Iyengar's take on yoga asanas
Last week, BKS Iyengar, a great yoga guru, died peacefully at the age of 95. Iyengar, a student of Krishnamacharya, was considered one of the pioneers in reviving modern yoga and bring it to the West. Though he was a sickly child, frail and weak, through yoga therapy he was able to overcome his weaknesses and live a meaningful, fulfilling and long life.
Iyengar offered us many insights on yoga, especially the physical aspects and the postures or asanas. In this article, I will share a few of his gems.
There are three levels of quest through yoga asanas. The external quest is for firmness of body. The internal quest is for steadiness of intelligence. The innermost quest is for benevolence of spirit.
A rigid body is like a stiff shell. Living in an inflexible body is like living in a straitjacket, cut off from the free flow of cosmic energy, and constricting ourselves from the infinite possibilities of the universe.
Each pose should be held in a state of calm bliss. Each movement should be an art. Awareness should be distributed across the body so every pore of the skin becomes an eye. Slow motions in practice are good as they allow time for reflective intelligence. One may reflect on the movements. Rushing saps strength. Do things rhythmically with a calm mind.
Dynamic extension refers to the stretch from the core of your being to the periphery of your body from head to heels. Find your centre and expand longitudinally and latitudinally. Bring awareness to the tips of your body and activate your skin.
Stretch to create space in every direction. Overstretching is a sign of a swollen ego or exhibitionism. Under-stretching shows lack of confidence or escapism. Let us be fully present in whatever posture it is we are doing, just as we should be fully present in whatever we do in life.
Relax. There is repose in every pose. Avoid rigidity and harness; soften your body. Extend on exhalations. Relax, don't clench as you stretch. Exhalations are freedom. Exhalations purge the body of stress and tension. Relax your eyes. Relax your third eye. Relaxation begins from the outer layer of the body and penetrates the deep layers of our existence. Be like a cat who is the master of effortless stretching and releasing.
Think light, feel light. When an asana is done correctly, the body movements are smooth; there is lightness in the body and freedom in the mind. Do not think of yourself as a small, compressed, suffering thing. Think of yourself as graceful and expanding, no matter how unlikely it feels at the time. Slouching acts like a narcotic for the body. The collapsing of your chest caves in the very self. Your mind and soul shrink. The spine must not slack. Asanas done from the brain are heavy, but Asanas from the heart make one light.
The practice of yoga is to remove weeds from the body so that the garden can grow. If the body is too stiff and the mind is too rigid, what life can live in it?
Perfection is ultimately only with God. We are creatures who can dream of perfection, and it is this dream that inspires one to improve. It is this dream that ignites the effort needed to transform. Sometimes our body is willing, but our mind is weak. Sometimes our mind is willing, but our body is weak. Do not be afraid. Strive to extend your capacity but do not be disappointed with yourself. What does not challenge us, cannot change us.
Savour the asana. Create within yourself the feeling of beauty, liberation and infinity. Enjoy!
Thank you Iyengar for sharing your light with the world.
Shazia Omar is a yoga instructor at American Club. To join her classes, please email: s[email protected] and join the group Facebook/yogilatesindhaka