WEST, Toronto ON
Integration. Isn’t integration the treasure at the end of the Eight-Fold Path?
When I think about the IYAC conference as a whole, I have to reflect on the end, which brought everything together, created coherence. The conference closed with a celestially beautiful playing – singing – of the bowls and ethereal invocation to Patanjali; thank you, Erin. It brought us to ourselves.
And just before that, we’d had Savasana, guided by Geeta, by a video of Geeta.
While she is gone, she was so present. She was so ‘there’ in that room of community, of all of us from across Canada: teachers, non-teachers, seasoned practitioners, people just starting.
Geetaji’s voice was clear, deep and distinct; her silences profound. Geeta suspended time. I know I didn’t fall asleep. I know I was aware. I have no idea where I was, but I loved it. She opened a glimpse to the mystery, integrating though yoga all that has gone before – for me, perhaps for all of us. Samadhi?
I feel an echo of that Savasana – even now, now when I’m doing a 30-day Sadhana with my teacher, and my Virabhadrasana I needs it, draws on it. Namaste.