Like a swimmer, swan-diving into a sea of crystal, clear blue, I dive into Uttanasana. Gracefully, excitedly, actively engaging every muscle in my body, in my brain, I pierce the water of freedom. Strong. Confident. Pure. Happy! With each Chatturanga, I explore deeper; skimming the sea floor, yet not disturbing it. The yoga practice is my Earth, my sea, my soul. Fluttering upward to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, I extend from the water like a mermaid, basking in the glory of the sun, water glistening on my shoulders, salt decorating all of me. Flowing to conclude the sequence in Adho Mukha Svanasana, I prepare for the rest of my life. And that is my yoga.
Something changed last week. Abruptly. Unexpectedly. I’d never have dreamt this change seven years ago, even two weeks ago. Suddenly, I craved less fashion. Less jazz and flow. Less show. I wanted more tradition. More structure. Deeper investment into the poses. And philosophy. I wanted to study yoga.
My teaser, in fact, was B.K.S. Iyengar, specifically the Facebook page created to support his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. Accredited with bringing yoga to the Western world, Mr. Iyengar wrote and published many books, including a modern interpretation of the Yoga Sutras of Patañjāli. The New York Times wrote, following his death of last August, at age 95,
“Mr. Iyengar’s practice is characterized by long asanas, or postures, that require extraordinary will and discipline. A reporter who watched daily practice in 2002, when Mr. Iyengar was 83, said that he held one headstand for six minutes, swiveling his legs to the right and the left, and that when he finished, ‘his shoulder-length hair was awry, he seemed physically depleted,’ but he wore the smile of a gleeful child.” (B.K.S. Iyengar, Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West, Dies at 95).
When I liked his Facebook page last year, I did so hesitantly, as I was headstrong NOT to subscribe to the traditional yoga school of thought. But I liked a post that a friend had shared. And then I liked the next one. And the next one. And it became a recurring instance where the words of this man connected to my value system and philosophy on life.
Over the past year and five months of Finding My Yoga, I have used my intelligence to purify my body. Taking it slowly, I’ve done it properly, this time, following a tumultuous history of struggling over a 16-year period. During those 16 years, I’d rushed my plan, achieved my goal in numbers, then crashed like the stock market of 1929, reduced to fat, loneliness, pain, and utter complete hatred for myself. Over and over and over again.
This time, not only have I purified my body by becoming thin, but I’ve purified my brain. My heart. My soul. And his quotation, “When you begin yoga, the unrecognized pains come to surface. When we are able to use our intelligence to purify our bodies, then the hidden pain are dispersed” completely reached me.
How does one best learn the religion of Christianity? One studies the Bible. How does one best learn the practice of yoga? One studies what is considered the Bible equivalent for yoga: Light on Yoga, by B.K.S. Iyengar. It’s this book, the one that’s sat on my shelf unread for seven years.
And how ironic. Atlas Shrugged sat on my shelf, too, but because I disliked the cover. And when I cracked it open, I was sold on Ayn Rand’s forward, in love by page 20. And, as you know, Atlas Shrugged became the defining book of my life.
With Light on Yoga, my exact thoughts were, seven years ago, “How is an old, holier-than-thou Indian man holding boring poses going to add value to my modern, cardio-pumping, fashionable yoga life?” And I just didn’t get why someone recommended this book to me. But on last Friday, I opened the book, sold by the second paragraph of the Preface.
“Yoga is a timeless pragmatic science evolved over thousands of years dealing with the physical, moral, mental and spiritual well-being of man as a whole.”
He continues on his interpretation of the Yoga Sutras of Patañjāli,
“Scholarly and reliable expositions of the religious and philosophical texts already exist in most languages – but the practice of an art is more difficult to communicate than a purely literary or philosophical concept.”
This is not the superficial yoga that I learned, once upon a time.
This is a science and an art.
This is the yoga that my human has developed, on its own, through this blog project. The things that I’m reading in this book are not just systematic and rational, but they are kind, smart, wise. Mr. Iyengar wrote of conquering the mind, of finding purity. He wrote of a deliverance from contact with pain and sorrow. And I’m connecting with it all.
Mr. Iyengar distinguishes, in his Preface, the difference of yoga of ancient times with the modern, and of the recent (at this book’s publishing in 1966), emancipation of the arts and sciences from the Divine, dually noting that “we in India continue to value the purity of purpose, the humility of discipline and the selflessness that are the legacy of our long bondage to God.”
After liking what I read, I spent the weekend watching YouTube video after YouTube video of Mr. Iyengar practicing the most intense of sequences, ones that I cannot do. Yet. Such as putting my leg behind my head and standing up. Such as grabbing my ankle in backbend, extending the free leg upward. His book, in addition to philosophy, “contains the complete technique of 200 āsanas with 592 photographs from which the āsanas can be mastered: and it also covers bandha, kriyā and prānāyāma with a further 5 photographs.”
Thus I’ve decided to study the Bible of yoga, Mr. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga. And I shall report on what I’ve learned, here at the blog. Here is the official start of my new yoga life.
My Student ID Card.
Gwendolyn’s still rebelling the notion of yoga as anything more than a calorie-burning activity. Hehe.
I’m so excited about this new venture.
I am a school girl again.
A yoga school girl!
Have a good day, and namaste.