Monday, January 25, 2010

Genius in Action: B.K.S. Iyengar (Day 11 of 30 Day Yoga Challenge)

We're over 1/3 of the way through our 30 Day Yoga Challenge!   How are you doing with your practice?  What's difficult about your practice?  What's easy?

This YouTube video is an excerpt from a film tribute shown in Boston in 2005 during B.K.S. Iyengar's "Light On Life" tour of the U.S.    The video quality isn't great in some parts (it's okay) but I hope it inspires you!  

 The video is narrated by Patricia Walden, one of the top two Iyengar Yoga teachers of the U.S.  (The other is Manouso Manos, most recently in Ann Arbor this past November.)

 I won't review the whole video -- I'll let it speak mostly for itself.   But I do want to share some of my thoughts about the references to the practice of yoga.

Patricia narrates that in the 1970's, those who took classes from B.K.S. Iyengar did many, many poses in each class, while he "rained instructions on [them] with a torrent of intensity".  His focus was on movement and action to fuse the body and mind, and to bring about "freedom" in the body and mind.

(BTW, the first set of public classes taught by B.K.S. Iyengar in the U.S. was in Ann Arbor, sponsored by our YMCA in 1973!)

Patricia then says that as the years passed, Guruji (B.K.S. Iyengar) added new dimensions to his teaching.   He taught fewer poses per class, but took the students deeper within each pose.

There's a phrase of his that's mentioned in this video which I've heard before, and which reflects the growth of his teaching and his practice of yoga asanas (poses), "When I was young, I played.  Now, I stay."

When we're new to yoga, it makes more sense (in my mind) to do a lot of poses;  to play in them, to bring about better range of motion in the body, and to wake up the intelligence of the body.   We don't hold them long to begin with -- but we get a taste of the poses and how our bodies and minds react to them.   As we begin to understand the poses better, and begin to develop the stability and alignment to hold them longer with more ease, then we can begin to explore them more deeply.     Even if we are not beginners, when we try a new pose or a new set of poses it's best to just touch on them, to playfully explore them, and as we become more proficient then we can explore them more fully.  (How about those arm balances, for example?   Hard to explore them very deeply when we fall out of them after a second or two!  Or can't quite lift off yet!   So I'm still continuing to work on them, along with the more familiar poses.)

Or if we're feeling sluggish, our minds can't really attend to the more profound elements of the poses, so we move quickly from pose to pose to invigorate the body and mind.  Then maybe we can work more deeply in the poses.    We need both the physical and mental conditioning to do this.

When we are more alert, and when our minds and bodies are attentive, then Guruji asks us to "explore to find out where we are dull or overworking, and to adjust, so consciousness can grace the body evenly throughout."   We don't practice just for the sake of the physical practice, but we practice with with an attentive, discerning mind to explore:   What part of the pose is coming along, what part is not?   Why is it coming along, or not?   How do I change what I need to change?

Patricia comments that Guruji  has "taught us to face difficulty with wide open eyse, and to awaken the boundless intelligence of the heart."

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