“The yogi’s body should move as fast as the speed of his soul…Until the finite is known, how can we touch the infinite?”
(pg 151 Tree of Yoga)
I am going to take a big chunk of Tree of Yoga for today’s update because the next chapters in Part Four are all so juicy that you really just need to read them yourself. They go into some of the energetic details of the self and the ideas behind Pranayama (breath regulation) and Meditation (a definite buzz word in modern yoga).
Breathing exercises and meditation are popular and a lot of folks want to sprint to those practices before they work with the body. But this disregards the power that Pranayama and Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation) have. BKS Iyengar put a stressor on basic asana and pranayama practices before getting into what we might see as the “fancy stuff” because Patanjali himself puts a stressor on this. In the Yoga Sutras, the only “step” in the 8-limbs of practice is the one between asana and pranayama – it actually says not to embark on pranayama practices until asana is “mastered”. But this does not mean to ignore or get stuck at the physical plane, it just insinuates the power of the practices that come after.
Prana is actually not breath, but THE life force and prana and your mind and your consciousness are tied together always..this is the importance of practicing pranayama. There is a great story of Gods and Demons and the creation of the elixir of life that is recounted in Tree of Yoga – highly recommend it.
I know that a lot of people see Iyengar Yoga as merely a “physical practice” because we do spend a lot of time on teaching asana and pranayama and within classes do not expound upon energy systems and chakras and the popular buzz words of the day. But this is definitely not the approach of Iyengar Yoga as a whole. These chapters relate all the approaches and reminders of how all these aspects of yoga actually cannot be separated and it was BKS Iyengar’s purpose to give us all aspects of practice in a practical and approachable way. To try to pick and choose limbs off the path of yoga will not work for the final goal. If you try to practice the later limbs without a firm foundation in the Yamas, Niyamas, and Asanas it is possible injury and sickness could occur – and to only stop at the level of asanas just means you miss out on the deeper, more sustainable aspects of yoga for the purpose of life.
The reason Iyengar teachers may usually not “sound” like we teach energy and mind and spirit is because each of those aspects are experiential to the individual student…as a yoga teacher, I can help you and guide you to straighten your legs and align your spine, but beyond that your energy will run where it may and the experience of that cannot be dictated by any teacher. The later limbs of yoga are “receptive”, not “active”, so by doing on the early levels, you will receive more easily at the later.
The last chapter of this section is a great guide to practice on the individual level. Ancient texts do give these types of guidelines for students so they may track progress of their practice on the levels that my not be “seen”. It is a reminder that the mind and the body must come together on every level of our being in order to continue down the path of yoga to touch the soul.