Tag Archives: india

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]


Mung Dal Soup


[Tiki Misra’s Mung Dal: Photos by Linda Swaty, 2012]

About Mung Dal Soup

Mung dal soup, as my family will tell you, is far and away my favorite food. I’d eat it every single day if I could — and have done so in India. It doesn’t take much more than that and a couple of hot chappatis to make me happy.

Dal is the Hindi term for dried beans. Mung dal (Phaseolus aureus or radiatus) is the split and husked version of the small green whole mung bean, that is the size of a BB. (Whole mung beans are commonly used in the U.S. for bean sprouts.) Mung dal is yellow, flat, and oval-shaped, about 1/8” long. It is the most popular dal in North India, cooks relatively quickly, and is easy to digest.

My approach to cooking Indian food has changed over the last thirty years: When I was in my twenties and thirties, I was attracted to the pungency of chili peppers. I gradually eliminated them from my diet as I began learning about the ayurvedic properties of spices, and how to finely calibrate seasoning to benefit one’s constitution.

The six basic tastes are sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. The artful combination of these five tastes produces depth of flavor. Mung dal is primarily sweet and secondarily astringent. Among the countless ways to prepare mung dal, varying the way it is spiced tempers these tastes and their effects on body and mind.

Mung dal calms vata and pitta.[1] Its sweet taste, which consists of the earth and water elements, tends to cool and aggravate kapha. But, its kapha nature is offset by warming spices such as cumin, mustard seed, ginger root, and black pepper. The lightness and dryness of its mild astringency, a combination of air and earth, aggravates vata. However, the heaviness and oiliness of the salt and the baghar — as well as additional water — counteract vata. For those with a pitta constitution, additional coriander powder and coriander leaf (cilantro in Spanish) offset the pungent ginger, garlic, and mustard seed, cooling it even more. Because the pungency of onion is moderated by sautéing, it can be substituted for the hotter garlic.

Here’s two recipes that use the same spices. As Tiki repeatedly emphasized, this is just the way she made it for us on one specific day. I, too, vary my recipes according to the desired taste, time available, and ingredients on hand. It’s rarely the same.

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What is Alignment? Transcending Duality Through Asana


[photo: Shiva Nataraja, 12th c. Chola Empire, St. Louis Art Museum. Photo by Bruce M. Roger, 2010.]

©2012 Bruce M. Roger

We are all bound by duality. We express likes and dislikes, we seek pleasure to avoid pain, and we perceive the body and mind as separate entities. In the Bhagavad Gita, before going into battle, Lord Krishna advises the warrior Arjuna to remain detached and not succumb to duality, else it will bind him to impermanence and impurity:

Treating alike pleasure and pain, gain and loss, victory and defeat, then get ready for battle. You will not lack merit.[1] [Bhagavad Gita II.38]

Although Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras state that the dualities cease when the asana is mastered [PYS II.48], only when I started practicing the Iyengar method was I able to reconcile how correctly practicing asana could transcend duality. B.K.S. Iyengar’s description of the joy of practice gave a voice to my feelings:

“In some postures, we lose the sense of duality and we live in peace, in a joy we cannot express in words. Even if we have to struggle for the rest of our lives to feed that joy once more, it is worth doing.”[2]

As I continued to study Iyengar yoga, I began to understand that the physical techniques of asana and pranayama served a greater intention. A building’s structure is not an end in of itself, but serves its architecture; likewise, physical alignment serves the ultimate the goal of Self-realization — every Indian’s goal.

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India: The Next Generation


[photo: Sara Swaty Roger holding an icon of Saraswati, 2009]

©2012 Bruce M. Roger

“Prepare for landing at Mumbai International Airport.” Our daughter Sara, who was now awake and jubilant, gave me a high-five, “We did it!” Sara, who was named for the Indian goddess of music and education, Saraswati, had grown up reading the mythic tales of India, and practicing Iyengar yoga with us at home. We were not surprised when she asked us in 2009 if she could study at the University of Hyderabad for a semester. First, however, Sara and I planned to spend time visiting the cave temple sites of Ajanta and Ellora, and then two weeks in Pune, while I attended class at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute.

Our immediate task was to find a taxi to Pune, a three and a half hour ride. A passenger shared the name of a taxi service as we exited the airport. Amongst the hundreds of people trying to get the attention of passengers streaming by, I saw a tout with the taxi sign and negotiated a price. All of this was on the fly: I’d never taken a taxi before, only had a vague idea of the price, and was trying to explain to Sara how to do it at the same time. Fortunately, she picked up on everything.

It was much faster and easier — if not cheaper — than fourteen years before. The taxi was air-conditioned, unlike the bus; the road had expanded from two lanes to an expressway; people had upgraded from two-wheelers to cars. And since everyone used cell phones — there were 525 million of them in 2009, owned by 44% of the population — we had our host explain to the taxi driver how to find the apartment.

After settling down in our apartment in Pune, Sara was ready to venture out on her own. She had seen me negotiate rikshaw prices and explain destinations by landmark. I walked her down to the rikshaw stand at the end of the block. She explained in pigeon English that she wanted to go to the museum. The rickshaw-wallah set the meter. And off she went.




Design of the Yoga St. Louis Studio

©2012 Bruce M. Roger


[Yoga St. Louis front door]

The design of our Yoga St. Louis studio is based on the philosophy of yoga and influenced by Zen temple architecture. I was moved by the simple and restrained Zen temples that used allusion, without ostentation, to attain serenity.

Most of you have noticed our front door. The basic concept was derived from an old door in a Kyoto Zen dormitory, similar to a Japanese farm door that used horizontal slat reinforcements below its window. Our slats are purely decorative and form eight spaces, symbolizing the eight angas, limbs, of Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga. The door bell itself was a gift from a young monk, Hisao Nagai, who lived in that dorm and took me on a temple tour of Kyoto.

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Welcome to India

“You shouldn’t be here,” BKS Iyengar muttered bluntly. My heart sank. Welcome to Iyengar yoga.

It was nine AM , January 2, 1984. Geeta Iyengar had read through our medical forms with a bare-chested, BKS Iyengar looking over her shoulder, hands on his hips. My first impression was that Guruji was… short.


[Left to right: Sharat Arora (back to camera); unknown student in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana; BKS Iyengar. Photo by Bruce Roger: RIMYI, Pune, July 1986]

Guruji, noting my sciatica, had pulled me out of our intensive group and put me in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, with my heel up on the Trestler. He looped a rope around the root of my thigh, and put a weight on it. When that wasn’t enough, he stood on it. It was painful but I said nothing. He was intense and put everything on the line, unlike yoga in the U.S.

I was suffering not only from sciatica, but also from the exhausting two-day journey, jet-lag, and culture shock. The farthest I had ever been from home was Mexico.

I had arrived two nights before. The Bombay airport was hot, dirty, noisy, and very crowded — at three in the morning. A quarter of a century later, my twenty-year-old daughter Sara innocently asked, after exiting the same — but now air conditioned — immigration hall, “What are all these people doing here?” I laughingly responded, “Welcome to India!”


[Sara Swaty Roger (left); Bruce Roger (right). Photo by Sara Swaty Roger: Pune, July 2009]

©2012 Bruce M. Roger


Here’s some of Sara’s photos:





Pilgrimage to RIMYI

©2012 Bruce M. Roger


Photo: Kailasha Temple: Shiva’s Abode, Ellora Cave #16.  The culmination of the rock-cut architecture (756-783 CE). It’s monolithic structure is carved out of a solid rock mass, from the top down and the outside in, and made to look like a free-standing temple structure. [Bruce M. Roger, 2009]

Life, as a pilgrimage from birth to death, has many stations.” So begins Stella Kramrisch’s 1946 landmark work, The Hindu Temple, an explication of ancient Sanskrit architectural texts. For aspirants unable to reach self-realization through Vedanta, she notes that pilgrimages to sacred sites are an alternate path to moksha, liberation, cited in the Agni-purana. Still, like yoga, pilgrimage requires control of the mind and body, spiritual knowledge (vidya), and the practice of austerities (tapas).

India is more than a modern political nation. It is a spiritual network of sacred sites, called tirthas, that forms a sacred geography. Tirtha comes from the root “to cross over” — both in the literal sense, such as a river, but also in the spiritual sense, such as “crossing,” as in its cognate, transcending, to be closer to God. Although I have enjoyed visiting many sacred sites over the last three decades, my primary purpose for going to India has always been to study at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, which has become a sacred destination for many Iyengar yoga students worldwide.


Photo: Bruce Roger (left) garlands Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar during July, 1986 Guru Purnima Celebration at RIMYI. John Evans (center) garlands Geeta S. Iyengar (not in photo). Prashant Iyengar in background.

My pilgrimages to study at RIMYI have marked my different stations in life — my formal initiation into yoga, marriage, fatherhood, and family life. On my second trip to India, my prior host, my friend’s father-in-law, predicted, “First you came alone, and now with your wife. Later you will come with your children, and then grandchildren.” I only understood the full depth of his sentiment in retrospect.

Each trip to RIMYI has challenged me with a new set of tasks: the first to learn yoga, the second to learn how to teach, the third to learn therapeutics, the fourth to introduce my daughter to India, and the fifth to absorb the deeper spiritual truths with my wife, Linda. These missions have gradually revealed themselves over a long period of time, and only upon sufficient reflection.

In the pilgrimage of life, yoga links austerities (tapas) to the liberation (moksha) cited in the sacred texts: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras state that purification of body by self-discipline (tapas), of speech by Self-study (svadhyaya), and of mind by dedication to God (Ishvara pranidhana) reduces the causes of suffering (kleshas), chief of which is spiritual ignorance (avidya). Yoga purifies the body and mind akin to burning off the fog that obscures the sun, so that the light of the soul may shine through. Ethical and disciplined yoga practice reduces the kleshas and leads to samadhi, spiritual union. [PYS II.1-3] The highest level of samadhi, in turn, leads to moksha, liberation from the bondage of worldly pleasure and pain.

As pilgrims circumambulate the holy tirtha with only the name of God on their lips, so do yoga practitioners circumambulate the globe to purify their consciousness through study at RIMYI.