It often seems that there are as many different kinds of yoga as there are cells in our body. It can be very confusing. When Mr. Iyengar is asked to define what he teaches, he often demurres. He says something to the effect of, well, he just teaches Yoga.
But that is a bit misleading because if you have ever taken a class with anyone other than a certified Iyengar teacher, you know yoga can be very, very different.
Recently, Mr. Iyengar gave a series of interviews on his own method, and how it fits within the greater context of yoga. I found it absolutely fascinating, and relevant to all practitioners.
In his unique style, Mr. Iyengar explains aspects of the practice even the most dedicated yogis might not be aware of. Here are some points that he made:
“Whatever the stye of yoga may-be, one experiences a transformation in one’s life’s style. My way of practice is not different to others except in the alignment of the motor nerves with the sensory nerves. This needs intellectual reflection and skillful actions without distorting even the minutest part of the anatomical structure of the body, so that the bones, the joints, the muscles, fibres, the energy, the mind and the intellegence are made to function simulateously with balance and harmony so that the life force as well as the core touches all the concerned layers of the body. ”
What is the importance of precision and alignment within Iyengar Yoga?
“My Friend, alignment leads to precision and precision is a divine state where one experiences the cosmic force mingling with the individual force. In short, precision is the meeting place of the individual soul with the Universal Soul.”
Can you describe the function of the props that are central to the teachings of asana?
“Use of props…is not central in my practice or teaching as an alternative method of mastering the asana. As true teachers are rare, I evolved these props to guide the doers to get the sense of right direction while performing the asana as the props to not allow mistakes to happen and the practitioners cannot go wrong in their practice. Props are self-help and self-guides for self-practice.
Secondly, (props help) those who…cannot perform the asana independently. As the hospitals have Intensive Care Units which monitor the body functions, these props monitor the body of the practitioners by not allowing wrong practices to occur so that the practitioner experiences a sense of well-being, comfort and confidence.
Thirdly, these props to two things at the same time. They help to extend and expand the muscles, joints and organs of the body and lead one to relax the mind to look within with comfort which is key to meditation.
As the props guide the body in the right direction, the feeling of well-being is felt in the body, and the mind experiences elations and freshness. This experience of well-being and freshness in the mind naturally takes one to experience equipoise and oneness in body, mind and self. “
I was certainly born with some kind of spoon in my mouth. I love to eat – and eat and eat and eat! Luckily, I love raw, healthy foods and they love me right back. I feel great physically and mentally most of the time. I do feel peaceful inside.
Other people notice my sense of peace, and ask me why I am so happy. Is it the food I eat, the yoga I practice or something else entirely, they wonder aloud to me.
I have been practicing Iyengar Yoga for more than a decade, and I have been teaching it nearly as long. The meals that I eat fill me with joy and harmony. In general, I am satiated by what I eat. My daily yoga practice keep me in this balanced state.
My yoga practice and eating regime work together to positively influence my body, mind and spirit.
Here are some ways the lessons of yoga can influence your own relationship to food.
Mindfulness. We often look in the mirror to see what is going on with the outside body, but how often do you look inside to see what is happening in the mind? Do you know your own habits?
It is important to look at your own food patterns – what foods do you love? What portion sizes are typical for you? How do you handle stress? What do you do when you are tired? When it comes to managing your own expectations, are you flexible with yourself, or do you regularly expect too much? What exactly are you hungry for? These questions are very important to ask yourself. The answers themselves are not that important. Simply by asking yourself mindful questions, you begin to see things as they really are. Your body and mind will make any adjustments that might be necessary.
Restraint. The root of many of our physical ailments is a lack of gustatory restraint. When we eat food that is rich without significant nutrients, whether it be pretzels or corn dogs, we feel as dead as the item we are eating. Despite knowing that we are what we eat, many people – including me – lack restraint with our food. For example, for many people, eating meat and other rich food is not a treat, but a habitual part of every meal. Why not take the time to develop favorite dishes that feature more healthy foods? We know that obesity and flatulence curse us thanks to our sedentary lives and reckless eating habits. When we eat calorie-dense, nutrient void foods such as the processed snack foods, we nurture the hedonist within.
If you feel that you are could be nurturing your own hedonistic tendencies, yoga can help. A key to practicing restraint is strength. Yoga gives me the strength to avoid the avoidable. For example, I pack my own lunch so that I am not tempted to go through the fast-food line. I also ask myself what I am hungry for. Sometimes it isn’t food.
Education. The Yoga Sutras tells us that study of the self, and study of the scriptures is incredibly important. When pork is being advertised as “the other white meat” and people are calling milk “healthy,” it can be really hard to know what is truly nutritious. For some people, milk certainly is healthy. But fresh greens, vegetables, nuts and seeds are the most nutritious food on the planet. Ask yourself what you thrive on. Don’t assume that what seems to work for other people works for you. As you experiment, educate yourself. You can develop the recipes and skills so that eating healthy, unprocessed food on a regular basis is a very easy thing to do. You can start now with the resources and recipes on my website here and then join me for a class.
Practice. To eat healthy you must practice eating healthy. It is not enough to want to eat healthy, to talk about eating healthy or to fill your house with healthy things. You have to create a habit of eating healthy items. You have to habitually put these items in your mouth, which means you have to put these items near you. Do what it takes to get healthy food in your mouth – try out new recipes, start cooking with a friend, subscribe to our raw food take out business. Practicing restraint can become easy when you are satiated and nourished by the food that you do eat.
For example, I keep plenty of raw crackers in the house so that I don’t reach for a Triscuit made from processed grains. I make sure to have shredded kale and a great salad dressing on hand so that I have something to eat when I am hungry.
Yes, these small actions requires that I make time in my day to nourish myself. The pay-off is huge: I have a tasty, beautiful meal. I connect with the person making my food (me). I save money while feasting higher quality foods.
Dispassion. Eat to live; don’t live to eat. This is the hardest one! I do enjoy food so much. Food meets real needs that I have – artistically, intellectually, emotionally and physically.
Yet, there are easy ways to practice non-attachment to the foods that we eat. Think about your favorite comfort foods. Rather than being stuck on the dishes having to have “this ingredient” or “that ingredient” simply because that was how “Mama made it” perhaps you can find a delicious lower calorie, more nutrient dense version of the same dish. I regularly make great versions of raw cheeses, enchiladas, chili, corn bread and other typical comfort foods.
Luckily, yoga teaches us to be grateful for what we have, so that we do not get attached to what we don’t have. I personally am grateful that I love raw, healthy food. That doesn’t mean that I eat it 100% of the time. On the days that I do eat more cooked or hedonistic foods, I avoid feelings of guilt or anger. I don’t expect myself to be perfect. Nobody is perfect, not even Ghandi or the Buddha. We should live life fully, acknowledge our weaknesses and savor our strengths.
Whatever you eat, make sure it nourishes your mind and soul as well as your body.
I hope your day is delicious!