Why each week's practice has different focus, sequences, and benefits
It is the end of February and in the balmy weather we are practising restorative poses, to regenerate energy and keep our mind quiet and steady.
You may wonder about the rotation of focus each week in Iyengar yoga, so I thought I would write and explain how we change focus each week and what benefits you receive from practising every week.
Throughout a month of regular Iyengar yoga practice (at least twice a week) we work through each part of our body and improve our brain function, i.e. our body and brain are interconnected and interdependent.
Week 1: standing asanas
We start the month with standing asana sequences to strengthen and balance our body and mind. This boosts well-being and sets the body up for the challenges ahead. It is "honest work", quite energy intensive and utilises and develops the strength of legs and core at the base of our structure. Even whilst doing this physical labour though we are developing calm awareness of our body.
Week 2: forward bends
The second week of each month focuses on forward bends, which quieten the nervous system and improve flexibility of joint, spine, hamstrings and of course of the mind. As with backbends (below) it is important not to skip this week if you find it hard! Great benefit will come if you persevere, it is motivating when your body rewards and you can touch your toes or put your head to your knee. And with this openness of your body you find that you are open to being calm and quiet.
Week 3: back bends
The third week is always challenging but not less rewarding - backbends - the best way to open the chest. It is physically challenging through the whole body, which means you get an enormous sense of satisfaction when you overcome difficulties in accessing the asanas. Normally in life (at a desk, on the bus, etc) we bend/ round forward, it's lovely to wake the spine up bending backwards. You feel positive emotionally when you enliven the chest, arms, shoulders and breath in this way. As we try it next time see for yourself - and again don't skip this week because you need regular back bend sequences. Regular back bends make you happy!
Week 4: restorative week
In week 4 we follow restorative practice sequences to incorporate what we've done and to get ready for the month that follows, the challenges we are about to give ourselves.
This is often students' favourite week, relaxing asanas. It is more than just lying around though! We have worked through all the body through the month, and restorative week closes this algorithm bringing all the work together.
Week 5: miscellaneous week
If there are five Mondays in a month then in the 5th week we will have a miscellaneous week. We try asanas that we don't often practise or haven't tried before.
We invite you to join us this week for a restorative Iyengar yoga practice and get your mind and body ready for next week - standing poses.