Karen has been my Iyengar yoga teacher for over twelve years. For the last seven, I have been attending her classes three times a week. At times, when I wanted to work on a specific pose, design a short practice for a trip or when I had an injury, I have also elected to have a private session with her.
Karen is unique. She is thoroughly grounded in ongoing Iyengar training including month-long trips to Poona where she has done intensive retreats at the Iyengar Institute. But hers is no rote imitation of her teachers. Karen has clearly also availed herself of other supplementary practices, spiritual and physical, which deepen the quality of her teaching. She brings her individual creativity to each class, each season, each individual as her inspiration and others needs arise.
Karen holds the tension in a class from beginning meditation to final savasana. By tension I mean that she has an inner discipline and concentration which she projects in her teaching. The sustained focus on each posture, each alignment, which muscles or bones are involved, does not lapse. This in spite of the fact that she does not rush the students through poses; this is not an aerobic activity. Paradoxically, the focused work is more challenging than the flow classes of yoga that I have sampled intermittently over the years. I find it intense, deep, and stimulating.
In addition to alignment, Karen emphasizes the use of the breath in synchrony with the movement into, during, and moving out of postures. The effect of this practice is a synthesis of balance, coordination, strength, all directed by the breath. The mind, body and spirit come together in the moment. Over time I have found that this state of being has become more and more internalized, moving out of the classroom into my everyday life.
Finally, Karen is mindful of individuals’ injuries and limitations and encourages students to work within the limitations of their own bodies. Over time, with this discrete attention, bodies change and find healthy ways to correct themselves.