Alex: Tracing the Source
|We are all students of life and Yoga puts us in contact with who we truly are - beyond our wildest imagination, expectations and fears - and hopefully instils an integration of something that is uncluttered by our conditioning, something that is real at all times. But we live in a world of ups and downs, time and space, name and form so any definition we give to Yoga will naturally be coloured by our environment, exposure and context. I feel grateful to Pure Yoga for the invitation to join their Teaching Faculty. But I'm first and foremost a student of Yoga who lives nine months of the year in Mysore, India where I study Sanskrit and Yoga, and where the legendary T. Krisnamacharya began to teach Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar, Indra Devi etc. |
All of these blogs may be personal reflections, wild ramblings and fancy, but they will also give an account of interviews with other Yoga teachers, as well as common practitioners and seekers of Yoga. Yoga displays a great diversity all over the world, but hopefully in our shared efforts to articulate it, maybe we can all become a little wiser to what the great heritage of Yoga truly has to offer us?
For Alex's bio, please click here
|20.07.08 Pune Mr. Iyengar speaks|
|Gurupūrnima is the day when teachers and particularly spiritual teachers all around India are being honored. Traditionally this full-moon day that falls in the month of Guru was supposedly the birthday of Veda Vyāsa, and since his name is associated as the great redactor of much of the spiritual tradition of India he is being celebrated on this day every year because he is known as the Guru of all the gurus. But for more contemporary gurus it is a day often associated with satsang and coming together with their students to articulate and share the message of their teachings. At the Iyengar Yoga institute in Pune it is quite a special day because there are three in-house gurus namely BKS Iyengar, his son Prashant and his daughter Gīta. All three of them are honored, but it is naturally the grand old man who gets the prime focus and attention every year.|
This year he was seated on the platform as usual and talked to a jam-packed hall where people were squashed against the walls. At first he excused himself on the occasion and said he found the whole situation a little embarrassing, however he would do his best, but complained that the ocean of his brain had dried up so he had nothing more to express but repetitions. Being the eloquent speaker that he is, once he got started there were no stopping him and the 90-year-young man sat cross-legged on his cushion for two hours without a break. May I just also add that this morning I watched him practice and the intensity and fervor he goes about his practice would make most teenagers jealous. But ok, the main message of his talk was Sādhana and the various stages people go through in their search for greater clarity in their studies, and may I add, "all of us are students" he says, "some of us are just a little more raw than others."
BKS Iyengar loves quoting the Yoga Sūtras and he does it like a musician improvising on a theme and picks up a sūtra here and there in his unorthodox and ulinear fashion to give further weight to his arguments. He's full of anecdotes and loves to defend the teaching of his own 'I'yengar method. His evening speech opens with the sūtra on krīya yoga, the active measures a sādhaka (seeker of truth) needs to take in order to become more receptive to the purity of yoga (YS 2.1). Iyengar argues that the main vehicles to improve our many blemishes are our body, speech and mind. As these become gradually more purified and restrained, the essence of the self may shine through more clearly and the inherent intelligence within us all may be further released. This is of course something that takes time, but Mr. Iyengar encourages us to built strength and steadiness in our practice and articulates to us the four important stages a Sādhaka may go through:
1. Building a new strength and steadiness with a practice that will build you up and help you overcome the various imbalances of the body.
2. Coming to know the various imbalances of the body and mind such as, desire, anger, greed, delusion, pride, avarice, depression, etc. and using the intelligence of the practice to heal these defects and build a greater sense of purity from within.
3. When the conditioning and imbalances of the mind eventually stop and the inherent intelligence from within is supported by its own wisdom it will shine forth unobstructedly. This is a more permanent state of mind when the vacillations stop and the brain, as he says, "is more centered in the intelligence of the heart.
4. The final stage is when the seeker realizes that there is no division between the essence of your own microcosm and the universal macrocosm.
This is the essence of Mr. Iyengar's teaching; to guide the seeker into the zenit of his own self. Alignment, her argue further is of superior importance to awaken this dormant intelligent and allow it to flow forth through all the nerve patterns within the body and mind. Thus the performance of āsanas he claims, is like a mathematician performing complex calculations of symmetrical precision. Once they are done properly the equations will match and he refers to Patanali's final sūtra on āsanas when he says: (when āsanas are performed properly) "all sense of duality cease" (YS 2.48).
After this he invites a medical doctor on the stage and says: " When the intelligence moves evenly in each and every part of the body. Then the individual becomes the universal and he forgets himself!" Unfortunately for the other person on the platform there is still a strong sense of duality because Mr. Iyengar is pointing out to the audience all of the imbalances he observes in his body. But never the less, his penetrating eyes don't' miss a thing and before long he has the other person on the podium awakening his inner intelligence in a way he's never experienced before, at least that's what he tells us.
He then goes on to speak on the topic of Prānāyama and urges us to give up the traditional practice of mantras during practice. Traditionally Prānāyāma is divided into sabīja and nirbīja practice, with or without support of a mantra, but Mr Iyengar encourages us to pay more attention to the breath and listen more carefully to it during practice rather then let our mind be fixed on a mantra. This is quite a remarkable statement to make, considering much of the spiritual tradition of India uses the very practice of various mantras to still the mind and create a new support from within, and to be absorbed in a mantra during retention of breath is considered one of the highest teachings. Iyengar considers this of minor important and argues that the mind will not be absorbed in the great subtleties of breath, but will merely be focused on the mantra and hence miss out on the greater awakening that may come from Prānāyaama practice.
Before he concludes, once again he returns to the topic of āsanas and argues they are better done with the help of support i.e. props, for the awakening of the intelligence from within. He argues further that if a person is missing one arm should he not be allowed to do yoga if he feels great benefit from it? Naturally support is needed he says, but he never really address the issue for how long and under what circumstances one should continue using the props. He merely concludes that props are there to develop the channel of the intelligence within the body so they can be distributed evenly throughout. He finally claims that it is possible to reach immortality through āsanas and the audience laugh, some bow in awe and others clap, but they all probably wonder with great astonishment how long this wizard of āsanas will keep on going. He certainly shows no sign of slowing down although he's completing 90 years now in December. The practice of yoga is his life and let's hope that as long as his practice is healthy his mind and body will remain healthy. Once asked by a person how longed he planned to go on with this āsana practice his reply was:
Even if God comes and tells me, "Leave the āsanas behind," I will say, "No! I will not leave it."
So rest assured, Iyengars many original and creative comments on yoga will remain for hopefully many years to come.
|Alex, remember me from Mysore 98-99? I have a studio in Chicago - Moksha Yoga - email@example.com|
Posted by: Daren/Chicago | 2008-07-25 13:27:58
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