I am so lucky to work for an organization that provides yoga sessions twice a week. Since last fall, I’ve been practicing the Iyengar method of yoga under the guidance of Molly Lesmeister, owner of The Yoga Room here in Decorah, Iowa.
At first I wasn’t so sure about this style of yoga. There was no soothing music, no flowing poses, and we used curious props such as blankets, straps, wooden blocks, and big, purple bolsters. However, I quickly came to appreciate the silence and Molly’s sweet voice as she demonstrated the poses and walked around, helping us with proper alignment. Eventually, I also realized the benefits of holding the poses longer and really connecting with my body.
Yoga has encouraged me pay attention to my posture and pull my shoulders back—rather than hunch over—in daily activities. But I’m not very good at practicing the poses between classes. So I was really excited to find out that Molly and my friend Carolyn Corbin are creating 3-minute videos that can be used anywhere: at work, at home, or even at the park (hello smartphone!). So excited, in fact, that I decided to interview Molly and write this post to try to garner additional support their important work.
Falling in Love with Yoga
When we sit down in the big brown leather chairs in my living room (yes, she came to me, that’s how nice she is), I ask Molly how she got started with yoga (looking at her, you’d think she’s been doing it her whole life). She explains that she signed up for a class shortly after she turned 30 (about five years ago):
I had been running, and I just remember walking down the stairs and my joints hurt. I felt like I was old even though I was young. I also had kids, and I heard of a class that had free childcare, and I thought, ‘I want to do this thing that everybody loves.’ So I tried it, and I was in love.
Initially, Molly experienced benefits at a muscular level (“I never knew I had these muscles…”) and loved the dynamic stretching (it reminded her of being a runner and a dancer). And not surprisingly, she became more flexible (she says she couldn’t touch her toes when she started!).
Healing with Yoga
After a year or so, Molly started getting deeper into the practice. Having an underactive thyroid, she was always very tired after yoga class—to the point of having to rest for the remainder of the day. However, by working with her teacher to listen to her body and make yoga work for her by doing more restorative poses, she experienced slow and steady healing at a metabolic and cellular level.
Molly also talks about yoga providing spiritual experiences and allowing her to slow down and be more mindfully present (something she’s still working on!). “It’s just … this kind of holistic practice in my life, you know,” she summarizes.
Iyengar Yoga Is Truthful
I ask Molly what is special about Iyengar yoga. She replies:
To me, Iyengar yoga is truthful, and it’s honest. And it deals a lot with alignment. It uses props to help you with alignment. Mr. Iyengar thinks that poses—the asanas—are what’s going to create a body that can be healthy and vital and live well—and spiritually. … He breaks down—in detail—what everything is supposed to do (what the foot is supposed to do, what your leg, and so on).
When I ask her to explain what she means when she says that Iyengar yoga is truthful, she continues:
Well, one of the things that [Mr. Iyengar] asks teachers to do is to practice daily and work with a teacher who is higher up in the ranks than you regularly. (That’s ideally once a week.) And I find that this is actually what keeps me truthful, and if I’ve gone a while without practicing, I feel like ‘how can I teach anything?’. … It’s a life-long training, and that’s what I love about it. … And it makes you honest with yourself. If I can’t straighten my arm when my arms are overhead, you know, I shouldn’t be doing full arm balance. And you will not be able to do that until you can learn—honestly—’what’s going on with my shoulder?’
Sharing Her Love of Yoga
Molly never imagined that she would be a yoga teacher. As a child she was painfully shy, and she is still very quiet outside of the studio. But her desire to share her love of yoga won out:
I love yoga. It has changed my life. I want to share this with everybody.
Now Molly wants to share the benefits of yoga beyond her studio by creating short videos that anybody can use. She is especially targeting people who might be too busy to make it to a 90-minute class or have financial constraints. The videos can also complement work done in the studio. For example, you could use the videos to do yoga at home or at the office on the days when you’re not able to attend a class.
Support the “3 Minute Yoga” Project
If you are interested in getting involved with—and supporting—this project, I invite you to take a look at Molly and Carolyn’s Indiegogo campaign. (Indiegogo is a crowdfunding platform that matches funders with cool projects.) They’ve got some nice perks at levels as low as a $25 contribution. You’ll love it!
Photo Credit: Sarah Lesmeister