Eugene studies in the Iyengar tradition with Aadil Palkhivala, a Senior Teacher from India, and Julie Gudmestad, Physical Therapist and author on Yoga Anatomy.
Force and feeling cannot go together. If you force, you cannot feel, if you feel, you cannot force. Therefore, choose feeling. - Aadil Palkhivala
An intelligent muscle is one that knows how to contract when there is work to be done, and to really let go when the work is over. -Julie Gudmestad
“I wanted to share authentic yoga, so it was important for me to study with someone raised in the Indian tradition. But also learning from an anatomy expert enables me to fit yoga to the Western body and lifestyle.” - Eugene
When he arrives in each class, Aadil starts with his own practice, typically about five minutes of centering and warm up, before interacting with students. I since have learned that BKS Iyengar would similarly do an extensive personal practice session before workshops, preparing himself physically and mentally to teach. Initially this seemed strange to me, expecting the teacher to dedicate their attention on me from the beginning of class! But I have come to respect this modeling of yoga practice as something the teacher also needs as their personal foundation for energy and balance.
Aadil taught me that the use of props and modifications was not to "dumb down the pose". It was the opposite, it was finding the heart of the pose, the juice and energy, and making it accessible to a wider audience of students. For example, in shoulderstand, he taught the real qualities of the pose, the interior experience of calm and rejuvenation, and then added modification and props not to get more perfect alignment, but to bring about these values even when the student couldn't force their neck into the full flexion the raw pose requires.
Here I was studying with a true anatomy expert, the author of a regular column in Yoga Journal. I assumed that Julie would have developed some kind of x-ray vision that could easily discern the appropriate position for each student in the pose. So I was taken aback when I heard her walking the classroom and genuinely asking students - "so, are you getting a moderate stretch in this pose?" After my surprise, I found this very liberating, a permission that being an expert does not mean that you exclude the feedback from the client, but instead listen to them more. And in my work now as a Massage Therapist, this insight became ever more important.
After some time taking her classes, it dawned on me that the steady clarity with which Julie structured the poses, combined with the natural voice from her Scandinavian roots, was not just an opportunity for me to improve my alignment in the pose. Beyond was an invitation to develop my own energetic boundaries, whether student-teacher or parent-child, which could be a role-model of healthy foundation in my life. - Eugene