3 Teachings from Iygenar

I read the book, Light on Life by B.K.S. Iyengar and took away three teachings that relate to how we each experience yoga.

1. Yoga can’t be practiced without mindful movement . As Iyengar states, “Yoga teaches us how to infuse our movements with intelligence, transforming them into action.” When we practice, we have to be aware of three things to correctly align ourselves in a pose and get the most out of our yoga practice: our breath, our body placement and our thoughts.

  • Our breath allows us to relax and soften into each of the poses, for you can’t correctly deepen into a pose by clenching or tightening your muscles. For example, how are you supposed to properly deepen into Warrior 2 if all the energy and compression is held tightly in your shoulders? This will cause your arms to not align with one another and it will not allow you to sink into your front leg.
  • Our focus has to be on all parts of our body. A pose does not consist just on the placement of our foot or our hand but the overall placement of our body on all parts of our mat. This again can relate to coming into Warrior 2 pose. To properly deepen into Warrior 2, there needs to be action between your front foot and back foot as if you are tearing a rip in the middle of your mat. This push and pull force is essential for alignment and deepening into a posture. This is one example of how many of our body parts need to work together to correctly align into a pose.
  • Our thoughts have to be focus on what we are doing. How many times has your mind drifted to thoughts outside of your practice? Before you know it, you are thinking about what you will be having for dinner and you look down to find that your front leg in Warrior 2 is not bent, with the knee not over your ankle. Our thoughts have to be with our pose at all times.

2. Yoga unites ourselves with not only our physical body but all parts of ourselves. As Iyengar states, “Asana is perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit.” The beauty of practicing yoga is how it feels. You are being mindful of your placement of your body on your mat, you are being challenged physically, and your breath is your soundtrack; soothing your body into each pose, keeping your mind at ease and allowing us to connect with our inner selves, our spirit. These three elements of mind, body and spirit allows us to experience movement with all parts of ourselves. Pretty amazing, huh?!

3. Yoga can bring pain that is hidden within ourselves to surface, but when we soften and surrender to the correct alignment of the pose with breath, we grow and move beyond it. Yoga just like anything in our lives can bring emotions and memories to the surface that might have been hidden in our unconscious mind. These feelings can be happy but yet again, can be overwhelming and painful.

When yoga presents itself in this way and allows us to feel these emotions at once, it can be scary; making us tighten and fidget in a pose. Just like when a personal life event triggers an emotion for us and we hide—locking ourselves in our home with a pint of ice cream by our side to heal the pain. Instead of filling the body with more pain (i.e. all the healthy fat and calories of the ice cream!) and suppressing these emotions, yoga releases them through breath and thus softens us. It’s as if we are able to twist, stretch and lengthen the emotional pain and cleanse ourselves.

This not only relates on the emotional level but the physically as well. Yoga allows us to face our tight spots and injuries and bring the pain to the surface by stretching and massaging these pain points with love. As Iygenar states, “Pain is your guru.” Contradictory to the notion that there is no pain in yoga, there is pain. The pain that lies underneath that yoga enables us to deal with by releasing it. All with love of course :). The next time you are tempted to hide away with a pint of ice cream, put down the spoon, keep those cozy sweat pants on and get on your yoga mat! 🙂

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