Welcome to our new page on Practice. It is designed to encourage you to begin a daily practice of the poses listed (in sanskrit only!). Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar will show the classic poses listed here.
We will work on The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali
This text is a concise, compact exploration of the various facets of life and how they affect us physically, emotionally and spiritually. The text offers concrete suggestions of how to adopt the principles of yoga to overcome and manage life’s stresses and strains. We offer a few sutras at a time to learn, think about, and perhaps use in one’s daily life.
The commentary used is mainly that of BKS Iyengar as his understanding of the yoga sutras is through his own experience of practice of asana and how it pertains to understanding this text more deeply. Occassionally other translations and commentaries will be used and will be noted appropriately.
Last month our focus was on the “yamas” or moral observances – concepts we have to study in ourselves: our attitude to violence towards ourselves and others and to practice “ahimsa” (non violence). Our understanding of truth (satya). Not stealing or grasping in thought, word and deed. Brahmacharya (celibacy or not wasting energy) is the forth yama and the fifth, aparigraha – not being greedy. Each of the yamas require a life time of study and application. Iyengar says that the yamas are our social conscience.
The niyamas are our own personal observances: cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self study and devotion.
Cleanliness – Saucha:
Our first thought is the cleanliness of our selves. However, saucha also extends to other things; putting your mat and props away neatly after class, arranging your props during class to be orderly so as not to cause irritation to your neighbor. In Iyengar Yoga we pay particular attention to the arrangement of our props because it helps to organize the mind. Imagine sitting straight if your blankets are not folded evenly. How can you hope to achieve physical balance, let alone mental clarity.
Saucha is about examining our daily thoughts and habits to see if they produce a clean result i.e.: one that is free from complication. We often do something that we regret afterwards, for example – this is a thought or action that needs to be cleaned up so as not to produce a result that brings more distraction to the mind.
Santosa – contentment.
BKS Iyengar writes that “out of cleanliness comes contentment”. Our poses should be free of strain. Our ego tells us either that we are great at doing a pose and therefore can push more, or tell us that we are not good at that pose and should push more. Santosa is about the balance between doing and letting go. The perfect dynamic of opposites.
Tapas: Practice or austerity. Literally heat.
Tapas means to practice with self discipline. Iyengar writes ” self discipline destroys all impurities, perfecting the body, mind and senses, so that consciousness functions freely and attains divinity.”
” Ahimsa cannot be properly understood without reference to tapas. Tapas is the inner hims a (violence) by which we create the possibility of outer ahimsa. Mahatma Ghandi would never have been able to summon up the implacable peacefulness which moved an empire, without his ruthless attitude towards his own self. Violence is perhaps too strong a word for tapas, but it is a burning inner zeal and austerity, a sort of unflagging hardness of attitude towards oneself which makes possible compassion and forgiveness towards others”. BKS Iyengar “Light on the Yoga Sutras”.
Svadhaya is the study of the self.
Our practice brings us close to our physical self. We constantly examine ourselves from our head to our feet. This practice makes us aware of our differences, our imbalances and, thus, our possibilities for transformation. We recently had Brooke Myers come and teach a workshop titled ” Redefining the possible”. Through our practice, we come face to face with our selves – it is at this moment that we study closely and ask “now what?” – we could go back to our habits, or try something new because we know that it would help us – we become content to redefine the possible.
Isvara Pranidhana – devotion
Yoga is not a means to an end. It is a practice where, as we know more, cleanse ourselves of our habits, practice regularly, doors to a deeper knowledge of the self begin to open. People often ask ” When will my knee feel better?” there is no answer to that as it depends on your devotion to your practice. The great Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron once said “You do not practice meditation to become a good meditator”. Our practice is our devotion to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our place in the universe around us.