About Yoga

IYENGAR YOGA


The text on this page is adapted from Yoga: A Yoga Journal Book, by Linda Sparrowe.

B.K.S. Iyengar died on August 20, 2014, at the age of 95. A master of therapeutic yoga, his intuitive, almost uncanny ability to heal through asana and pranayama practice is legendary. Along with his daughter, Geeta, and son, Prashant, B .K. S. Iyengar trained thousands of teachers at their institute in Pune, India.

Best known for its precision and close attention to proper body alignment, the Iyengar approach takes the body through the full spectrum of movement. Hundreds of poses including forward-bends, back-bends, twists, arm balances and inversions are taught. Use of props assist students in achieving the poses comfortably and safely. Benefits of Iyengar-style yoga practice include increased energy, strength, and flexibility, reduced tension, and a general feeling of health and well being.

WHAT IS YOGA?


The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root yuk, which means to join, unite, yoke, or hitch up. Yoga throughout the millennia has worked to "join" the mind, body and soul to help the yogi achieve union with his or her own divine nature. In the 3rd century B.C.E., the Bhagavad-Gita, India's most revered yoga text, yoga meant the action or discipline it took a practitioner to achieve the goal of liberation. Today, yoga is a system of specific asana (poses), pranayama (breathing exercise), and behaviors designed to purify, heal and awaken the practitioner. Yoga, above all else, means the process of transformation opening to the true Self. Several paths can lead to that transformation.

What is the eight-limbed path of yoga?

The second chapter of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra offers a systematic approach to liberation and freedom from suffering which combines practices to strengthen the body with austere meditation practices to quiet and control the mind. He says that daily living bombards humans with constant chatter or mental fluctuations called cittavrtti. Listening to this chatter gives rise to ignorance, a feeling of separateness, attachment to objects and outcomes, and profound sorrow. The only way to control this cittavrtti is through a rigorous yoga practice. For Patanjali, a rigorous yoga practice meant more than going to class everyday, or sitting in meditation every morning. His ashtanga yoga or eight-limbed path, begins by giving prescriptions for living in the world and then turns increasingly toward ever deeper meditation practices.

His path includes:

  1. Yamas: Five "restraints" serve as the basis for all ethical behavior. They teach a single truth — do no harm — and include nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, abstinence, and non-greed.
  2. Niyamas: Five "disciplines" concentrate on the positive actions and attitudes of cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study, and devotion to God, which promote freedom from suffering and a deeper connection with the outside world.
  3. Asanas: Yoga Poses
  4. Pranayama: Control of the breath
  5. Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the Senses
  6. Dharana: Concentration on a single object (Ekagraha) to control the mind.
  7. Dhyana: Meditation leads to consciousness that we are all connected
  8. Samadhi: Liberation brings together the knower, the act of knowing, and that which is known. Samadhi is the state of total absorption, of exquisite balance; the state in which a yogi becomes one with the single point of meditation.
RECOMMENDED BOOKS


B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga
B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga, the Path to Holistic Health
Linda Sparrow, Yoga: A Yoga Journal Book, David Martinez Photographer