This past week we discussed the yogic outlook on the structure of the universe. Recognizing there are two distinct aspects, the natural world and the spiritual world that can be called Prakriti (nature) and Purusa (soul).
The yogi endeavors to unite the two for clear understanding and connection to Purusa. Part of the details regarding this project is to recognize that things in nature, (including our own selves and minds), can be calm and balanced or quite disturbed and murky.
We discussed the Trigunas – qualities of nature which are sattva (illumination), rajas (active), tamas (dormant or inert). Knowing about these qualities, and recognizing the need to balance rajas with tamas to reach a balanced calm state is a basic precept of why we practice. If they are balanced we may be able to view the Soul clearly.
We worked hard in standing forward bends to use the stability needed, and the fluidity required to calm the experience of these asanas towards a quiet experience. And…well with screaming hamstrings or wobbly balance there is always a lot of obvious reasons to carry on with our practice!
Opening the Jan 2015 session of Classes at AASY was a wonderful homecoming after a long Holiday Season break. Classes began with a short conversation regarding “Why” we are here doing our yoga. When I asked the students what brings them to class and to their home practice many different answers were shared. Quite a few reported the initial reasons they were attracted to the study were not actually the same reasons they continue. We must be doing something right!
The practice and study of Yoga should be transformative and so as we develop and mature in our practice the attraction to, and effects of, our practice will evolve.
So with an opening week of classes where stiff cold hips were visited by moving fluidly into leg positions that led to forward bends, and some standing asanas paired together to continue the idea of fluidity and stability we began a new year of ongoing study. Some folks really liked the double block work we did in Adho Mukha Svanasana and Sirsasana (other’s not so much). But on it goes as we continue to ask ourselves why we study and practice, and what happens when we do. And who exactly, which layer of who we are at any given moment, is practicing? And can our practice transform us towards understanding ourselves more intimately and honestly?
Of course it can, how could it not?
I began my study of Iyengar Yoga at age 19 in 1971. I was immediately hooked. Six years later I began teaching classes, and since then I have been even more enthusiastic with the challenge of teaching the subject. In 1983 I began annual study trips to our parent institute, RIMYI in Pune India. Being a student at our Institute has been a huge blessing in my life!
What I love about the study, practice and teaching of yoga the way the Iyengar’s have guided us is that it helps us to live an artistic life. Guruji has written often about the art, science and philosophy of Yoga. These three intersecting aspects, or perspectives, intrigue me and I try to share that curiosity with my students.
I love to study and share the philosophy of the Patanjali Yoga Sutra, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Upanisads among other texts. These works add color and texture to the asana and pranayama we practice. I also am amazed by, and try to share the science of the practice as it has been developed by our Guru BKS Iyengar. His penetrating understanding of human minds and bodies, and his innovative approach with props and sequences has us all appreciating the “laboratory” approach as we investigate the subject.
To live artistically we must all be acute listeners and appreciative watchers. We need to learn to be expressive – expressive and clear with our words, our movements, our actions, and our thoughts. And as artistic as the study and practice of yoga is, it is only on rare occasions a “performance art”. So there is no pressure to perform, and the ego need not worry itself over that possible strain. Yoga is for our own evolution and satisfaction.
As a teacher now with over 30 year’s experience, I am honored to have been given an Advanced Jr. 1 Certificate by BKS Iyengar. I am excited to share this focus of artistry with every one who attends my classes in the coming year.