|Volume 9, Issue 2||
Iyengar Yoga is an influential version of the practice that was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar in India, and first introduced to the US in the 60s and 70s. It is the style taught at Sunset Yoga Center (SYC). Several of their teachers have visited Iyengar’s institute in Pune, India to advance their training. Mr. Iyengar, now in his mid-90s, still teaches at the school as well as continuing to write. His first book, “Light on Yoga,” is an authoritative resource for people worldwide.
“Yoga is not a religion,” says Nina Pileggi, the founder and head teacher of Sunset Yoga. “We have students here from all backgrounds. It is a philosophy as well as a practice, and it can fit into anyone’s life. It helps you develop your connection to self with a holistic approach. It is more than exercise, it helps you to de-stress and to be more focused in your everyday life.”
“One benefit that shows up right away is stress release and a sense of improvement in general well-being. If you leave a yoga class feeling more stressed, or pressured, find another teacher! Over the long term, your balance improves, strength increases and the mind becomes clearer. Depression and anxiety can be lessened. You may also find yourself changing the way you eat as you become more aware of food’s effect on your body.”
Pileggi started Sunset Yoga in Cedar Mill in April 2000. Originally the studio was located on the back side of the center at the southwest corner of Murray & Cornell. “It was a good place to get started,” said Pileggi. “The rent was low and the lease was simple.” By 2004 she had outgrown the space, though, and found a spot in Cedar Hills near Park Way. “Again, it was good for that stage of my business, but there were some problems.” But she couldn’t help dreaming about her vision of a spot with windows that opened in a walkable neighborhood.
Finally, when her lease there was nearly up, she discovered the “new” building at 12923 NW Cornell. “My errands often take me through Cedar Mill, and over the past couple of years I witnessed a new building going up,” Pileggi recalls. “It had windows that opened and an international market in the street-facing space. I noticed the architect had created a building that didn't look cookie-cutter. It seemed perfect for a yoga studio, but I tried not to get my hopes up, thinking the building would be full by the time my lease was up.”
Everything worked out though, and Sunset Yoga moved into the new space last April. It is located on the second floor of the building, just down the hall from Tint Hair Salon. Their website includes ample information about all facets of the business, including pricing, schedules, teachers, and special events.
Including Nina, there are nine teachers at the studio. Nina explains that, “having lots of teachers allows SYC to offer a great variety of class timings and levels. Also, different people “click” with different teachers, so it is nice to have teachers of all ages, backgrounds and training. While we all teach Iyengar Yoga, we have to teach from our own experience and this comes through in the classes. Most of the teacher also teach elsewhere or have another job.”
Classes are offered for most levels of students, from people with health or flexibility issues that demand a slow pace (Gentle Yoga, Back Care Yoga) through Level 3 for students with at least three years of Iyengar experience. Nina says, “I teach the gentle classes without pressure or expectation of moving on to Level 1. Of course if I see someone who is ready for Level 1, I let them know that, but I also let them know it is fine to stay with the gentle class. Level 1 classes are our general beginner classes.”
She continues, “We try to adapt to most people. However, we do not offer a chair yoga class, so people must be able to get up and down from the floor unassisted to go to the gentle class.” She points out that being able to get up off the floor is a critical skill especially for older folks.
There is even a Family Yoga class that includes children. “Yoga is great for kids—they need a fast-paced fun class to keep them interested, not an alignment-based class like adults. Kids can benefit as they learn how to keep their body healthy and start attuning to their body at a young age. So many people have no connection with the messages their body sends them,” says Nina.
One facet of Iyengar Yoga is that it employs “props” such as blocks, ropes, and folded blankets. Instructors modify yoga postures to the needs of specific students using these props to allow for a deeper penetration into the postures, as well as a longer stay and a more profound experience.
Iyengar also focuses on correct alignment in all of the postures. That is the point of taking classes instead of just attempting to use books and videos to do yoga at home. Nina points out that, “We are good at convincing ourselves that we understand things, that we are making progress towards changing bad physical habits, doing things right. But usually we are wrong (me included) and having someone watch you practice helps you to move forward.”
It can be difficult to keep up any physical regimen, and to establish healthy habits. “To help people in their practice I give suggestions (homework) on what to practice at home. I tell them about my practice and how it has helped me, as well as my struggles, so they know it is normal to struggle. If I see changes in their poses I let them know that I can see that they have been practicing – I acknowledge their effort.”
Each of the classes, at all levels, employs sequencing. Nina explains, “Sequencing in Iyengar Yoga is the art of structuring a class in a systematic and thoughtful way to achieve a desired effect on the yoga practitioner. For beginners, this generally means a progression of poses that starts with vigorous standing poses, proceeds to seated poses, and end with relaxation poses. With more experienced students, classes can be sequenced around the type of poses (for example twisting poses, or back-bending poses), an effect (energizing or relaxing), or a theme (for example observing the breath in each poses). There are many ways to do each pose, and many reasons to include poses in sequences for different effects, leading to a large variety of sequences!”
Classes are offered in eight-week sessions. Students can sign up for one or two per week, prices vary depending on frequency and class length. There’s also an unlimited option for those who want more practice. Starting times vary from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm, and there are some offered every day of the week. Students may also drop in to any of the classes, $16 for any 90-minute class or $11 for 60-minute sessions. Full information on schedules and pricing is on the SYC website at sunsetyoga.com. New students can take one free class to find out if this is the right place for them.
Nina Pileggi had an early interest in health, and after attending Sunset High School (she grew up in the area) she got a degree in biology. But after having her two sons very young, she realized that she wouldn’t be able to continue on to medical school. Her mother worked in the insurance industry and Nina got a job as an actuary. She worked in that field for ten years, and had her third child. “Life started shifting for me. I wasn’t exercising, and it just felt like I was ‘not me.’ My sister suggested that we take a yoga class together, and something just clicked. I felt so different after that first class—lighter, happier—at that time in my life I was desperately in need of happiness.”
“I found my life evolving to doing more yoga and less actuarial work.” She continued as an independent contractor until last year, the first time that she did no actuarial work.
|Most of the props used in the classes are for sale for home use|
She has visited the Iyengar institute in Pune, India twice, this last time during summer 2010, when a couple of the other SYC teachers went with her. She and the other teachers also continue to study and practice. The center sponsors visiting Iyengar teachers who offer workshops for advanced students, including one scheduled for May and another in October. Through training offered in these visits and workshops, teachers can achieve higher levels of certification in the Iyengar system. More information about the certification process is on the SYC website.
Nina lives in the Bethany area with her husband and her youngest son, a student at the Beaverton School District’s International Magnet school. Her older sons are both married and she has one grandchild and one on the way. Looking forward, she hopes to travel more and offer more workshops. After a successful yoga retreat last year with some teachers and students to a spot near the coast, she’d like to plan another to Hawaii.
Nina says, “I love our new space—more light, great windows and being able to walk to the bank and lunch is great. Cedar Mill is a great place to be.” The center carries most of the props that are used in class. Yoga mats, blankets, blocks and straps are all available, plus a few books and other practice aids.
Visit their website at sunsetyoga.com, or stop in at 12923 NW Cornell, #203. If you call 503-539-4504, be sure to leave a message, since they don’t answer during classes.
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