Hi, I’m Tony, and I didn’t find yoga, it found me. Some years ago I went camping with a friend at a yoga festival. I’d had no prior experience with or knowledge of yoga, but it was interesting because I was able to watch the classes of many different styles of yoga. I wasn’t in the least interested in participating, mainly because so many of the classes were taught with dance music or Indian music in the background, and that didn’t appeal to me.
On the last day, just before we were about to leave, I decided to take the very strange three-quarter long super-thick mat that my friend lent me to go and have a look at a class that had caught my eye for some reason. Yvonne de Kock was teaching an Iyengar style class, and her joyful presence and playful manner compelled me to put my mat down. I was so stoked to find out after the class that her studio is in Milnerton, which isn’t far from me. I have never stopped going to Yvonne’s classes and don’t expect that I will any time soon.
Iyengar yoga, a style named for the late B.K.S. Iyengar was the ideal way for me to discover yoga. Sometimes obliquely referred to as ‘furniture yoga’, the Iyengar style makes use of props such as chairs, blocks, bolsters and straps to allow newcomers to access poses or asanas that they might not otherwise be able to experience. It also has a strong focus on alignment and correctness of form.
About three years later, I picked up a flyer for Mysore style Ashtanga yoga. The classes start at 6 am, and not being a morning person, getting up to go and see what this was about was very unlike me. Sharline Rofail was teaching a class of a few dozen students, but what’s interesting about the Mysore teaching style is that each student is taught to memorise one or more series of sequenced yoga poses, and all the students who arrive at different times, are typically at different points in their practice. She greeted me as though she’d known me for years, and after having my first lesson in the primary series while she nimbly and expertly assisted and corrected the rest of the class, I was captivated by this new style and this wonderful new teacher.
Ashtanga yoga, developed by the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, is a vinyasa style of yoga meaning that the poses flow from one to the next, non-stop. The Sanskrit word Ashtanga translates as ‘eight limbs’ and involves a physically demanding series of postures. The movement is coordinated with the breath, and the gaze or ‘drishti’ is focused on various points to aid concentration.
Both Iyengar and Ashtanga are considered traditional styles of yoga, and hence only make use of the Sanskrit names of poses or asanas. The freestyle of Iyengar complements the sequenced flow of Ashtanga, and I bring these qualities together in my teaching.