Category Archives: B.K.S. Iyengar

In Memoriam: B.K.S. Iyengar

Yoga St Louis Vegetarian Potluck to honor B.K.S. Iyengar Monday, September 1, 2014 @ 1 – 2.30 PM (at the studio)

Yoga St. Louis Vegetarian Potluck to honor B.K.S. Iyengar

Yoga St. Louis Vegetarian Potluck remembers B.K.S. Iyengar

Please join us on Labor Day with family and friends for a veg potluck. We’ll share stories about our late Guruji, B.K.S. Iyengar, and how his yoga has influenced us.

Memory in the Yoga Tradition

Memory has always played an important role in yoga. Even for the literate, text memorization has been an inviolable part of the oral tradition. The Vedas, composed by God, were shruti, “heard,” but the epic texts and Yoga Sutras were smrti, “remembered” by man.

Memory itself need neither be impermanent nor inaccurate. The ceremonial courtyard patterns, kolam, of rice powder designed by Indian women are meant to be impermanent. When walked on, they are, of course, “destroyed.” But the women view it in a different way: the bare feet of their family “carry” the sacred elements of the design across the threshold, blessing the home. Their ritual art must vanish in order that its imprint, the samskara, remain intact. Moreover, it must be physically destroyed — not only to be remembered, but also to be reborn.[1]

B.K.S. Iyengar, Guru Purnima, July 1995. Photo: © Bruce M. Roger

B.K.S. Iyengar, Guru Purnima, July 1995. Photo: © Bruce M. Roger

We yoga practitioners, including our late beloved Guruji Iyengar, must die in order to be reborn. Only our memories of him sustain us now. Many of you know that I have documented the work of Guruji Iyengar through transcripts and photos. You may not know that he hated when I wrote things down instead of listening. I, of course, was afraid I would never remember. But he knew that if I were truly present in that moment, I could never forget. And the things I remember best were never written down.

May his memory be a blessing.

© Bruce M. Roger 2014

St. Louis Iyengar Yoga teachers at 9-1-14 Memorial: Kathy Simon, Jane Fitzgerald, Jean Durel, Robert Gadon, Bruce Roger, Tiki Misra. Absent: Kathy Digby

St. Louis Iyengar Yoga teachers at 9-1-14 Memorial: Kathy Simon, Jane Fitzgerald, Jean Durel, Robert Gadon, Bruce Roger, Tiki Misra. Absent: Kathy Digby

[1]        Wendy Doniger, On Hinduism, Oxford Univ Press, 2014. P. 518

Yoga St. Louis students: Anne Allen, Maureen Hughes, Janet Skaggs (hidden), Eileen Kinsella, David Hebner, Garrick Mueller, Libby Kindle @ BKS Iyengar Memorial

Yoga St. Louis students: Anne Allen, Maureen Hughes, Janet Skaggs (hidden), Eileen Kinsella, David Hebner, Garrick Mueller, Libby Kindle @ BKS Iyengar Memorial

Yoga St. Louis teachers at 9-1-14 Memorial: Bruce Roger, Tiki Misra. Absent: Kathy Digby

Yoga St. Louis teachers at 9-1-14 Memorial: Bruce Roger, Tiki Misra. Absent: Kathy Digby

Yoga St. Louis teachers Bruce Roger and Tiki Misra (far right) lead invocation at 9-1-14 Iyengar Memorial. Clockwise, from foreground: Anne Allen, Garrick Mueller, Marie Fullerton, Jean Durel, Rae Miller, Kay Lynne Firsching, Nancy Miner, Janet Skaggs, Phyllis Hasser, Robert Gadon, Mary Kinsella, Jane Fitzgerald, Libby Kindle, Eileen Kinsella (hidden).

Yoga St. Louis teachers Bruce Roger and Tiki Misra (far right) lead invocation at 9-1-14 Iyengar Memorial. Clockwise, from foreground: Anne Allen, Garrick Mueller, Marie Fullerton, Jean Durel, Rae Miller, Kay Lynne Firsching, Nancy Miner, Janet Skaggs, Phyllis Hasser, Robert Gadon, Mary Kinsella, Jane Fitzgerald, Libby Kindle, Eileen Kinsella (hidden).

Condolence card sent by the Iyengar Family on 9-22-14 after the death of Yogacharya BKS Iyengar

Condolence card sent by the Iyengar Family on 9-22-14 after the death of Yogacharya BKS Iyengar

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River Goddesses Ganga and Yamuna: Ellora Cave No. 21

Three Rivers of the Spine in Dog Pose

© Bruce M. Roger 2014

Ganga, Yamuna, & Saraswati

River Goddesses Ganga & Yamuna: Ellora Cave No. 21: photo Linda G. Swaty 2011

River Goddesses Ganga & Yamuna: Ellora Cave No. 21: photo Linda G. Swaty 2011

The images of river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna (Jamuna in Hindi) often flank the entrances of Hindu temples.[1] Just as the sacred Ganges River flows from its source in the Himalayas to irrigate its plains, so has Mother Ganga descended from Heaven to give life to the dead and purify the living — whether virtuous or sinful.

At Allahabad, west of Varanasi, the Ganges joins her sister river, the Yamuna.[2] When Yama, Yamuna’s twin brother, was banished by their step-mother to rule the underworld as the god of Death, Yamuna’s tears of grief formed the Yamuna River. By bathing in the Yamuna River one is spared a painful death.

The confluence of the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers is defined as a tri-veni, triple braid, because it also joins with the long-ago dried up Saraswati River. The serene river goddess Saraswati also represents purification, as well as the path of jnana, knowledge, that leads to Self-Realization. Her “waters” are transformative, carrying the pilgrims from bondage to liberation.

 

Ganges, Yamuna, & Saraswati: Ida, Pingala, & Sushumna Nadis

The yoga sadhaka (practitioner) is an internal pilgrim who immerses himself in these sacred qualities of the river — purification, compassion, and enlightenment. This internal ritual is expressed in B.K.S. Iyengar’s statement, “The body is my temple. The asanas are my prayers,”[3] an expression of the macrocosm of the universe within the microcosm of the body:[4]

In the tantric physiology of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the Saraswati rivers are metaphorically recreated in the ida (left), the pingala (right), and the sushumna (center) nadis, the three main channels in the spinal cord.[5] Ida terminates at the left nostril and corresponds to the coolness of the moon. Pingala terminates at the right nostril and corresponds to the warmth of the sun. The sushumnanadi terminates at the top of the head.

Furthermore, as the river flows from the mountain to the sea, the internal geography of the nadis embodies a specific physical direction; that direction determines the flow of practice towards involution, and ultimately, enlightenment:

HYP III.109        Between Ganga and Yamuni lies Balaranda [“young widow”], a tapasvini [ascetic]. She should be seized by force. That [leads to] the supreme seat of Vishnu [her spouse].

HYP III.110        Ida is the holy Ganga, pingala is the nadi [river] Yamuna. Between ida and pingala is the young widow, kundalini.

HYP III.111        That sleeping serpent (Kundalini) should be awakened by seizing her tail. Then, that Shakti, throwing off her sleep, rises up with force [of hatha].

Union of Shiva and Shakti in Tantric Metaphysics

Besides the Saraswati River analogy, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika employs other analogies to describe the function of the sushumnanadi — Balaranda, Kundalini, and Shakti. References to deities, such as Shiva and Shakti, are actually rare in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika; their personifications portray the principle of tantric correspondences common to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, as opposed to a strictly parochial theology.[6]

In tantric cosmology, the entire universe is sustained by the union of two fundamental forces, Shiva and Shakti.[7] Shakti represents the ancient Samkhya concept of prakrti (nature). She seeks union with her consort Shiva, or purusha (Self).[8] Without Shakti’s power, the pure consciousness of Shiva is but a shava (corpse). Thus, when this text was composed in the fifteenth century, the “union” of Shiva and Shakti was emphasized.[9]

In tantric metaphysics this union was necessary to both relieve suffering from duality and to liberate the practitioner from bondage:

“For tantric metaphysics, both Hindu and Buddhist, the absolute reality… contains in itself all dualities and polarities, but reunited, reintegrated in a state of absolute Unity (a-dvaya [literally, “non-duality”]). The creation, and the becoming that arose from it, represent the shattering of the primordial unity and the separation of the two principles (Shiva-Shakti, etc.); in consequence, man experiences a state of duality (object-subject, etc.) — and this is suffering, illusion, ‘bondage.’ The purpose of tantric sadhana [practice] is the reunion of the two polar principles within the disciple’s own body.”[10]

Even Patanjali’s dualist yoga embraces aspects of this underlying unity — such as the “macrocosm embodied in the microcosm” of the body — that is so prevalent in Indian thought.

 

Balaranda Seeks Vishnu: Tapasvini Seeks Purusha

The reverse flow of the Saraswati River towards its source, representing yogic involution towards the Seer, requires great effort. In the “young widow” analogy, Balaranda’s longing for “union” with her dearly departed “spouse,” Vishnu, drives her to practice her tapas, or austerities.

In yoga practice, tapas begins with the steadfast, “effort, energy, and enthusiasm to still the mind”— the definition of abhyasa, practice, in the Yoga Sutras.[11] Ultimately tapas evolves into a dharma (duty); only when practice has reached its most-refined state can the then completely purified chitta (mind) “unite” with purusha, the Seer.[12]

In this union, Lord Vishnu’s purity corresponds to a pristine state of being at the vi-suddhi [literally, “complete-purification”] chakra in the throat region.[13] We believe that what B.K.S. Iyengar has written about the purification of prakrti through its association with purusha in the Yoga Sutras applies here to Balaranda’s “union” with Vishnu:

“[Practice] takes prakrti to its pristine state, bringing an end to the appearance of the seer [purusha] as a distorted or sullied entity. At this state the prakrti adores the purusha, and the purusha adorns the prakrti with purity.”[14]

That Balaranda must be “seized by force” [balatkarena grihniyat] to consummate the “union” refers to hatha yoga requiring willpower and tapas to redirect the chitta (mind) towards enlightenment. In the language of our first metaphor, the waters of the Saraswati River carry the pilgrim from bondage to liberation by reversing the flow of the Saraswati River.[15]

 

Flow of Kundalini Shakti & Prakrti Shakti

Hatha Yoga Pradipika III.109-111 compares the nadis to Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. (Here Saraswati is described as Balaranda, Kundalini, and Shakti.)

Hatha Yoga Pradipika III.109-111 compares the nadis to Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. (Here Saraswati is described as Balaranda, Kundalini, and Shakti.)

As the Saraswati River requires an unobstructed flow, so does the Kundalini Shakti require a straight path to ascend in the sushumna nadi. In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika verses III.110-111 cited above, Shakti in the body exists in a kunda, a bowl or pot, at the base of the spine. Thus, Shakti is the potential energy personified by the coiled serpent Kundalini. According to B.K.S. Iyengar, “kundalini is a divine cosmic energy (divyashakti) in a latent form.” It is “a power of pure intelligence.”[16]

As we stated at the outset, tantra’s embodiment of internal geography requires a specific direction to achieve enlightenment: To this end, certain mudras and bandhas “straighten out” the sushumnanadi so that the coiled serpent Kundalini, when struck, straightens itself out, like a staff.[17] From this we have derived that, along with purification of chitta, an actual physical alignment is necessary to straighten the spine to allow the kundalini shakti to ascend.

Fifteen hundred years earlier, the Yoga Sutras described the same latent Shakti using different terminology: “According to Patanjali,” writes Guruji Iyengar, “prakrti [nature] has divine power (shakti)” that can afford a transformation in one’s state — described as prakrti-apurat (nature-inflow) in Yoga Sutra IV.2, below. Normally this prakrti shakti (nature power) is veiled by vikrti (a distortion of prakrti, such as illness) shakti in the unenlightened:[18]

PYS IV.2        jati-antara parinamah prakrti-apurat

The apurat (abundant flow) of prakrti (nature’s energy) brings about a parinama (transformation) in jati-antara (one’s birth, stage of life, class), aiding the process of evolution.

In tantric physiology, upon enlightenment, the uncoiled, kundalini ascends through the chitra nadi, a divine but not physical nadi, that resides in the seat of the soul (atmasthana) at the spiritual heart. One end of the nadi extends down to the reproductive organ, the other up to the Brahmarandhra, the “aperture of Brahma” at the crown of the head above the sahasra chakra; it is located at the very center of the susumna nadi.[19] The chitra nadi shines with the luster of AUM, and is pure intelligence (shuddha-bodha-svarupa), from which jnana is derived. In turn, the Brahma nadi is inside the chitra nadi.[20]

However, kundalini shakti does not ascend in the common man: “In reality, only true saints have had their kundalini awakened by divine grace.”[21]

Prakrti: Efficient Cause in Patanjali Yoga Sutras

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Patanjali, ca. 200 BCE, compiler of the Yoga Sutras

Just as ritual bathing in a sacred river liberates and energizes the pilgrim, so does yoga sadhana liberate the Seer and energize the yogi. Most commentators interpret the parinama (transformation) cited in Yoga Sutra IV.2 with a focus on reincarnation: they believe that the repository of past kleshas (causes of suffering), samskaras (imprints), and virtuous or vicious actions become the “efficient cause” of the new body. Then prakrti (nature) “fills in” or “impenetrates” (apura) the new form.

But, as Guruji Iyengar points out, “A true yogi will never think of an incarnation.”[22] Instead the sadhaka (dedicated practitioner) seeks precision, purity, and perfection in practice — what were characterized as “divine” qualities in ancient times.

The effect of prakrti-apura (nature-inflow) is that “The energy in a perfect yogi flows abundantly… everywhere in the body.”[23] Shifting the focus to the power of prakrti shakti redirects the emphasis of the sutra from the effect of reincarnation to its cause — which is the subject of the next sutra:

PYS IV.3        Nimitta (efficient cause) does not impel prakrti (nature) into motion. It only removes the obstacles, like a farmer (irrigating a field: nature impenetrates by itself when the hindrances are removed).

Whereas the Hatha Yoga Pradipika requires a physical prerequisite — uncoiling the sushumna nadi — to activate potential kundalini shakti, Patanjali bases yoga on a more broadly inclusive behavioral purification necessary for liberation. “Efficient cause” is purging the a-dharma (vice) that obstructs the flow of prakrti: prakrti can then supply that energy.[24] Sage Vyasa, in his commentary on Yoga Sutra IV.3, posits that dharma (virtue) pierces [bheda] the veil of a-dharma (vice). When dharma suppresses a-dharma, it is compared to weeding the field so that the crop may sustain itself.[25] Swami Hariharananda explains that when a-dharma, which is hostile to prakrti, is destroyed, “the innate prakrti [impelled by purusha, the Self] will impenetrate the organ and shape it.”[26] The key concept is that purusha is the underlying cause because, as Yoga Sutra II.18 states, “[prakrti] exists eternally to serve purusha.”

Yoga Sutras IV.2-3 explain how asana practice “builds strength.”

AMSvanaBKS

B.K.S. Iyengar performs Adho Mukha Svanasana, ca. 1991

When I was young, I watched Guruji Iyengar perform Adho Mukha Svanasana for fifteen minutes in his daily practice without breaking a sweat. I assumed it required great physical strength, as I could stay in the asana for barely three minutes.

Decades later, I have come to understand how the yogin cultivates his “field” of body and mind like a farmer to accrue that strength: He skillfully removes the obstacles or “irrigates his field” by “piercing the dyke” of a-dharma, to channel the flow of prakrti, nature’s energy, into him. The resulting impenetration forms the asana.

Although it takes many years of gross physical effort to perfect asana, there are incremental signs of the impenetration of prakrti along the way — it’s easier to hold the correct pose for a longer period of time, with less fatigue. Whether the lack of fatigue is a result of correct “spacing and placing,” or improved circulation that comes with mechanical alignment,[27] it was historically subsumed under the spiritual mystery of “union.” And, by the way, this impenetration of prakrti fundamentally distinguishes asana from calisthenics, which are initially weakening.

The impenetration of prakrti, that results from when the obstacles are skillfully removed, is also the basis of restorative poses:

B.K.S. Iyengar performs Supported Setubandha Sarvangasana

B.K.S. Iyengar performs Supported Setubandha Sarvangasana

In Brick Setubandha, the jalandhara bandha acts as a “dyke” both to prevent the outflow of energy, as well as to specifically direct the flow of energy within. It’s easy to feel the flow of energy into the throat region when it descends and relaxes to the sides, just as the energetic Balaranda reunited with Vishnu at the throat area. The inflow of prakrti creates space that is described as shunya, void, in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.[28]

Ida, Pingala, & Sushumna Nadis in Asana

Often we think of the ida, pingala, and sushumnanadis (channels) only in pranayama, but they also play a part in asana practice. The following instruction helped me understand the correct action in Adho Mukha Svanasana[29] some twenty years ago. Although it employs the imagery of the three rivers, one should not presume that it can uncoil the latent kundalini shakti.

Three Rivers of the Spine: Adho Mukha Svanasana[30]

  1. Supporting the crown of the head on a brick, stretch the arms and paraspinal muscles, Ganga on the left and Yamuna on the right, up towards the sacrum to first lengthen the torso. (The spine must first be elongated to facilitate the uncoiling of the kundalini shakti.[31])
  2. Then allow the spine itself, the River Saraswati, which is silent and runs underground, to lengthen and descend towards the head without losing the lift of the paraspinals. Without lifting the head, lengthen the arms by lifting the triceps to maintain the length and lift of the torso.
  3. These actions also apply to Sirsasana. Similarly, the spine must also maintain its extension without shrugging the shoulders in Paschimottanasana and Ustrasana, etc.

 

Concluding Thoughts on Kundalini Shakti

Mahabalipuram Descent of Ganga

Descent of Ganga: King Bhagiratha performs Vrksasana at the upper left as a penance to encourage Mother Ganga to descend from heaven to wash away the sins of his dead ancestors. The deceitful cat, surrounded by mice, mimics the ascetic (below elephant tusk): Mahabalipuram, ca. 7th c. C.E. photo by columbia.edu

As we have explored, the analogy of the rivers-representing-nadis is based on an understanding of tantric metaphysics; how to direct the energy is based on Patanjali’s view of cause and effect. B.K.S. Iyengar’s unique insight is that precision, purity, and perfection in practice can direct that inflow of energy into the body, despite pre-existing samskaras [“impressions” that cause limitations]. This not only gives us hope, but also provides us with the tools to relieve our own suffering.


 

 

 

Bibliography

B.K.S. Iyengar, “Asana: Physical, Mental, or Spiritual Practice?,” Astadala Yogamala v.2, Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 2001.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Core of the Yoga Sutras: the Definitive Guide to the Philosophy of Yoga, London: HarperThorsons, 2012.

B.K.S. Iyengar, “Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga: London 8-29-87 Lecture,” Astadala Yogamala v.2, Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 2001.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Iyengar, His Life and Work, Timeless Books, Porthill, Idaho, 1987.

B.K.S. Iyengar, “Pearls of Yogic Wisdom,” Astadala Yogamala v.1, Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 2000.

B.K.S. Iyengar, “Section V — Kundalini,” Astadala Yogamala v.7, Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 2008.

B.K.S. Iyengar, “The Guru Who Is Just A Family Man,” Astadala Yogamala v.4, Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 2004.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Pranayama, New York: Crossroad, 1994.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1993.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, New York: Schocken Books, rev 1979.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Decennary Celebrations [typed manuscript], Pune: RIMYI, 1985.

Swami Hariharananda Aranya, Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali, SUNY Press, Albany, N.Y. 1983.

Carol Cavanaugh, “Interview with Dr. S.V. Karandikar,” Iyengar Yoga Institute Review (of San Francisco), Vol. 4, No. 3; February 1984.

Columbia University, Photo of Descent of Ganga bas-relief, Mahabalipuram, ca. 7th c. C.E.: <http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00routesdata/0600_0699/mamallapuram/descent/descentmod2.jpg&gt;

Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, Princeton: Bollingen Foundation / Princeton University Press, 1958. rev. 1970.

Srinivasa Iyangar, The Hathayogapradipika of Svatmarama with Commentary Jyotsna of Brahmananda, Madras: Adyar Library and Research Center, The Theosphical Society, 1893. Revised 1972. Because I have not found a downloadable version of this, I have listed Sinh’s translation, below.

Pancham Sinh, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Delhi: Sri Satguru Publ., (Allahabad, 1915). Reprinted 1984. <https://archive.org/details/HathaYogaPradipika-SanskritTextWithEnglishTranslatlionAndNotes>

Michael W. Meister, “Yoga as Architecture: Yoga and Visual Culture,” Freer and Sackler Galleries: An Interdisciplinary Symposium, November 22, 2013: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzCKBQtpwao&list=PLC8Yzyqd-urBN0GhecAovLvE1jh7PrNH->

Sylvia Prescott, 7-28-91 Jr. Intermediate Intensive Asana Class, Norwich, England. [Author Notes]

 

Footnotes

[1]         Political historians believe that the motives of the Rashtrakuta kings — who built the Ellora cave temples from 600-1000 CE, having conquered a 650,000 square mile area from the Gangetic plains in the north to the southern tip of India — concentrated more on establishing their southern geographical legitimacy by including carvings of the northern deities Ganga and Yamuna than just representing purification and compassion.

[2]         Allahabad is the site of an annual winter mela, convocation of pilgrims, that extends back at least 2000 years. Every twelve years, when the underground Saraswati River “rises to the surface” to join her sister rivers, the great kumbha mela occurs, attracting thirty million bathers seeking to wash away their sins and liberate themselves from rebirth. The celebration is named for the kumbha, or pot, that contained amrita, the nectar of immortality. When the gods and demons battled for the pot of nectar, four drops splashed to earth — at the sacred sites of Prayaga (Allahabad), Nashik, Hardwar, and Ujjain.

[3]         B.K.S. Iyengar, Iyengar, His Life and Work, Timeless Books, Porthill, Idaho, 1987. P.495

[4]         “In the Kala-cakra-tantra the Buddha revealed [in 880 B.C.E.]… that the cosmos is contained in man’s own body.” Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1970. P. 204

[5]       Brahmananda Jyotsna III.53 The five srotas (subtle channels) are the many nadisida, pingala, sushumna, gandhari, etc., which stand for the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Narmada, etc.

“Here, within the body, is the Ganges and the Jumna,” is first attributed to Sarapada (c. 900 C.E. founder of the Mahamudra sect of Vajrayana Buddhism and the first poet in Oriya): Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, Princeton: Bollingen Foundation / Princeton University Press, 1958. rev. 1970. P. 227, citing S. Dasgupta, Obscure Religious Cults, Calcutta: Firma KLM, 1995.

[6]         During the fourth century C.E. tantra gained popularity with ascetics and yogins, becoming a pan-Indian vogue from the 6th century onward: “In a comparatively short time, Indian philosophy, mysticism, ritual, ethics, cosmology, and even literature were influenced by tantrism. It was a pan-Indian movement, for it was assimilated by all the great Indian religions and by all the ‘sectarian’ schools. There is a Buddhist tantrism [c. 400 C.E.] and a Hindu tantrism…. Jainism too accepts certain tantric methods, and strong tantric influences can be seen in Kashmirian Shaivism, in the great Panchratra movement (c. 550), in the Bhagavata Purana (c. 600), and in other Vishnuist devotional schools.” Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1970. P. 201

[7]         Eliade writes, “… for the first time in the spiritual history of Aryan India, the Great Goddess acquired a predominant position. Early in the second century of our era, two feminine divinities made their way into Buddhism: Prajna-paramita… an incarnation of Supreme Wisdom, and Tara, the epiphany of the Great Goddess of aboriginal India. In Hinduism the Shakti, the “cosmic force,” was raised to the rank of Divine Mother who sustains not only the universe and all its beings, but also the various manifestations of the gods.” Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1970. P. 202

[8]         B.K.S. Iyengar, “Pearls of Yogic Wisdom,” Astadala Yogamala v.1, Mumbai: Allied Publ., 2000 P. 261

[9]         In this context, the desire for “union” with God represents a pan-Indian ideal. It can be compared to the Christian saying, “He’s gone to meet his Maker in Heaven,” a euphemism for death. Although derived from Christian theology, it symbolizes the death of a “good” person. Agreement that he led an exemplary life is not contingent upon accepting specific theological principles of Judgment, creation, or Heaven.

[10]       Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1970. P. 206

At the 1984 Annual Day at RIMYI, Guruji Iyengar had me explain the polarities of yin and yang from Taoist philosophy. He then compared them to the ida and pingalanadis.

[11]       VB I.13 Absence of fluctuations (vrittis) or undisturbed calmness (santa) of mind is called sthiti, or tranquillity. The effort (prayatna), the energy (virya) and the enthusiasm (utsaha)… for attaining that state is called abhyasa, practice.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Core of the Yoga Sutras: the Definitive Guide to the Philosophy of Yoga, London: HarperThorsons, 2012. P. 46

[12]       B.K.S. Iyengar, Core of the Yoga Sutras: the Definitive Guide to the Philosophy of Yoga, London: HarperThorsons, 2012. P. 113-116 Cites PYS III.13, III.56.

In Patanjali’s dualist yoga, chitta can not actually “unite” with purusha, even though it may appear to be a beautiful sentiment. Instead, when chitta becomes so refined and so pure, it no longer obscures the light of purusha. Having fulfilled its function, chitta is reabsorbed into mahat, the universal intelligence from which it evolved. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika uses a non-dualist Vedanta analogy to explain the absorption of the mind into sat-chit-ananda: HYP IV. 59 The mind dissolves like camphor in fire and like salt in water. HYP IV.61 … absorbed [into sat-chit-ananda; a synonym for Brahman], only atma remains behind….

[13]       HYP IV.70 When the Brahma granthi (“knot” in the heart; in the anahata chakra) is pierced (bhedo ) through by pranayama, then a sort of happiness is experienced in the shunya (void) of the heart…. See PYS III.35 By samyama on the hrdaye (heart), (the yogi acquires a) thorough knowledge of chitta.

HYP IV.73 When the Vishnugranthi (“knot” in the throat; the visuddhi chakra) is pierced (bhedat ) [by the union of prana and apana, or jivatman and paramatman] there is… supreme bliss. See PYS III.31 Samyama on the kantha kupa (pit of throat)… conquers hunger and thirst and results in sthairyam (stability).

HYP IV.76 When the Rudra [Shiva] granthi is pierced, and the [prana] enters the seat of the Lord (the akasha space between the eyebrows in the ajna chakra), then the perfect sounds like that of a flute and vina are produced. See PYS III.33 Samyama on the murdha jyoti (light of the crown of head)… results in visions of siddhas (perfected beings).

[14]       B.K.S. Iyengar, Core of the Yoga Sutras: the Definitive Guide to the Philosophy of Yoga, London: HarperThorsons, 2012. P. 46

[15]       seized by force…: Reversing the natural downward flow of a river requires great effort. It reverses the pra-vrtti marga path of evolution and leads to the ni-vrtti marga path of involution.

[16]       B.K.S. Iyengar, “Section V — Kundalini,” Astadala Yogamala v.7, Mumbai: Allied Publ., 2008 P. 223, 236

[17]       HYP III.11-12 Contract the throat [kanthe bandham; e.g. Jalandhara Bandha in Mahamudra] and hold the breath (vayu), directing it upward (urdhvata through sushumna nadi). In the same way a serpent that is beaten with a stick takes the form of a stick [danda-hatah sarpo danda-akarah prajayate]…. so does Kundalini shakti becomes straight at once [rijvi-bhuta… sahasa]. Then the other two nadis (ida and pingala) become lifeless (because the prana has gone out of them). [Some have suggested that removal of prana from ida and pingala is metaphor for the cessation of duality, not actually death itself.]

[18]       B.K.S. Iyengar, “Section V — Kundalini,” Astadala Yogamala v.7, Mumbai: Allied Publ., 2008 P. 223, 236

[19]       B.K.S. Iyengar, “Section V — Kundalini,” Astadala Yogamala v.7, Mumbai: Allied Publ., 2008 P. 226-27

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Pranayama, New York: Crossroad, 1994. P. 34

Brahmarandhra, the “aperture of Brahma” at the top of the head, at the very center of the susumna nadi: susumna nadi is also known as Brahmanadi — HYP III.4.

[20]       Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1970. P. 238

[21]       B.K.S. Iyengar, “Section V — Kundalini,” Astadala Yogamala v.7, Mumbai: Allied Publ., 2008 P. 236

[22]       B.K.S. Iyengar, “The Guru Who Is Just A Family Man,” Astadala Yogamala v.4, Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 2004 P. 78

[23]       B.K.S. Iyengar, “Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga: London 8-29-87 Lecture,” Astadala Yogamala v.2, Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 2001 P. 140

[24]       B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: 1985 Decennary Celebrations [typed manuscript], Pune: RIMYI. P. 56

[25]       Swami Hariharananda Aranya, Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali, SUNY Press, Albany, N.Y. 1983 P.349

[26]       Swami Hariharananda Aranya, Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali, SUNY Press, Albany, N.Y. 1983 P.349. impenetrate the organ and shape it: organ collectively refers to the body, mind, intellect, and senses.

[27]       Carol Cavanaugh , “Interview with Dr. S.V. Karandikar,” Iyengar Yoga Institute Review (of San Francisco), Vol. 4, No. 3; February 1984, p. 4

[28]       HYP IV.73 When the Vishnugranthi (“knot” in the throat; the vishuddhi chakra) is pierced (bhedat ) [by the union of prana and apana, or jivatman and paramatman] there is… supreme bliss.

BrahmandaJyotshna IV.73: The word “ati-shunya” [“beyond-void”] refers to the vishuddhi chakra in the throat.

[29]       B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, New York: Schocken Books, 1979, rev.

[30]       I learned this at an Intensive Course taught by Sylvia Prescott, one of Guruji Iyengar’s first English students: 7-28-91 Jr. Intermediate Asana Class, Norwich, England

[31]       HYP III.124 This middle nadi becomes straight (sarala: straight, upright) and firm (drdha: firm, stable) by steady practice of asana, pranayama and mudra (asana-prana-samyama-mudra-abhih)of the yogin.

Shiva & Parvati crushing demon Ravana

Provenance — Where Does Yoga Asana Come From?

© Bruce M. Roger 2014

Iyengar yoga

BKS Iyengar in Paschimottanasana: Photo by Sylvia Prescott, Tree of Yoga, 1989.

Some Western scholars have contended that modern asana practice is not rooted in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (2nd c. B.C.E.), and that claiming so is a false, self-justifying, claim of provenance. I know the arguments well: only eleven asanas are described in Vyasa’s fifth century commentary on Patanjali (half of which are sitting asanas for meditation), and only twenty-six asanas, mudras, and bandhas are described by Svatmarama (“own-Self-takes delight”) in his 15th century text, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.[1] On the other hand, the Gheranda Samhita, a 17th c. work, describes an additional seven asanas — out of 8.4 million (84 lakhs) asanas![2]

astanga yoga

T. Krishnamacharya in Paschimottanasana: Yoga Makaranda, 1934.

Another source text of the Iyengar method of yoga, the Yoga Korunta (14th c. C.E.; now unavailable), was memorized by B.K.S. Iyengar’s guru, T. Krishnamacharya when he studied in Tibet during the 1920’s with his guru, Rama Mohana Brahmacari.[3] It contains the vinyasa sequences that Guruji Iyengar taught from 1935 through the 1970’s and Pattabhi Jois taught until his death in 2009.[4] These are the asanas included in Iyengar’s seminal text, Light on Yoga, or Yoga Dipika in Sanskrit. Krishnamacharya based his approach primarily on the ashtanga yoga systems of the Patanjali Yoga Sutras and the Yoga Yajnavalkya (4th c. C.E.). The latter was a source for later texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which he also honored.[5]

As a dedicated pupil of B.K.S. Iyengar, I believe the provenance of asana is legitimized in three broad ways: First, whereas Western scholarship is a text-driven discipline, yoga practice has relied on the oral tradition to explicate on the few extant texts. Secondly, direct perception of the Self in yoga comes with experience and cannot be cast as “new” or “different.” Third, asana is a physical component of a spiritual practice.

 

Ashtanga Yoga & Hatha Yoga: Oral vs. Textual Tradition

Iyengar yoga

July, 1986 Iyengar Yoga Institute Intensive Course with BKS Iyengar: Photo by Chandur Melwani

Provenance — the source of what is being taught — primarily depends on who is teaching. Great masters have had generations of wisdom to back up their means and methods by developing within the guru-sishya (teacher-student) relationship, first as pupils and then as teachers.[6] This is how the oral tradition has survived, with very little ever recorded.[7] The lineage, although entwined in myth, extends back to the time of the sages. Even the texts that do exist have acceded to oral primacy: Hatha Yoga Pradipika cites that asana, pranayama, kriya (purification actions), and mudra (“seals” including Viparita Karani) should be “learned from the guru’s instructions” and “kept secret”:[8]

HYP I.14 One should practice yoga in the way instructed by his guru .
HYP II.1  The yogin, having perfected himself in the asanas, should practice pranayama, according to the instructions of his guru….
HYP III.7-9 These… [ten mudras] expounded by Adinatha… annihilate old age and death… [and] should be kept secret, like a box of precious gems.

According to the Shiva Samhita, “Only the knowledge imparted by a guru, through his lips, is powerful and useful; otherwise it becomes fruitless, weak and very painful.” It describes a guru as “father…, mother, and even God.”[9] But, as Prashant Iyengar has pointed out, “Guru is an institution, not a person. We worship the guru in Guruji Iyengar, not his personality.”[10] Tradition mandates that a sishya can have only one guru in his lifetime. Gurus, like Krishnamacharya, have “jealously guarded… spiritual knowledge… [unless] pupils were deserving enough.”[11]

I believe there are three reasons that the guru-sishya system has allowed yoga to thrive over the millennia :

  1. Prerequisite qualification and commitment of the pupil that ensures responsible and accurate transmission of the oral tradition — why the guru only shares with “deserving” pupils.
  2. A lengthy and intense mentoring process, similar to a professor fostering his doctoral candidates, that emphasizes proper technique, memorization, and correct interpretation. The guidance of a lifetime mentor lessens error or injury, and increases efficacy. For example, medical studies proving the efficacy of yoga have been conducted by highly-trained teachers who are often under the supervision of Guruji Iyengar himself, not an “Internet guru.”
  3. Ethical authority of the guru that is neither corrupted by the attainment of supernormal powers, nor the need to profit from teaching by acquiring more pupils (gurus often have been employed householders).[12]

The guru-sishya system has traditionally been the primary means of preserving the yogic tradition. The widespread accessibility of yogic texts due to the Internet, that were only available from a few publishers in India just a generation ago, has skewed the perception of just how difficult it has been to find these texts in the past.[13] Two hundred years ago they were only available in manuscript form. Moreover, few yogins were literate: in 1800, just after the inception of Indian newspapers, only 3% of Indians were literate in their vernacular language, much less the literary language of the Sanskrit texts. In 1947, at Independence, still only 12% of Indians were literate.[14]

The texts were meant to be memorized and chanted by the students and then explained by the guru. Although the descriptions in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika are brief, they are not as terse as the Yoga Sutras. However, metaphors are often used, or only the results of practice cited. Details of how to practice — the essential actions and individualized instruction — exist only in the oral tradition, handed down from guru to sishya.[15]

 

Yoga: Creativity vs. Transformation of Consciousness

Iyengar yoga

BKS_Iyengar in Rope Viparita Dandasana at Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, Pune.

Accomplished yogins, says B.K.S. Iyengar, view purusha (spirit) as the source of all creativity. Asanas aren’t “inventions” because creativity in yoga does not arise out of an individual’s originality or cleverness:

“Only God creates — not you or me. [Insight] comes like a light, but not from thinking.”[16]

A tenet of Samkhya-Yoga school is “Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed; it only changes state.”[17] That’s why B.K.S. Iyengar contends that he practices yoga — not an “Iyengar method” or an “Iyengar style” of yoga:

“Principles cannot change. There is no new ‘creation,’ or new ‘style,’ or ‘method.’ When jnana [knowledge] comes, the intelligence is not limited by selfishness; otherwise it is a sign of a fluctuating mind.”[18]

“There is no ‘Iyengar Yoga.’ I learned from Krishnamacharya.”[19]

The underlying principle of Samkhya philosophy that forms the basis of Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga is that because of its innate purity, buddhi (intelligence), is able to perceive purusha as its source. But if that perception is tainted by ego-driven parigraha (possessiveness), it signifies a non-yogic, and unstable, mind. Thus, yoga is universal and cannot be “owned” or branded by “style.” To sum up, there is nothing “new” in yoga, even if it may be new to you or me. An example of this is when Guruji Iyengar criticized a young teacher for coming up with a “new” way of performing of Adho Mukha Svanasana incorrectly on the fingertips for wrist pain:

“It is a distortion of the Iyengar method. A [junior teacher] can never ‘create.’ Creativity only comes with maturity in rtambhara prajna [“truth-bearing wisdom” attained in samadhi].”[20]

The next example of “originality” — an adaptation by a teacher lacking sufficient training — can even lead to student injury. This himsa (harmfulness), however unintended, violates the teacher’s compact with the student that, like a mother, promotes safety of the pupil above and beyond the safety of the teacher. Students can be put in harm’s way when the guru-sishya system of mentoring is eliminated because junior teachers need to be mentored for many years. That way students taught by junior teachers benefit, if indirectly, from the experience of the guru.[21] Here Guruji Iyengar criticized a teacher for her modification of Supta Padangusthasana:

“Do not [teach] adaptations that have no bearing on the pose because it is [merely] physical yoga — which causes strains and pains.”[22]

Only when the aforementioned rtambhara prajna, “truth-bearing wisdom” or “mature wisdom accompanied by intense insight,” has been experienced — in other words, in samadhi — can the yoga cannon of the sages be modified. Not only is this type of knowledge “beyond the knowledge gleaned from books, testimony or inference” — it stops the very production of the chittavrttis (mental fluctuations) themselves, which is Patanjali’s definition of yoga:[23]

PYS I.2 Yoga is chitta [consciousness] vrtti nirodha [movement-cessation].

 

Raja Yoga vs. Hatha Yoga: Spiritual vs. Physical?

Shiva & Parvati crushing demon Ravana

Shiva & Parvati crushing demon Ravana after he shook their heavenly abode at Mt. Kailasha, ca. 600 C.E. Ellora Cave No. 29 © Linda G. Swaty 2011

Why practice? Both East and West have acclaimed yoga as “good for health” and many have begun practice for that reason, as did Guruji Iyengar. Besides the more common belief in the West that asana is good for health, there is a less widely held Indian belief — that asana is part of a non-denominational yogic spiritual practice.[24] Both in Patanjali’s classical dualist yoga, and in the non-dualist philosophy that has come to dominate Indian thought, health and spirituality only differ by degree on the body-mind-intellect continuum.[25] Moreover, Indian thought considers every action to have long-term spiritual implications.

One of the facets of yoga that links both health and spirituality is the ethical precept of a-himsa (non-violence). What characterizes asana as “safe” — resulting in less “wear and tear” — is ahimsa; what defines yoga as “spiritual” also begins with ahimsa — acting with such integrity that it both prevents future suffering, and causes others to abandon hostility, according to Patanjali:

PYS II.34-35 …himsa [violence]… results in endless duhkha [pain] and ajnana [ignorance]. Pratipaksha bhavanam [cultivating the opposite behavior] ends duhkha and ajnana. When the yogin is firmly established in ahimsa [non-violence] there is abandonment of hostility in his presence.

Hatha Yoga, where asana, pranayama, mudra, and bandha are described, claims its theistic heritage from the outset. The very first verse of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika praises Lord Shiva, the first guru, who, in teaching his consort Parvati hatha yoga, passed on his spiritual knowledge:

HYP I.1 Salutation to Adinatha [Shiva] who taught [his consort Parvati] the vidya (knowledge) of hatha yoga, which, like a staircase, leads the aspirant to the high pinnacle of raja yoga.

Despite affirming this lineage in the next verse, Svatmarama rarely refers to Shiva again, except as a physiological metaphor, and as the guru who taught asana and mudra.[26] More significantly, he reiterates that practice of hatha yoga is “solely for the attainment of raja (royal) yoga,” a synonym for Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga, thus tying hatha yoga to a universal, non-denominational, spiritual practice:

HYP I.2 Yogin Swatmarama, after saluting his Guru Srinatha explains hatha yoga vidya [wisdom] solely for the attainment of raja yoga.

This bond with raja yoga is reaffirmed at subsequent points in the text:

HYP I.67 The asanas, various kumbhakas [retentions in pranayama], and other divine karanas [means] of hatha yoga, should all be practiced until the fruit of raja yoga is obtained.

In the last set of verses it is reiterated with an additional metaphoric reference to overcoming death:

HYP 1V.103 All the methods of hatha are meant for gaining success in raja yoga. The person, who is well-established in the raja yoga, overcomes death.[27]

There are similarities between the Yoga Sutras and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Like raja yoga, the fundamental objective of hatha yoga is “to transcend the egoic consciousness, and to realize the Self….” wrote Georg Feuerstein.[28] Direct perception of the Self is the result of body, mind, and breath purification in yoga. Svatmarama’s sloka (two-line verse) on asana borrows the term sthira [firm, stable] directly from Patanjali’s definition of asana:

PYS II.46 Perfection in asana means sthira [firmness] in body, sthira [steadiness] in intelligence, and benevolence in consciousness.

HYP I.17 Asana [is]… the first stage of hatha yoga. Asana [gives] sthairyam [firmness, stability], health, and lightness of limb.

According to Brahmananda’s 1880 C.E. commentary on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Jyotsna, asana explicitly stabilizes the mind, whereas Patanjali’s terse two-word definition of asana does not explicitly differentiate among body, mind, and intellect in bringing about vrtti nirodha (movement-cessation).[29] Brahmananda even quotes Patanjali’s obstacles, which Guruji Iyengar characterizes as “physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual:”[30]

BJ I.17 Asana [gives] sthairyam [firmness, stability]… because it kills the rajo-guna that causes fickleness [unsteadiness] of manas [mind]. By removing diseases, it facilitates concentration; for Patanjali says: [quotes PYS I.30: disease, inertia, doubt, carelessness, laziness, incontinence, mistaken notion, and backsliding due to pride cause the chitta vikshepas, distractions of the mind, and are the obstacles.] Asana removes the heaviness of body arising from the preponderance of tamas….

Or, as B.K.S. Iyengar has summarized Brahmananda’s commentary:

“Health is eradication of the diseases that cause the chitta vikshepas [mental distractions that divert one from the path of yoga].”[31]

Despite the spiritual dimension of asana practice, some have denigrated asana as solely “physical.” Even the great nineteenth-century non-dualist Swami Vivekananda held conflicting views about the validity of asana practice when it was not as popular as it is today. He outrightly dismissed asana, equating it with hatha yoga in his introduction to his popular 1896 publication, Raja Yoga, because the aim of hatha yoga is purportedly only

“physical strength… and not spiritual growth. Health [resulting in long life] is the one goal of the hatha yogi.”[32]

His rejection could have been influenced by legitimate contemporary ethical assumptions, as well as sectarianism.[33] Nonetheless, elsewhere in his same text, he conceded a body-mind connection:

“The mind is intimately connected with the body…. If the body is sick, the mind becomes sick also. If the body is healthy, the mind remains healthy and strong.”[34]

Iyengar yoga

BKS Iyengar in Siddhasana: Light on Yoga, 1966

In light of this, it is hard to reconcile his dismissal of asana with his appreciation of how a healthy mind requires a healthy body. Moreover, if he could extol Shankaracharya’s recommendation of nadi (channel) purification through nadi sodhana pranayama,[35] it would be inconsistent to not then advocate nadi purification in asana, such as Siddhasana — which is specifically cited in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika:

HYP I.39 Out of the 84 asanas Siddhasana should always be practiced, because it cleanses the impurities of 72,000 nadis [nadinam mala-sodhanam].

Asana is also cited to benefit the nadis in a general sense:

HYP III.124 This middle [susumna] nadi becomes straight and firm by steady practice of asana, pranayama, and mudra of the yogin.

Vivekananda’s lack of advocacy is especially inconsistent because there is a photo of him meditating in Siddhasana, dated 1886, in his biography! Moreover, experience tells us that judicious practice of all the various types of asanas and pranayamas is necessary to afford sufficient mobility of the hips and stability of the spine to be able to sit erect and motionless in Swastikasana with a steady mind for an extended period of time.

Ironically, when Vivekananda commented specifically on Yoga Sutra II.46 that defines asana in Raja Yoga, he repeated the intent of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika I.17 — firmness and health:

“When you have succeeded controlling the body and keeping it firm, your practice [ed. italics] will be steady; but while you are disturbed by the body, your nerves become disturbed, and you cannot concentrate the mind.”[36]

There is no doubt that a firm body steadies meditation. Guruji Iyengar takes the same basic approach as Vivekananda, but is more specific in his analysis. In his interpretation of PYS II.46, applying “stable” to the mind as well as the body, he describes the intelligence as steadied, not the practice; steadiness in practice is only inferred. It refers back to the stabilization of chitta (consciousness) that Patanjali uses to define yoga, and Vyasa’s description of that happening chitta is freed of the gunas (qualities of nature).[37] Guruji Iyengar’s interpretation concurs with BJ I.17, which makes it clear that not only does asana stabilize the body, but also steadies the manas (mind) — because it “kills the rajo-guna (movement-quality) that causes fickleness of the manas (mind).”[38] It also affirms Vyasa’s commentary on PYS II.47, which cites perfection in asana to prevent angam-ejayatva (limb-shakiness) — an obstacle to samadhi. Although shakiness ostensibly refers to the body, Guruji Iyengar also applies it to mental instability — which includes depression.[39]

Asana is further validated through subsequent commentaries on the Yoga Sutras by Vachaspati Misra, Bhojaraja, Narayana Tirtha, Vijnana Bhiksu, Nagoji Bhatta, Ramananda Yati, and Hariharananda Aranya in the eighth, eleventh, fourteenth, sixteenth, and twentieth centuries, respectively.[40]

Patanjali, as does Svatmarama, begins yoga practice with the ethical precepts of yama and the disciplines of niyama.[41] According to B.K.S. Iyengar, the yamas, beginning with a-himsa (non-violence) spring from the intrinsic purity of one’s conscience. But chitta (consciousness) becomes tainted by contact with society.[42] As noted in the discussion about himsa (violence), when chitta has been tainted by violent thoughts and deeds , it causes endless pain and ignorance. To maintain and cultivate innate purity, the Yoga Sutras cite the yamas as “universal vows unconditioned by class, time, or place.”[43] When it comes to yama, hatha yoga, too, does not differentiate amongst “thought, word, and deed”[44] — and that applies to the practice of asana, pranayama, mudra, and bandha.

As a result, any emphasis on physicality alone that ignores the role of the mind is decidedly unholistic: it reflects a Western interpretation that ignores the precepts of yama and niyama that lead to the inner peace lying at the very heart and soul of yoga. Some Westerners have claimed that aggressive Western calisthenics were modified and incorporated into asana practice to “toughen up” passive Indians as part of the twentieth-century Indian independence movement.[45] The phrase “toughen up” itself conveys a duality that comes from a lack of awareness. It is impossible to “toughen up” your conscience. Besides, it is presumptuous to assume that political success depends mainly upon individual physical prowess. No less than Mahatma Gandhi himself, the father of Indian independence, based his mass movement on the first two yamasahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truthfulness).[46]

Within the concept of “alignment” in asana, B.K.S. Iyengar has taught the difficult-to-put-into-practice philosophy of samatvam (eveness of mind), prana (life-force), prajna (wisdom), as well as yama (ethics) and niyama (discipline). Here, alignment has been used to clarify the intelligence and foster ahimsa:

Utthita Hasta Padasana; ahimsa

BKS Iyengar teaches how to purge the wrist of violence in Utthita Hasta Padasana: The Dalai Lama Speaks – Paths To Happiness. 11-20-2010

“Purging the mind [of aggression] begins by aligning the wrist in Utthita Hasta Padasana…. The left dorsal wrist is bulging, higher than her fingers… because of himsa, aggression, in the body…. Lacking sarira prajna [bodily understanding], she is only following the dictates of the body.[47] She is not using her body as an agent to clarify her intelligence. To remove the aggression, descend the left top wrist, lift the fingers and then stretch the arm and hand. That is a-himsa [non-violence].”[48]

The focus of Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga has always been to destroy the impurities that obscure the highest state of awareness.[49] As part of that goal, the mastery of asana leads to the cessation of duality.[50] In the following demonstration, B.K.S. Iyengar has shown how to practice asana to bring about saucha (purity) and santosha (contentment), the first two niyamas:

BKS Iyengar adjusts left armpit chest to bring purity to the right armpit chest.

BKS Iyengar adjusts left armpit chest in Trikonasana to bring purity to the right armpit chest: The Dalai Lama Speaks – Paths To Happiness. 11-20-2010

“The projection of the student’s left armpit chest in Utthita Hasta Padasana fostered saucha, purity, because it allowed the blood to flow — like ‘taking a bath.’ [By contrast, because the student’s right side of the chest faced the floor, the lack of blood flow was taken to be] a sign of a-saucha, impurity, because it remained ‘unbathed.’ [After Guruji Iyengar rotated the student’s right armpit chest forward and up] to bring saucha, the right chest achieved santosha, contentment, [and was then able to proclaim], ‘Now I am happy here,’ because the right chest, as well as the left, has been ‘bathed’ with oxygenated blood.”[51]

Similarly, focusing attention on a particular area of the body in asana practice is dharana, concentration; maintaining and spreading that awareness in an unbroken flow evolves into dhyana, meditation.[52] However, any non-holistic approach automatically conflates the step-by-step process of learning physical postures with an exclusive emphasis on physicality itself — as expressed in the maxim, “by the body for the body.” But physical practice is a beginning, not an end. Whereas we may view knowledge of the body as both sophisticated and subtle, yogins consider it gross when compared to knowledge of the mind. Even if we begin practicing a few asanas to keep us healthy when young, spirituality becomes increasingly more important as we become middle-aged adults who seek relief from suffering, or contemplate our own death. For example, while many pre-teen girls take gymnastic classes to develop strength and coordination, 50-year old women have different needs. That’s why we practice “by the body for the mind.”

It has been the life work of B.K.S. Iyengar to restore asana to its rightful place in yogic practice. He has challenged the notion that asana is only a physical preparation for meditation by demonstrating that right action in asana reveals the infinite within. It’s what Patanjali calls ananta samapattibhyam — the assumption of the eternal form when asana is mastered, the “vastness within” that is synonymous with the ability of purusha to abide in his sva-rupa (own form), the goal of yoga:[53]

PYS II.47 Perfection in asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless, and the ananta [infinite being within] samapattibhyam [is reached].


Appendix: Source Texts of Asana, Mudra & Bandha

(Pranayama omitted)

Patanjali Yoga Sutra

none

 

Vyasa Bhashya on Yoga Sutra

 

Buddha

Buddha sitting in Padmasana ca. 480 C.E., Ajanta Cave No. 20: photo © Linda G. Swaty 2011

Sitting                       Padmasana, Virasana, Bhadrasana [Baddha Konasana], Swastikasana, Dandasana

Supported                 Sopashraya

Restorative                Paryankasana [Hariharananda: Savasana]

Unknown                 Krounchasana, Hasti-nisadana, Ustra-nisadana, Sama-samsthana

 

Hatha Yoga Pradipika

King Bhagiratha performs Vrksasana as penance: Descent of the Ganga, Mahabalipuram ca. 7th c. C.E. columbia.edu

King Bhagiratha performs Vrksasana as penance: Descent of the Ganga, Mahabalipuram ca. 7th c. C.E.: photo by columbia.edu

Sitting                       Swastikasana, Padmasana, Siddhasana, Bhadrasana [Baddha Konasana], Virasana, Gomukhasana, Simhasana

Hand balance            Kukkutasana, Mayurasana

Forward extension   Paschimottanasana, Dhanurasana [refers to either Akarna Dhanurasana or backbend Padangustha Dhanurasana], Kurmasana, Uttana Kurmasana

Twist                        Paripurna Matsyendrasana [Matsyasana], Baddha Padmasana

Restorative                Savasana

Inversion                  Viparita Karani mudra

Mudra & Bandha   Mahamudra, Mulabandha, Uddiyana Bandha, Jalandhara Bandha, Maha Bandha, Maha Vedha, Vajroli, Shakti Chalana

 

Gheranda Samhita

asana practice ca. 1820

Mughal painting of asanas including yogin hanging upside down, ca. 1820 British Museum, London

Adds to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika:

Sitting                       Vajrasana, Mandukasana [Vajrasana variation], Matsyasana

Standing                   Vrksasana

Backbend                 Shalabhasana, Dhanurasana [GS II.41 designates as Ustrasana], Bhujangasana

 


Bibliography

B.K.S. Iyengar, “Adaptations of Postures from Yoga 90”, A Teacher’s Exchange Spiral Bound Program Guide, IYNAUS, 1996.

B.K.S. Iyengar, “Asana: Physical, Mental, or Spiritual Practice?,” Astadala Yogamala v.2, Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 2001.

B.K.S. Iyengar, “Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga,” Astadala Yogamala v.2, Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 2001

B.K.S. Iyengar, “Sri Yoga Vidya Yantra,” Astadala Yogamala v.8, Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 2008.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life, Emmaus: Rodale Press, 2005.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the YogaSutras of Patanjali, San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1993.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, New York: Schocken Books, rev. 1979.

Elise Miller, “B.K.S. Iyengar Talks About the Sutras,” Yoga Journal #57, July-August, 1984.

Francie Ricks, ed., Walking with Mr. Iyengar: Teachers’ Notes and Transcriptions from Yoga ‘90, Los Angeles: BKS Iyengar Yoga Association of Southern California, 1991.

Swami Hariharananda Aranya, Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali, Albany: SUNY Press, 1983.

Swami Veda Bharati (formerly Pandit Usharbudh Arya), Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Vol.2, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2004.

British Museum: Mughal yogin painting ca. 1820: <http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?partid=1&assetid=418747&objectid=3058327&gt;

Satischandra Chatterjee & Dhirendramohan Datta, An Introduction to Indian Philosophy, Calcutta: Calcutta University Press, 1984 [8th ed.].

Raja Choudhury, Yoga: Aligning to the Source, Delhi: Public Service Broadcasting Trust, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOt8WT9hn3U#t=20&gt;

Carl W. Ernst, “A Case Study of Bahr al-Hayat,” Freer and Sackler Galleries: Yoga and Visual Culture: An Interdisciplinary Symposium, November 22, 2013: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTmsccrXoSU&list=PLC8Yzyqd-urBN0GhecAovLvE1jh7PrNH-&gt; <http://www.asia.si.edu/explore/yoga/ocean-of-life.asp&gt;

Georg Feuerstein, Yoga, The Technology of Ecstasy, Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1989.

Srinivasa Iyangar, The Hathayogapradipika of Svatmarama with Commentary Jyotsna of Brahmananda, Madras: Adyar Library and Research Center, The Theosphical Society, 1893. Revised 1972.

Richard King, Orientalism and Religion: Postcolonial theory, India and ‘the mystic East,’ London: Routledge, 1999. Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2001. <http://foldxx.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/orientalism-and-religion-post-colonial-theory-india-and-the-mystic-east.pdf&gt;

James Mallinson, “From Tapas to Hard Yoga: The History of the Asanas of Hatha Yoga,” Freer and Sackler Galleries: Yoga and Visual Culture: An Interdisciplinary Symposium, November 22, 2013: <www.youtube.com/watch?v=wl_ZXBMpKXU&list=PLC8Yzyqd-urBN0GhecAovLvE1jh7PrNH-&index=8>

A. Parthasarathy, Choice Upanishads, Mumbai 2001.

<http://www.celextel.org/upanishads&gt;

Gabriel Pradipika, Hathayogapradipika <http://www.sanskrit-sanscrito.com.ar/en/hatha-yoga-pradipika-asana/622&gt;

Ronald Steiner, Hathayogapradipika <http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.ashtangayoga.info/source-texts/hatha-yoga-pradipika-svatmarama/&gt;

Swami Swarupananda, Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, (orig. 1909). Reprinted 2000.

Pancham Sinh, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Delhi: Sri Satguru Publ., (Allahabad, 1915). Reprinted 1984. <https://archive.org/details/HathaYogaPradipika-SanskritTextWithEnglishTranslatlionAndNotes&gt;

S.C. Vasu, The Gheranda Samhita: A Treatise on Hatha Yoga, Delhi: Sri Satguru Publ. Reprinted 1986. <http://hinduonline.co/DigitalLibrary/SmallBooks/GherandaSamhitaSanEng.pdf&gt;

S.C. Vasu, The Siva Samhita, Delhi: Sri Satguru Publ. Reprinted 1984.

<http://nitayoga.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Yoga-Shiva-Samhita.pdf&gt;

<http://www.yogastudies.org/wp-content/uploads/Shiva_Samhita.pdf&gt; [English with omitted text]

Vivekananda, The Yogas and Other Works, NY: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1953.

<http://www.vivekananda.net/PDFBooks/RajaYoga1920.pdf&gt;

<http://shardsofconsciousness.com/user/sites/shardsofconsciousness.com/files/ebooks/RajaYoga_Vivekananda.pdf&gt;

 

Author Transcriptions of Iyengar Yoga Classes & Demonstrations:

B.K.S. Iyengar & H.H. The Dalai Lama, Paths to Happiness: Lecture Demo 11-20-10, New Delhi. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOvDbJV-_60&gt;

B.K.S. Iyengar, “Astanga Yoga and Iyengar Yoga,” 9-27-05 AM Asana Intensive Class, Estes Park.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Depression Q & A 9-29-05, Estes Park.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Viparita Karani Q & A 9-29-05, Estes Park.

B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga ‘93 Invocation 8-7-93, Ann Arbor.

Geeta S. Iyengar, Asana 5-23-96 AM Class, Estes Park.

Prashant S. Iyengar, “Breath Lacks Delimitation & Generates Movement,” 7-30-09 AM Pranayama, Pune.

Prashant S. Iyengar, Guru Purnima Address 7-2-04, Pune.


Footnotes

[1]         Swami Hariharananda Aranya, Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali, SUNY Press, 1983: VB II.46 Vyasa’s sitting asanas are Padmasana, Virasana, Bhadrasana [Baddha Konasana], and Swastikasana. Please refer to the Appendix for the entire list of asanas, mudras, and bandhas in the various texts cited.

Srinivasa Iyangar, The Hathayogapradipika of Svatmarama with Commentary Jyotsna of Brahmananda, Adyar Library and Research Center, The Theosphical Society, Madras, 1893, rev. 1972:

HYP I.33 Shiva taught 84 asanas. Of these the first four being essential ones, I am going to explain them here. (Padmasana, Virasana, Bhadrasana [Baddha Konasana], Swastikasana)

[2]         S.C. Vasu, The Gheranda Samhita: A Treatise on Hatha Yoga, Sri Satguru Publ., Delhi repr. 1986:

GS II.1 There are 84 hundred thousand asanas described by Shiva. The asanas are as many in number as there are number of species of living creatures in this universe. [Note 1 lakh = 100,000 in Indian numeracy.]

[3]       http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tirumalai_Krishnamacharya [Retrieved 1-2014.]

[4]         B.K.S. Iyengar, “Astanga Yoga and Iyengar Yoga,” 9-27-05 AM Asana Intensive Class, Estes Park. +20:15 Author transcription.

[5]         A.G. Mohan, Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings, Shambhala, Boston, 2010. [Wikipedia citation retrieved 1-2014]

A.G. Mohan (tr.), Yoga Yajnavalkya, Svastha Yoga, 2013. Some Western scholars date Yoga Yajnavalkya much later. It emphasizes pranayama, pratyahara, and dharana, as well as nadis, vayus, and mahabhutas. An apparently different Sage Yajnavalkya (ca. 850 B.C.E.) also authored the oldest Upanisad, the Brihad-Aranyaka Upanisad (13th-6th c. B.C.E.), a discourse about Brahman. [Retrieved from Wikipedia 1-2014.]

[6]         The word guru means “the one who removes darkness” of ignorance and false identification with body, mind and ego. See PYS II.5: Avidya [spiritual ignorance] is mistaking the transient for the permanent, the impure for the pure, pain for pleasure and the non-self for the Self (and vice versa).

[7]         The spate of English translations of yogic texts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries probably had more to do with the newly acquired press and concurrent British interest in Indian philosophy than any contemporary authorship, as even late yogic texts predated printing by several hundred years. Printing was introduced to India by Christian missionaries in coastal areas starting in the 16th century: Goa (west) 1556; Cochin (south) 1579; Bombay (west) 1674; Tranquebar & Madras (east) 1712 & 1751; Calcutta (northeast) 1780 first newspaper. First English translations include Charles Wilkins: Bhagavad Gita (1785); Nobin Candra Paul: Treatise on Yoga Philosophy (1850); and James Ballantyne: The Aphorisms of the Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali, with Illustrative Extracts from the Commentary by Bhoja Raja (1852).

[8]         This practitioner speculates that the need for secrecy prevented the corruption and dilution of the art of yoga. Although enthusiastic beginners often want to share what they have learned, it takes at least 10-15 years of practice and teaching to teach others both safely and effectively. It is comparable to the lengthy process a music student must go through to learn the fundamentals of music before applying them as a successful concert artist.

[9]         S.C. Vasu, The Siva Samhita, Sri Satguru Publ., Delhi reprinted 1984. SS III.11, 13

[10]       Prashant S. Iyengar, Guru Purnima Address, 7-2-04. Author notes.

[11]       B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life, Emmaus: Rodale Press, 2005. p. 69-70

[12]       Prashant S. Iyengar, Guru Purnima Address, 7-2-04. Author notes: “If the goal of a ‘professional’ yoga teacher is to expand clientele, it [becomes] a business, not a profession.”

[13]       In 2002 our students were unable to find the Hatha Yoga Pradipika for purchase in the U.S.

[14]       In 2011 74% of Indians were literate. Yet, one third of the world’s illiterates lived in India. [2005]

Country Literacy
1500 India 02%
England 10%
1700 England 47%
1800 India 03%
England 52%
US 50%
1881 India 03%
US 80%
1947 India 12%
2003 US 97%
2011 India 74%

 

[15]       Brahmananda Jyotsna I.14 The various standard books on yoga are… for gurus to use as guide-books to regulate their pupil’s training. In hatha yoga… it is absolutely necessary to have a guru, who has passed successfully through the course, who can see clearly through the system, and observe the effects of the various processes and modify them accordingly.

[16]       Francie Ricks, ed., Walking with Mr. Iyengar: Teachers’ Notes and Transcriptions from Yoga ‘90, BKS Iyengar Yoga Association of Southern California, 1991. p. 18

Geeta S. Iyengar, Asana 5-23-96 AM Class: Urdhva Dhanurasana. Author notes: “Guruji did not say, ‘Let me create.’ It came to him when he saw where people were suffering, where they had a problem. He says, ‘If this person complains, then I have to try.’ [Why] do you apply your method? Why don’t you respect what your guru has given you — ‘These are the poses which will bring recovery’? Just to show off that you can do something different? [Can’t you teach] our simple way, just say, ‘Do this, do this’?”

[17]       Because of guna-parinama, the gunas are always in a constant state of flux. Changing states mask their permanence; they are neither born nor die. Only when they have been reabsorbed back into mula-prakrti from whence they have come, do they neither manifest nor continue to mutate. See Samkhya Cosmogeny in Asana at https://yogastlouisblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/samkhya-cosmogeny-in-asana/

[18]       B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga ‘93 Invocation 8-7-93. Author onsite notes: fluctuating mind = citta vrttis of PYS I.2

[19]       B.K.S. Iyengar, “Astanga Yoga and Iyengar Yoga,” 9-27-05 AM Asana Intensive Class, Estes Park. +20:15 Author transcription.

[20]       B.K.S. Iyengar, “Adaptations of Postures from Yoga 90”, A Teacher’s Exchange Spiral Bound Program Guide, IYNAUS, 1996. P.1 This practitioner has personally seen yoga student injuries caused by these immature teaching modifications.

rtambhara prajna: rta-a-bhara. rta = sacred or pious action, divine law or truth, eternal order; bhara = maintaining, bearing.

B.K.S. Iyengar, “Sri Yoga Vidya Yantra,” Astadala Yogamala v.8, Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 2008, p. 297. Bearing divine truth in one’s self, citta becomes aware of purusa and Isvara.

[21]       The “junior” teachers at RIMYI — most of whom have taught for over 15 years — are often corrected in the middle of class by Guruji Iyengar or Geetaji. This level of supervision adds immeasurable depth to their teaching.

[22]       Francie Ricks, ed., Walking with Mr. Iyengar: Teachers’ Notes and Transcriptions from Yoga ‘90, BKS Iyengar Yoga Association of Southern California, 1991. p. 8

[23]       B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the YogaSutras of Patanjali, HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1993. P.95 PYS I.48-50;

[24]       As we have seen, Patanjali’s definition of yoga is the absence of movement in the consciousness. When that occurs, the yogin grasps that he is purusa, the Self, and “that’s all.” There is no further theological speculation.

[25]       Richard King, Orientalism and Religion: Postcolonial theory, India and ‘the mystic East,’ London: Routledge, 1999. Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2001. P. 135: The tenet of Advaita (non-dual) Vedanta, “All is Brahman (sarvam brahma asti),” has come to dominate both Indian thought in general and Hindu theology in particular due, in part, to Vivekananda’s persuasive advocacy at the end of the nineteenth century and its subsequent adoption by the swaraj [self-rule] independence movement of the twentieth century.

Vivekananda, “The Atman: Brooklyn 2-2-1896 Lecture,” The Yogas and Other Works, NY: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1953. 2nd ed. P. 310: However, there is a widespread acceptance of diversity within Hinduism, which includes dualist Hindu temple worship. This reflects what Vivekananda also said: “Most Indians are dualists,” believing man and God are separate.

[26]       The metaphoric abode of Shiva is also the target for his rising consort Shakti [HYP III.111]: The seat of Shiva is between the eyebrows, and the mind becomes absorbed there. This condition (in which the mind is thus absorbed) is known as turya, and death has no access there. [HYP IV.48] Siva-sthanam is the Shiva-abode at the bhruvor-madhye (middle eyebrows) [BJ III.24] where the Rudra granthi (at the ajna chakra) is pierced by Shakti at the highest stage [HYP IV.76].

[27]       B.K.S. Iyengar, Viparita Karani Q & A 9-29-05, Estes Park. Author transcription: “You cannot conquer death, but you need not suffer ill health, and your life may be prolonged. There is an inner meaning, not a surface meaning, that when life is prolonged, death is delayed.” B.K.S. Iyengar also compared the value of Viparita Karani in facing death to the divine eye that Krishna granted Arjuna [BG XI.8]: “The divine eye made Arjuna less nervous…. [It] strengthen[s] the nerves of the unconscious mind to enable it to remain calm to bear the vision of the light of the soul when it flashes.”

[28]       Georg Feuerstein, Yoga, The Technology of Ecstasy, Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1989. p. 42

[29]       B.K.S. Iyengar & H.H. The Dalai Lama, Paths to Happiness: Lecture Demo 11-20-10, New Delhi. Author transcription. +28:30: B.K.S. Iyengar explicates on the relationship of vritti – nirodhah to the various aspects of ashtanga yoga, in association with the evolutes of prakrti: “Although yoga starts from the Self and extends towards the external frontier of the skin, actual practical yoga starts from the skin. It touches the karmendriyas through yama and the jnanendriyas through niyama. Then snayu – vritti – nirodhah [muscles, fascia, tendons – dysfunction – eradicated] through asana, prana [energy]– vritti – nirodhah through pranayama, mano [mind] – vritti – nirodhah through pratyahara [withdrawal of senses], buddhi [intellect] – vritti – nirodhah through dharana [concentration], and ahamkara [ego] – vritti – nirodhah through dhyana [meditation] to experience the state of the Self.”

[30]       B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the YogaSutras of Patanjali, HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1993. P. 78-79

[31]       B.K.S. Iyengar, “Asana: Physical, Mental, or Spiritual Practice?,” Astadala Yogamala v.2, Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 2001, P. 91 Transcript of 12-25-76 Panchagani Lecture.

[32]       Vivekananda, “Raja Yoga: The First Steps,” The Yogas and Other Works, NY: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1953. 2nd ed. [orig. 1896] P. 586-7

[33]       Vivekananda’s objections may have reflected a perception of the body that preexist our current Western viewpoint, the need both to distinguish Vedanta from competing schools and to distinguish between religion and philosophy in the West, and his personal mission to establish a world religion.

Swami Vivekananda did favor psychologically-oriented asana over physically-oriented calisthenics. However, as a renunciant, he was probably influenced by Indian myths that attribute the greed for immortality to unethical and ignorant character flaws, similar to the greed for wealth in the West. There are also Hatha Yoga mudras that the Victorians thought sexually vulgar, such as Vajroli, that contemporary commentators have interpreted less literally, with greater nuance. (See also the subsequent discussion about yama and niyama.) This was very different from the environment in the U.S. where Puritan prohibitions against play had been gradually supplanted by the idea of exercise compatible with Christianity (thus the beginning of the YMCA); where immigrant German gymnastics and Swedish therapeutic exercise had been absorbed into American culture; and where leisure time had increased due to industrialization and urbanization. All these events had resulted in the demand for universal education (including physical education) that did not exist in colonial India — which was primarily provincial and agricultural. Although asana-as-exercise has value, how important could it have been to those working as subsistence agricultural laborers compared to those working in a factory or at a desk?

Secondly, as a non-dual Vedantin, Vivekananda dismissed the competing philosophical schools of Samkhya, Patanjali Yoga, and the Purva (“early”) Mimamsa (who emphasize Vedic ritual to attain merit) — all of whom are dualist, and therefore, reject the Vedantic precept that “All is Brahman.” Because all schools have flourished concurrently, it has always been in the best interest of each school to refute the others. Nevertheless, all Indian schools believe in an eternal moral order (called rta in the Rg Veda) that must be understood to overcome suffering. Ignorance of this reality is what causes the bondage of rebirth and its suffering. Vedanta and Mimamsa depend primarily on the authority of the Vedas to understand the nature of God’s existence, similar to Western religious thought. In contrast, Samkhya and Yoga, without denying Vedic authority, depend on primarily direct perception, as does Western philosophy. For example, Patanjali’s astanga yoga does this by uprooting our impulses, clarifying our thoughts, and refining our actions to prevent future suffering. Nevertheless, despite sectarian differences, the distinction between religion and philosophy is not discrete: Brahmananda’s commentary on the niyamas of hatha yoga quotes the 14th century Sandilya Upanishad, which cites Vedic ritual as well as Vedantic philosophy. His commentary on Ishvara-puja, “Lord-worship,” is illustrated by worship of Vishnu or Shiva. His interpretation of siddhanta-sravana, “sutras of a specific school – learning,” is the study of Vedanta, as opposed to Patanjali Yoga Sutras.]

Thirdly, the early nineteenth century Transcendentalists, influenced by Hinduism, endorsed Universalism, finding truths common to all religions. Universalism, in turn, influenced Vivekananda, who saw Advaita Vedanta as the logical world religion, to the exclusion of other schools. Contemporary Western “spirituality” reflects this Universalist view, and is now considered an alternative to the specific tenets of the Abrahamic faiths.

[34]       Vivekananda, “Raja Yoga: Intro,” The Yogas and Other Works, NY: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1953. 2nd ed. [orig. 1896] P. 583

[35]       Vivekananda, “Raja Yoga: The First Steps,” The Yogas and Other Works, NY: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1953. 2nd ed. [orig. 1896] P. 587 He cites Shankaracharya’s commentary in the Svetasvatara Upanisad 2.8-9, which is also similar to Bhagavad Gita 5.27-8.

[36]       Vivekananda, “Raja Yoga: The First Steps,” The Yogas and Other Works, NY: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1953. 2nd ed. [orig. 1896] P. 664

[37]       PYS I.2 Yoga is chitta [consciousness] vrtti nirodha [movement-cessation].

VB I.2 When the veil of [tamas] is completely removed and the mind becomes completely sattvic [luminous], … that mind being influenced by a trace of rajas, the mind (inclines) towards dharma [duty], jnana [knowledge], vairagya [detachment], and aisvarya [sovereignty]. When the last vestige of rajas is entirely removed, the citta rests in itself, realizes the distinction between the buddhi [intellect] and purusa [spirit] and proceeds to dharma-mega, the samadhi of the highest wisdom.

[38]       When manas [mind] is stable, it no longer seeks “objects of the senses” which need be presented to buddhi [intelligence]. Manas, buddhi, and ahamkara [ego], are three functions housed within the citta [consciousness].

[39]       B.K.S. Iyengar, Depression Q & A 9-29-05, Estes Park +56:15 Author transcription: “Because the mind becomes weak, the stability of the body disappears. What is called ‘nervous breakdown’ in today’s language, [in] Patanjali’s time [was] ‘body shakes inside’ [angamejayatva].”

[40]       Swami Veda Bharati (formerly Pandit Usharbudh Arya), Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Vol.2, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 2004. P. 568-588: Discussion of PYS II.46-48. Vachaspati Misra cites similar seated poses from the Vasishta Samhita I.71-79.

[41]       PYS II.30 ahimsa [non-violence], satya [truth ], non-stealing, continence, non-possessiveness are the yama [restraints]. PYS II.32 sauca [cleanliness], santosa [contentment], self-discipline, self-study, and self-surrender to God are the niyama [observances].

Inclusion of yama and niyama in the HYP seems to contradict the tantric concept of inherent contentment that comes as a result of the control of prana in the body, as opposed to extrinsic restraint and discipline of yama and niyama. This practitioner finds the aspirational goals of yama and niyama helpful in overcoming obstacles.

[42]       B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life, Emmaus: Rodale Press, 2005.P. 250

[43]       PYS II.31 [Yamas are the] universal vows unconditioned by class, place, (or) time.

[44]       Brahmananda Jyotsna I.16. This practitioner believes that “thought, word, and deed” refers to yamas as universal vows that cannot be violated by oneself, by another as an agent of oneself, or even condoned, exactly as in PYS II.34.

B.K.S. Iyengar, “Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga,” Astadala Yogamala v.2, Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 2001, p. 137-145 Transcript of 8-29-87 London Lecture: Commentators on HYP I.16 list 10 yama and 10 niyama, which include all of Patanjali’s yama and niyama. Additional yamas: ksama [forgiveness], dhrti [endurance], daya (compassion], arjava [straight forwardness], mita-ahara [moderate diet], and sauca [purity]. Additional niyamas: dana [charity with devotion], hri [modesty], mati [discerning mind], japa [recitation of mantra], and huta [sacrifice].

[45]       Bhishnu Ghosh, Swami Yogananda’s younger brother, although primarily interested in wrestling and physical culture, helped Swami Shivananda design an asana program for his school. Ghosh himself thought yama and niyama were too difficult to follow for the common man. Bikram Choudhury was a student of Ghosh.

[46]       Although the British described the Bengalis as weak and passive compared to their muscular Victorian ideal, after the failed 1857 Revolt they recruited only loyal Sikhs for their army, excluding Hindus and Muslims, and discouraged indigenous martial sports in an effort to demilitarize Indian civilians and keep them passive. It did not work. Starting in 1890 the government schools then tried to depoliticize the growing nationalist movement, but it culminated in the bomb-making, political banditry, and assassination of British officials during the 1905-08 Swadeshi movement.

Vivekananda preached abhiti, fearlessness, in yoga, which later was used by Gandhi as a goal for his physical training to achieve non-violent resistance — as opposed to the violent resistance of the militaristic revolutionaries. Gandhi found that the true strength of “soul-force” in ahimsa was indispensable for attaining self-rule. His three campaigns, the Non-Cooperation Movement of 1920, the Salt March of 1930, and the Quit India Campaign of 1942, depended on satya-graha — the British colonizers “grasping-the-truth” that they were unwittingly obstructing what was best for both India and Great Britain. These principles were adopted a generation later by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

Richard King, Orientalism and Religion: Postcolonial theory, India and ‘the mystic East,’ 1999. p. 134: Recently, scholars have recast Gandhi’s role in terms of gender politics: Gandhi “inverted colonial presuppositions about Bengali effeminancy, otherworldly spirituality, and the passivity of the ascetic ethics of ahimsa.” His non-violent demonstrations “feminized the manly spirituality of Vedanta” to mobilize women, using the spinning wheel as a symbol of self-rule and passive satya-graha.

[47]       Prashant S. Iyengar, “Breath Lacks Delimitation and Generates Movement,” 7-30-09 AM Pranayama Class +29:50 – +43:00. Author transcription: “The body has exhibited an undue authority, claiming, ‘I am old, young, well, indisposed’ as the determinant of ‘what I can do, and how I can do it.’”

[48]       B.K.S. Iyengar & H.H. The Dalai Lama, Paths to Happiness: Lecture Demo 11-20-10, New Delhi. Author transcription. +32:30

[49]       PYS II.28 By dedicated practice of the yoganga ([eight] limbs of yoga), the impurities are destroyed and jnana (wisdom) radiates in viveka khyateh.

[50]       PYS II.48 From that arises immunity to the pairs of opposites.

[51]       B.K.S. Iyengar & H.H. The Dalai Lama, Paths to Happiness: Lecture Demo 11-20-10, New Delhi. Author transcription. +38:20-+40:20

[52]       B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the YogaSutras of Patanjali, HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1993. P. 150. Commentary on PYS II.46 cites PYS III.1-2: Fixing the consciousness on one point or region is dharana [concentration]. The uninterrupted flow of attention directed towards the same point or region is dhyana [meditation].

[53]       PYS I.3 Then the drasta [Seer] dwells in his svarupe [own state].

B.K.S. Iyengar, Depression Q & A 9-29-05, Estes Park. +59:30 Author transcription: “[In Brick Supported Savasana has] his [chest] gone to vastness? Is his chest fully opened? When the chest is opened… the lungs empty for the breath to occupy more space, without asking him to do deep breathing.”

Elise Miller, “B.K.S. Iyengar Talks About the Sutras,” Yoga Journal #57, July-August, 1984. P.31: “[Samadhi] comes to each and every one of us in a split second. Those who are intelligent can catch it.”

Prana & Prajna in the Yogic Path

Paraphrase of BKS Iyengar 2013 Guru Purnima Address — 22 July 2013

Transcribed by Bruce M. Roger

+6.45 Yoga practice conquers weakness..

The purpose of yoga practice is to purge the citta by conquering the weaknesses of greed, anger, and delusion: vitarkah himsadayah… pratipaksha-bhavanam [PYS II.34].[1] Yoga is a discipline that builds up from the instinctive weakness of vitarka and himsa to experience the intuitive and intellectual goal of emancipation.

[citta = consciousness; vitarkah himsa = negative thoughts of violence]

+8.10 Vyasa Purnima

Lord Visnu births Brahma while reclining on Ananta, the serpent couch.

Lord Visnu births Brahma while reclining on Ananta, the serpent couch. Denver Art Museum: Photo: Bruce M. Roger, August, 2010.

Today is Vyasa Purnima [the day that Sage Vyasa completed transcribing the Vedas from memory].[2] Vyasa was an incarnation of Lord Visnu. Vyasa, as the first guru, gained knowledge that was then heard by Ananta, the serpent couch on which Lord Visnu slept. Patanjali was, in turn, an incarnation of Ananta. The same Lord Visnu, through Vyasa, was the first commentator on the Yoga Sutra. That’s why we pay our respects to him today.

 

 

+11.15 Each Yoga Sutra chapter is defined by a path— bhakti karma jnana dhyana.

Chapter 1 of Patanjali Yoga Sutra: bhakti marga

Chapter 2: karma marga

Chapter 3: jnana marga

Chapter 4: dhyana marga

[paths of devotion, action, knowledge, meditation][3]

+11.50 Bhakti marga is total surrender to Isvara.

In the first chapter, concerning bhakti marga, Patanjali says, Isvara pranidhanat va. [PYS I.23][4]  Va means “or.” If you can’t devote yourself 100% to Isvara, Patanjali says, “I’ll give you other methods.” [See PYS I.32-40]

+12.40 Body is the prop of the Self.

The second chapter, on karma marga, begins with the body because we are just scratching the surface. Body is the prop of the Self; Self depends on the finite body — which is explained in the fourth chapter concerning dhyana marga. [PYS IV. 24-28]

[Self = purusa, the individuated soul, or Seer that cannot act]

+14.00 Right action starts with pratipaksha-bhavanam.  

Asana is positioning and repositioning to trace what is missing. [Right action starts with] vitarka-badhane pratipaksha-bhavanam [PYS II.33][5]. The power and feeling [bhavana] must be equal on the right and left sides. Bhavana is soothing. Badhana is painful. Everyone has one pain or another. Even good things are painful: parinama tapa samskara duhkha… vivekinah [PYS II.15].[6] Patanjali guides you on how to practice asana by studying the soothing effect on one side so that you may conquer the pain on the other side. Practice is sodhana kriya.

[pratipaksha = opposite side; sodhana kriya = purification action]

Patanjali says that action is vyuttana. Reaction is nirodha. Reflection is prasanta. Vyuttana citta, nirodha citta, and prasanta citta generate consciousness.[7] All three happen is a split second when practicing asana, pranayama, and meditation.

[vyutthana citta = outgoing mind; nirodha citta = restrained mind; prasanta citta = peaceful mind]

+16.20 Prana, mind, and intelligence are substances that flow…

Nothing can be done without the prop of the body. Body is prthvi tattva, which has an akara, a shape. Water, fire, and air are substances, not objects.[8] Their prana sakti, mano sakti, and vijnana sakti are substances that flow like mercury. You cannot grip prana, mind, or intelligence. They flow without interruption.

[sakti = power, faculty; prthvi tattva = earth principle]

+18.30 …within the banks of skin in asana.

While practicing asana, pranayama, and dhyana, don’t let your prana, mind, or intelligence erode the banks of your body like water erodes the banks of a brook. In Tadasana, if your thighs and ankles inadvertently turn outward, it is like a [meandering] brook that erodes the inner and outer banks from the ankles to the knees. Skin is a jnanendriya, an organ of sense perception, that guides contraction and extension. Don’t allow practice to erode the banks of your body, which is the skin.

Practice various asanas to make the prana and prajna flow within the banks of the skin. Don’t press the front thighs forward in Tadasana, else the energy hits only into the front thigh skin, but not the back thigh. Similarly, don’t stretch the back of the calf and not the front. The three substances — manas substance, buddhi substance, and ahamkara substance — must spread evenly throughout, inside and out, front and back.

[prana prajna = energy awareness; manas, buddhi, ahamkara = mind, intelligence, ego]

+21.50 …. Then observe the gunas and restrain the mind.

In Tadasana, when we mistakenly create hills and valleys in the body, the energy does not flow evenly.

[+22:50-26:05 Raya Uma Datta Tadasana Demo omitted][9]

Don’t act from the vyutthana citta. Instead, rethink, “What is restraint?” Restrain the action to observe the result, the reaction.[10] In each asana study which part is tamasic, dull, which part is sattvic [luminous, pure], and which part is rajasic [vibrant].[11]

+26.00 Mind is hooked either by the objects of the senses, or the Self.

If the mind is hooked by the objects of the jnanendriyas and karmendriyas, it is sambhoga, intercourse between the mind and the objects of the senses. The substance of the mind, which is hooked to the senses in bhoga, must be withdrawn, else you must forget jnana, dharana, and dhyana.

[jnanendriyas = organs of sense perception; karmendriyas = organs of action]

[bhoga = the undisciplined pursuit of the pleasures of the senses by the vyuttana citta; the antonym of yoga]

The same mind, when hooked to consciousness and Self, is emancipated. [PYS II.18][12] That’s why Patanjali said the effect of the asanas is the cessation of duality. [PYS II.48][13]

+28.05 When prana and prajna flow evenly throughout the entire body, ahamkara dissolves and only purusa remains….

Prana and prajna are substances that flow like mercury. When you stand on your head in Sirsasana, are the prana and prajna in the feet dormant, or as dominant as in the forearms? When prana and prajna  cover the entire bank of the body, illumination comes, and emancipation takes place.

+29.30 … which is samadhi in asana.

Patanjali says that svarupa-sunya [“devoid of nature”] is the effect of samadhi. [PYS I.43][14] Aham is Self that has no shape or form. In order to make you function, the nir-akara [form-less] Self takes the shape of akara to become aham-akara.[15] Aham-akara transforms itself into ahamkara, ego — or the personification of the true Self — takes the lead, and says, “I am doing. Me. Mine.” When prana and prajna are able to flow from head to toe, throughout the entire body without leaving any space, ahamkara dissolves and ceases to exist.[16] That is samadhi in asana. Samadhana citta means spreading the consciousness evenly throughout the entire body — harmoniously with balance, measure, and intelligence.[17]

[samadhana citta = composed, steadfast mind]

+32.05 Karma marga is discipline in asana.

The second chapter speaks of karma marga: kaya indriya suddhih asuddhi-ksayat tapasah [PYS II.43]. Kaya is the body. Indriya includes the senses of perception, mind, intelligence, and ahamkara. They are trained and disciplined through karma by asana and pranayama. That’s why it is called the karma marga.

+33.00 Jnana marga blends intellectual and emotional intelligence.

The third chapter is called vibhuti pada, or jnana, knowledge, or intelligence. When intellectual and emotional intelligence are blended together without deviation in the human being, he is called a saint.

+33.20 Dhyana marga — the fullness of purusa remains when ahamkara dissolves.

Then comes kaivalya pada, the fourth chapter, the experience of aloneness. It is dhyana marga because ahamkara has dissolved. When practicing asana and the ahamkara dissolves, and prana and prajna engulf the entire body and Self — your entire being — svarupa-sunya takes place. Because there is no ahamkara, you are in a state of kaivalya-avastha, aloneness. What is left is purusa. Purusa is samyoga, and samyoga is the end of yoga practice. Aloneness is fullness. Loneliness is emptiness. If you are lonely in yoga practice, you are empty. In a state of aloneness you are full of prana and prajna moving everywhere; there is no emptiness anywhere.

[kaivalya-avastha = absolute-aloneness state; samyoga = union]

+34.50 Make friends with the body, the temple of the Self, and keep it clean.

So, maitri karuna mudita upeksa…. [PYS I.33].[18]

[Karma marga:] As the body is the prop of the soul, let me be friendly [maitra] to the body, the temple of the Self. Let me keep the temple clean.

+35.25 Dhyana marga spreads prana and prajna to meditate in asana.

From that you move to dhyana marga. That’s why vibhuti pada [the third chapter] begins with dharana, dhyana, and samadhi — the dhyana margas: concentration, absorption, and total attentive awareness. Attention is concentration. Attentive awareness is meditation. Like light extending into the next room, the moment you spread prana and prajna beyond a single place to each and every place, you are meditating in the asana. It’s not physical yoga.

[dhyana = meditation]

+36.35 Silence citta with maitri karuna to allow citi, Self, to arise.

Dhyana marga[19] of the fourth chapter begins in the third chapter of vibhuti pada, where the intelligence is developed. Patanjali speaks of buddhi marga,[20] which is the same as dhyana marga. After attaining buddhi marga, citta marga is explained in the fourth chapter. Compared to manas, buddhi, and ahamkara, citta is more subtle. Citta has to be silenced so that citi, Self, arises. When you reach that level, tada drastuh svarupe – avasthanam, you are in a state of aloneness and free from contact of the body [PYS I.3].[21] That is why gladness has maitri karuna. Treat your body with compassionsadhana pada I.33. Dhyana will come to you because you include gladness. Enjoying it all is upeksa, indifference to all things. That is karuna.

[maitri karuna = friendliness, compassion]

+38.05 Pause to receive the action in the asana so that the moment does not move.

As you are listening quietly and receiving my words, receive the action in the asana. Digest the action. The moment you wait and pause, you are in the present and the moment does not move. Only when the moment transforms into movement is there past and future, as well as present. [PYS III.9; IV.12, 33][22]

+39.05 Prana and prajna spread together destroys impurity and lights jnana-dipti.

It is only possible to prevent the moment from [moving] when prana and prajna are interwoven when practicing asana. As the river has a bank, the inner skin is the bank of the being. The soul has to engulf the inner frontier, the inner bank of its existence. When this happens, you will be close to the effect of yoga, which is jnana-dipti, the lamp of knowledge, that glows from moment to moment, without fail. That is yoganganusthanat asuddhi-ksaye jnana-diptih aviveka-khyateh, uninterrupted flowing in sadhana, which is only possible when prana and prajna are [spread] together [PYS II.28].[23] If you practice like that, you will be close to spiritual samyoga [union].


[1]         PYS II.34 vitarkah himsadayah… duhkha ajnana ananta-phalah iti pratipaksha-bhavanam: Uncertain knowledge giving rise to himsa (violence), whether done directly or indirectly, or condoned, is caused by greed, anger or delusion and they are either mild, medium and intense in degree. It results in endless pain and ignorance. Through pratipaksha-bhavanam (introspection) comes the end of pain and ignorance.

Guruji will later explain how to apply pratipaksha-bhavanam to asana.

[2]         Guru Purnima is also known as Vyasa Purnima after Sage Vyasa, author of the epic Mahabharata, and compiler and editor of the Vedas and the Puranas.

[3]         The first three paths are common to all Indian philosophy. Dhyana marga is the hallmark of yoga. See B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1993. P. 226

[4]         PYS I.23 Or citta may be restrained by profound meditation on Isvara (and total surrender to him).

[5]         PYS II.33 “Improper thinking – counteract the opposite-cultivate”: The principles which are against yama and niyama are to be counteracted with right knowledge and awareness.

In this address, Guruji interprets the sutra in the context of performing asana: As part of the purification  process, asana reveals how to correct unintended harm to oneself. Ethical behavior requires searching — in a physically concrete way for the cause of the harm — the prati-paksa, opposite-side, wheither it be left versus right, inner versus outer, front versus back, or top versus bottom.

Badhana means pain… When there is pain here (on the left side of the neck and shoulder), pratipaksha-bhavanam: what is the bhavana, feeling, here (on the right side)?”

B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga ’90: 2nd North American Yoga Convention: Therapeutic Yoga Video#902

[6]         PYS II.15 A wise yogin knows that… even pleasant experiences are tinged with sorrow, and he remains aloof.

[7]         B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, HarperCollins, 1993. Table 10, P. 131

[8]         Water, fire, and air are substances, not objects: Along with earth, these elements have form; only space has no form other than the shape of its container, or more subtly, sound. They are symbolic rather than literal substances, e.g. fluidity as opposed to water as H2O. In that sense they certainly are not objects. The term “object” also is negatively associated with “objects of the senses” that draw the manas towards bhoga and away from yoga.

As all matter, these substances are comprised of gunas. Dasgupta defines guna as “the manner in which a substance reacts.” Although not everyone agrees, he describes them as “substantive entities and not abstract qualities (each quality is a unit of substance)” that are the very “bases of substantive matter.” Gunas are “our feelings…. Lower down the scale of evolution, the automatic reactions… are concomitant with… feelings which never rise to the level of knowledge.” [Surendranath Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy Vols. 1 Cambridge University Press, 1932 P. 242-43]

The Bhagavad Gita describes sattvic action as devoid of likes and dislikes, and without desire for fruit; rajasic action as with ego, with a wish to obtain desires, and with too much effort; tamasic action as caused by delusion, disregard of consequences that injure oneself as well as others. [BG XVIII.6-9]

[9]         Similar to 2011 Guru Purnima Address

[10]       Yamas, ethical precepts, are literally “restraints” that negate the vyuttana citta.

[11]       This implies that the senses lead us astray. Counter that tendency to gravitate towards rajas and tamas by seeking the purity of sattva in sodhana kriya.

[12]       PYS II.18 Nature and its three qualities of brilliance, action (kriya), and stability, and its evolutes, the elements (bhutas), the mind, senses of perception (jnanendriyas) and organs of action (karmendriyas), exist eternally to serve the Seer, for bhoga (enjoyment) or apavarga (emancipation).

[13]       PYS II.48 From that arises immunity to the pairs of opposites.

[14]       PYS I.43 In nirvitarka samapatti, citta has no form other than dhyeya, the object of meditation.

[15]       B.K.S. Iyengar, Yaugika Manas: Know and Realize the Yogic Mind, Mumbai: Yog, 2010. P. 14:

B.K.S. Iyengar distinguishes between the hyphenated “aham-akara” (the “I-form”) as the physical form of the jivatman, individual soul, whose purpose is to commune with purusa — the capital-S “Self,” as well as the objects of the world, versus the non-hyphenated “ahamkara” (the “I-maker”) which actually is the small-s “self” that has no form and impersonates purusa.

[16]       Depending on which model of prakrti one subscribes to, ahamkara either merges back into the buddhi, the individuated intelligence, or into the mahat, the universal intelligence from which it evolved.

[17]       B.K.S. Iyengar, Yaugika Manas: Know and Realize the Yogic Mind, Mumbai: Yog, 2010. P. 31

[18]       PYS I.33 Through cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy, and indifference respectively towards pleasure, pain, virtue and vice, citta becomes serene, benevolent and diffused like a calm lake.

[19]       Dhyana is synonymous with samadhi in older Upanisad texts: Edwin F. Bryant, The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali: A New Edition, Translation, and Commentary with Insights from the Traditional Commentators, 2009. P. 304

[20]       Dharana is bringing buddhi to a refined and tranquil steadiness. In dhyana it gets reabsorbed into citta: B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1993. P. 32

[21]       PYS I.3 Then the Seer dwells in his own state.

[22]       PYS IV.12 The existence of the past and the future is as real as the present. As moments roll into movements which have yet to appear as the future, the quality of knowledge in one’s intellect and consciousness is affected.

PYS IV.33       As the mutation of the gunas cease to function, time, the uninterrupted movement of moments, stops. The deconstruction of the flow of time is comprehensible only at this final stage of emancipation.

[23]       PYS II.28 By dedicated practice of the yoganga, the asuddhi (impurities) are destroyed and jnana (wisdom) radiates in viveka khyateh.

Sadhaka: the yoga of B.K.S. Iyengar [film]

This is a long trailer for a feature documentary film about the life and teaching of BKS Iyengar. It is a deeply moving story of how BKS Iyengar Yoga has touched a master sculptor, an addict, and an orphan in India. Their suffering, says BKS Iyengar, has guided them, like a thorn in the side, to improve their intelligence.

This link is to an online campaign to raise funds to finish editing the film. Proceeds from sales and screenings will go to BKS Iyengar’s foundation for Bellur Village schools and hospital, where he was born in South India:

Sadhaka: the yoga of B.K.S. Iyengar [film]