We had a couple of trial lessons before we decided on the current teacher who had a very unique unorthodox way of teaching. The unique thing about his teaching is that he would not go directly into poses like other teachers would do. Because both of us are pretty fond of unorthodox things, we decided to go with him.
So... I have been practicing yoga for the last two years in LA and in Brno, Czech Republic. I am not a complete beginner - I thought. I was wrong :-(
The way he teaches is that he breaks the poses into pieces and let us carry on one piece at a time by making sure that we got the most basic things including the alignment of the body parts, etc. We have had 11 lessons so far, but the only poses we have done so far are Sun Salutation and Downward Facing Dog :) And, although I have done these poses many times before, it has been eye-opening experience for me.
Here are some of the pieces he has been training us on:
1) This is the ultimate basic lesson - how to stand :) We think we stand straight, but most of the time we are leaning slightly forward. The best way to check is of course to check yourself in a mirror. The weight of your body should be on your heels, and once you do so, you may feel like you are leaning backwards but in fact you are being straight. Then try to grab the floor with your all five toes. The way our teacher told us to do is to lift the toes first and push it down to the floor with the tip of your toes, so that the tip of your toes are completely flat on the floor as if the part is bent 90 degrees from the rest of your toes. Keep standing like that for at least 30 seconds.
2) The next one is how to bend forward. When you go from Urdhva Hastasana to Uttanasana by bending forward, we tend to stick our bottom backwards without noticing it. Your bottom should be always on top of your heels, and the best way to practice this is to stand straight (see above) 7-10cm away from the wall, and bend forward slowly without touching your bottom to the wall. You need to strengthen your toes quite a bit. If you reach the point of difficulty, you bend your knees slightly to support your toes and bend further down. You should go slowly. Btw, the same theory has to be applied when you come back up.
3) The third one is the downward facing dog. Similar to what I was taught in LA, you put the force into the direction of your heels. Your heels should be on the floor flat completely. But your weight should be distributed equally to your feet and hands. In other words, unlike what I was taught, you should not lock in your shoulders by stretching them so much. That would prevent you from equalizing the weight distribution. Shoulders should be relaxed, your chin should be up looking forward rather than looking back through your legs, and push your lower back towards your thighs to further push your heels down to the floor. Done! Right...
Our teacher learned yoga from his father who learned from B. K. S. Iyengar. It might be the reason why he is so keen about the alignment. But, so far we have been loving our teacher and his teaching of new (to us) yoga! More to come...