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Bytom Festival

Ewa Wardzala - Yoga Class Teacher at Bytom Festival 2006

by Dance Factory (Festival Newspaper)

July 2006 -- Bytom, Poland

Tell us how your adventure with yoga started. I know that you used to dance with TOK [Theater of Open Creation, contemporary dance group in Krakow].

That was a short adventure with TOK, but yes, I used to practise contemporary dance there. However, I was always interested in India and eventually I started Indian studies. Yoga attracted me because on the one hand it works with the body, which can bring me, as a dancer, an increased body consciousness, and on the other hand yoga also intrigued me as a philosophy. Having no idea of the multiplicity of yoga methods, I went for a yoga class at Iyengar’s school in Krakow, and from the very beginning I felt that this was it: that after a class an inner integration appears. I felt incredibly calm through my body, which had been dancing for many years and was overworked. I used to feel back and knee pain very often, and suddenly with yoga, it turned out that there was a large space inside, there is no pain, the body is calming down, stretched and strengthened. I knew already that I planned to practise yoga for the rest of my life.

Does it often happen that your students, like today, thank you after the class because they don’t feel knee pain any more?

Yes, it often happens. There are people who have experienced yoga before and know how much a class can give them. After such madness for the body, with several classes each day, the body is overworked and yoga can help. Sometimes a longer process of yoga therapy is needed, but usually the effects come quickly. It is enough to shape the body in a proper position, stretch it and the knees, the back, the loins and the feet stop hurting. More and more dancers are starting to practice yoga - they feel it saves them.

What are the characteristics of the method that you practice?

This is the method that focuses on asans, the positions of the body and also on pranajama, work with body energy through breathing. There is no time here to practice pranajama. It is usually introduced after a few months of asan exercise. Certainly the breathing is very important for practicing asans. It is necessary to pay attention to the flow of breath and ensure that it is fluent. During classes I speak about making conscious exhalation to the strained parts of the body. The exhalations always relax us, and dissolve pain and tension. The inhalations, on the other hand, energize. What is innovative in this method is that Iyengar introduces the use of many helpful things like blankets, belts, and cubes. That is why Iyengar’s method can be practiced by anyone. For example if someone cannot reach down to his feet, if they have a problem with the spine, with the help of a belt he can still make a bow to the moment when his spine is straight. It is essential not to overwork the body.

The second of Iyengar’s important achievements is systematizing the asans. He observed that certain groups of positions work differently. For example, standing positions literally make us grounded, make us stand firmly on our feet, but also psychologically they make us self-confident. That is why beginners have to practice a lot of these positions to increase trust in both themselves and their surroundings. These positions have a physical and psychological effect. For example, twists make us stop thinking schematically, opening a wider perspective, rejuvenating the spine, nourishing it and improving blood circulation. They also give benefit to our inner organs, which are always cramped, by massaging them from the inside.

Bowing calms the head and cools down the body, while bends are warming and energizing, making us open to the world; they have an extrovert effect. That is why many people like bends because thanks to them they feel well psychologically, gaining self-confidence. Practicing Iyengar’s method can be very different depending on what kinds of effects we want to achieve.

Yoga is not only a body but also mind exercise. Yoga classes are soothing, making us quieter.

Exactly, and we are not meditating: Iyengar is not focusing on meditation. But because his method is very precise the mind becomes very focused. Our mind has a natural tendency to stay active all the time, to run in between what happened and what will happen. Through focusing on the body, on “now,” we feel more relaxed. There are a few stages of meditation. The first is focusing attention, which is reached through asans. Then there comes a constant concentration, when the mind is always present only here and now, there are no thoughts. Thanks to calming down and exercising asans during classes, it turns out we can be pulled to some extent into a state of meditation.

What would you like to teach your students during this busy two weeks?

To take care of themselves and their bodies. It is important to stop sometimes, to respect the limits of the body. This is in the physical sphere. Secondly, that there is a source of silence, stillness and joy of being inside us, there is no need to do anything to be happy. We can feel that at the end of a class – that we just are, it is quiet and this is what it is all about.

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