Transition

We would like to offer our gratitude and appreciation for Tom King and his involvement at Calgary Iyengar Yoga since its inception six years ago. He has been a cherished teacher, friend and colleague and we wish him well in his retirement from teaching. Tom is making more time for personal projects, family and practice. Lots of love and best wishes from the CIY community!

A heartfelt welcome to Laila Moos who has joined our teaching team!
  
Namaskar,
Sharoni
May 2017 


Friendship and Community

As I return from a wonderful two weeks of practice and study in Mexico, I reflect on the gift of friendship and community and its relevance to the path of Yoga. Much of our work is internal- self-study, practice, discipline, devotion, reflection, and going into quietness. In addition, Pantanjali presents the 8-limbed path of Yoga beginning with yama- principles on how we interact with others. Our work in the world offers the possibility for spiritual experience through relationship. At our retreats, each morning we began with invocations which offered thanks to our teachers and to our fellow practitioners- that we work strongly, in harmony and grow together. We are indeed fortunate to have the opportunity to forge forth and connect with our fellow humans.

Namaskar,
Sharoni
April 2017


Two Teachers, Four Lessons

Dear Friends,

Patanjali says the journey of yoga is experiencing one's Self through inner quietude. 

For us to be able to see and face ourselves honestly, we require will and heart. One of my teachers once said, "no one can take my will or heart away from me". Without strength, determination and courage, we would give up as soon as the voyage gets a bit uncomfortable. And without heart, the emotional connection to spirit, we're bound to get lost.

Once when I was hosting a visiting senior teacher she spoke compassionately and frankly, saying (paraphrased), "Sharoni, you seem to be exploring the karma (action) and bhakti (devotional) aspects of yoga and I think the jnana (wisdom) aspect could also be explored further". 

She was not referring to a lack of cleverness but rather insight. This was a bit bizarre for me to receive at the time as I had initially gone to yoga to 'get myself out of my head'. 
  
Patanjali says ignorance is our biggest obstacle and that is the source of all other spiritual obstacles. What is the true nature of intelligence? How do we open ourselves to seeing, creativity and wisdom? The definition of the word Guru is one who removes darkness- one who sheds light and helps us see. From there much opens up. 
Another lesson Patanjali shares with us is surrender (humility). This is the one which goes against the grain of our culture and our base humanness and asks us to de-throne the ego. Surrender sits at a certain critical juncture beyond which there is new found freedom and possibility.

Namaskar,
Sharoni
March 2017


The Path is not Linear

Dear Friends,

I’ve often been asked and remember at times thinking myself, what is the course required to get to such-and-such place in terms of the practice, our development, addressing an imbalance- physically or otherwise, etc.?

We may have some idea of where we’d like to go and only a vague sense of how we might get there.

Is there a set asana or pranayama practice that should be taken given our condition or where we’d like to go? How should our practice be coupled with our our experiments and disciplines in daily living? What should the contents of our formal practices be? When, where, how much and what is required to possibly ‘get where we want to go’?

No doubt there are many tools in Iyengar yoga for coming to know our essential nature and current constitution physically, psychologically and spiritually. As we start to see more of ourselves and how the tools work, we reach the beginning(!) of what is a unique and personal journey.

There is no substitute for years of regular and intelligent practice. Nor is there any substitute for the wisdom gained through living and watching ourselves and the world around us. There is endless learning available about ourselves and the tools.

Like a jigsaw puzzle, various pieces are added in at particular moments based on the mind of the individual, which piece we chose to pick up at a given time and what the puzzle itself looks like.

When you’re working on a jigsaw puzzle, there’s no need to fret about which piece to pick up first or next. Some people might like to find the corners or edges first, some might look at the colour schemes, etc. In the end it doesn’t really matter. You increase your chances of completing the puzzle the further you go.
Starting somewhere is key and some guidance and mentorship from an experienced person can accelerate the process and help you head in the right direction. Threading the practice and living together is where the magic happens and the journey can become an incredible adventure.

Namaskar,
Sharoni
February 2017

 

Happy New Year 2017

Dear Friends,

As I return from a recent study trip in Pune, I find myself inspired by richness of spirit that weaves through the culture in India and the legacy of our Guru, BKS Iyengar. We recently celebrated his 98th birthday anniversary, almost two and a half years after he passed away. Guruji had tremendous will and courage to live a life totally dedicated to his subject, as he said, “come what may”.

We have been given an immense gift to live in this time and place with so many privileges and possibilities. How do we choose to use our precious resources of intelligence, energy and time? What would we like to cultivate within ourselves and share with those in our sphere and why?
How might we live our lives wisely, courageously, healthily, and peacefully, honouring this precious gift?

The practice can certainly improve our physical condition and help us cope with the stresses of life. How might we go further as we come to know Yoga as an exploration of our essence?

What opportunities lie ahead as we come into 2017? Happy New Year...

Namaskar,
Sharoni
January 2017

 

Backbending the Iyengar Way 

http://www.posermagazine.ca/article10.html 
Summer 2015

 

From Fear to Creativity

Our Guru talked about how 'fear and fatigue block the mind'. Patanjali refers to fear as one of the five afflictions of the human condition and obstacles on the yogic path. The deepest of which is a fear of death and if we observe closely, every fear is rooted there. As human beings, we are bound to face them from time to time. We can attempt to push fear away- which may work for a time- though its likely to re-emerge. In many cases an attempt to guard ourselves can ultimately reinforce the fear complex. If we are aware enough, we may choose to sit with it for a time and we can learn about ourselves and understand the source of that fear. Often the simple process of quiet observation will allow that state to dissapate, like a storm cloud gone after the rain. When the sun comes out, we can take what we've learned and apply it to the creative process of learning and growing in that which challenges us and finding new ways to approach that which we are facing. Our yogic practices are tools to bring us back to inner calm, strength, confidence and resilliance and move us out of circular thought and feeling patterns.
January 2015   

 

Jnana in Asana: Experiential Knowledge

Previously published in The Yoga Association of Alberta's newsletter and the Iyengar Yoga Centre of Victoria's newsletter.

The following article is an overview of a message given by BKS Iyengar at the American Iyengar Yoga Convention in San Diego, June 1990. Jnana means knowledge and in his message, BKS Iyengar explains how experiential knowledge can be attained through an asana (yoga posture).

Iyengar yoga is known for precision, a focus on alignment, longer holds in asana and the regular practice of headstand and shoulder stand. It has often been referred to as ‘furniture yoga’ because of its hallmark use of props. For these reasons, BKS Iyengar has been regarded as a Hatha yoga teacher when in fact he teaches Patanjali’s yoga through asana and pranayama.

Patanjali’s Classical yoga (also referred to as Raja yoga or Ashtanga yoga) was documented in his Yoga Sutras around the 2nd century BCE1. It offers a broad scope of tools for the yoga practitioner to move toward the ultimate goal of stillness of consciousness. These include personal and interpersonal observances, meditation, devotion, study, action, etc. Patanjali briefly addresses asana and pranayama (breathing exercises) as part of his eight limbs of yoga.  

Around the 15th century CE, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika was written and with the emergence of the Hatha yoga tradition, came a body-oriented tradition that focuses on physical purification practices meant to prepare the practitioner for, what were deemed to be higher levels of yoga, such as meditation2.BKS Iyengar’s contemporary interpretation, marries Patanjali’s yoga with Hatha yoga. Asana and pranayama become the starting points for accessing the many facets of yoga. While often misunderstood as a purely physical tradition, Iyengar yoga takes yama and niyama (personal and interpersonal observances) into asana, he takes devotion into asana and he takes meditation into asana. The asana practice both purifies and prepares one for seated meditation, as well as invoking the meditative state on its own when practiced in a particular way.

In his article, “Jnana in Asana: Experiential Knowledge,” Iyengar explains how experiential knowledge can be attained through the practice of asana (postures). He says:

There may be a misconception in your mind that dhyana [meditation] is spiritual yoga and asanas physical yoga…..where there is asana, there should be dhyana. Where there is dhyana should be an asana3.

Furthermore, he states that it’s impossible to meditate without having a body and taking a physical position during meditation. The body should not be given less importance than the mind. They are all part of a whole.  

Do not be confused if somebody says to you that this is physical yoga, be indifferent to such words and stick to your practices. Even for spiritual yoga, the body has to be used. Can spiritual wisdom be imparted without speech? ... Without physical means, the essence of spirituality cannot be expressed4.

Iyengar explains that the asana practice matures over time. At first we do the asana from the gross body; eventually we move through to the subtle body to the causal body. He describes the gross body as the anatomical, the subtle body as the physiological, mental and intellectual and the causal body as the spiritual. We move from the gross to the fine as the asana practice evolves and eventually the practice becomes meditation-in-action. He goes on to correlate the three bodies with three margas (paths of yoga): karma (action) which connects to the gross body, jnana (knowledge) which connects to the subtle body and bhakti (devotion) which connects to the causal body.

Iyengar gives specific examples of poses that bring about a “state of silence.” From his own experience in the postures, he has ascertained the effects of each pose on the mind.

I will tell you the difference between these asanas. They take you to the state of silence [meditation], even perfection. But in that silence you find various differences. In Halasana [plow pose], the silence is passive and makes you pensive. In Setu Bandha Sarvangasana [little bridge pose], it is a half-pensive and half-dynamic state of silence. In Halasana, you can go to sleep, but in Setu Bandha Sarvangasana you cannot go to sleep and you cannot oscillate either. In Salamba Sirsasana [headstand] too you cannot oscillate, you can never be inattentive even for a second, otherwise you lose the balance. Yet you feel cool in the head. In Paschimottanasana [seated forward bend] you experience serene silence5.

He explains that in each asana the state of consciousness changes and that the practitioner should experience the effects of each pose for him/herself. With that experience, he/she can choose and sequence poses based on their effects and according to the individual’s needs on a given day. For those who struggle in a pose or have difficulty accessing it, prop support is taken so that body and mind can settle more easily and the unique effects of the pose can be experienced.

Iyengar’s sequencing, use of support and longer holds are excellent tools to access to the meditative/devotional state and rebalance the mind/emotions through asana.

At 95 years old, Iyengar continues to practice amongst his students at his institute in Pune, India. He is a true proponent of practice as a path to understanding. There is an anecdote of BKS Iyengar going to a conference with several highly-regarded scholars.  He gave a beautiful interpretation of one of the aphorisms of Patanjalis’ Yoga Sutras and Swami Satchidananda asked him which book this insight came from. Iyengar replied, “from the library of my body.”6
Yogacarya BKS Iyengar, “Jnana in Asana: Experiential Knowledge” in Astadala Yogamala, Volume 2, pp. 254-256. Allied Publishers Pvt Ltd. 2009. $22.00 Paperback. ISBN 8177641786 http://iynaus.org/store/store/books.
Georg Feuerstein, The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice (Prescott, Arizona: Hohm Press, 1998), 214.
Feuerstein, 29.
Iyengar, 254.
Iyengar, 256
5 Iyengar, 255.
6 As told by S.F. Biria.


February 2014