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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Steve Jacobson's Breath in Asana Workshop at Stillwater Yoga

Photo of Steve by Donna Moresco
Patanjali Sutra 2.52 - tata kshiyate prakasha avaranam - Pranayama removes the veil covering the light of knowledge and heralds the dawn of wisdom.  – BKS Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Photo of Steve by Donna Moresco

Steve Jacobson has his own style of teaching.  Like many Iyengar teachers, Steve offers the wisdom he gains from his ongoing study with the Iyengars in Pune, India. His teaching and practice honor the boundless work of B.K.S. Iyengar and the expanse of information that his daughter, Geeta Iyengar continues to add.
Prashant with Geeta:

However, Prashant Iyengar’s unique exploration of yoga resonates with Steve in a special way. While he doesn’t teach every class with the concepts of Prashant, the ones he does teach, definitely let you know there is so much more to Iyengar Yoga than meets the eye.

Prasant by Donna Moresco
Prashant is B.K.S. Iyengar’s son.  It is the superlative that has defined him since his father became known in the field of yoga. Prashant said in the interview, We are beyond our body and mind. We are even beyond our dreams that B.K.S. Iyengar was a great father, but of himself, he said, “I was an ordinary son.” Inspired by the virtuoso violinist, Yehudi Menuhin at the young age of 13, Prashant began to study the violin. He claims his musical ability came from his mother who sang.  Tragically, his mother was taken from him too early, and an auto accident cut his future with the violin short.
However, students like Steve, who also enjoy music, know Prashant's internal rhythm is still playing strong.  Steve might say that Prashant’s innumerable hours of study with his father along with his love of music is what evolved his teaching into what it is today.

Steve began to share a few of Prashant's teachings with us during his August 29, 2015, breath in asana workshop. Breath in asana describes merging the breath to the actions of an asana or yoga pose. BKS Iyengar encourages mastering the first three limbs of the eight-fold path of yoga:  Yama (ethical disciplines), Niyama (rules of conduct), and Asana (poses) before Pranayama (breath work). The reason for that is the fact, we must overcome specific physical and mental challenges before a mature practice of pranayama (conscious, prolonged inhalation, exhalation, and retention) can happen. When asanas are perfected, Iyengar explains, pranayama naturally follows.

Steve in Supported Setubhanda
The students who attended Steve’s workshop were seasoned practitioners of both asana and breath—the foundation for studying the influences of breath on actions in asanas. Steve took us through a variety of examples. He reminded us of the physical way of creating vertical and horizontal space:  lift your arms up, now take them to the side. He then helped us create that same spatial sense using the breath. Using Prashantisms like vertical, horizontal, and diagonal ways of breathing, Steve directed our Breath in asana experience down a rabbit hole where I, just sitting in a cross-legged position, felt like Alice in her Wonderland. Steve interweaved rhythmic images of waves, upright and inverted cones, as well as elliptical shapes, centrifugal and centripetal actions for the body and breath that took me on an adventure I didn’t want to leave.

While Prana is considered breath, it is a generic term for the vital atmospheric energy that controls breathing. Indian sages identified five different types of this vital energy or vital winds of the body:  Prana (controls the activities in the thoracic region), Apana (controls the activities in the lower abdomen), Samana (controls the gastric fires of the abdominal region) Udana (controls energies around the area of the throat), and finally Vyana, which distributes energy to the entire bodily system.
BKS wrote an entire book on the basic practice of pranayama in which he warns, “A Pneumatic tool can cut through the hardest rock.  If not used properly, it may destroy both the tool and the user. Study your breathing carefully and proceed step by step, for if you practice pranayama hastily or too forcibly, you may well harm yourself.”  - BKS Iyengar, Light on Pranayama.

In Steve’s Breath in Asana Workshop, we got a sampler of the possibilities that integrating the breath with the actions of asanas can bring. We could use the breath to enhance the extension of specific areas like the upper back, or the expansion of another area like the lower back. One of the many samples that stood out for me happened when we sat on a chair and revolved as in Bharadvajasana I, a basic open twist.  After several different versions of integrating the physical revolving action with the breath, he had us visualize the breath twisting without the physical action. It astonished me the force of energy that transpired. Though nothing physically twisted, my body felt like it revolved more than it probably could have.  As an ex-ballerina, my mind immediately envisioned what I could have done (back in the day) with the kind of power generated from such an internal state of being.

The experience hinted at how so many vitalities are developed through yoga as explained in the Vibuti Pada (powers chapter) in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
Steve in Padangustha Dhanurasana
 I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Mixed literary references aside, the experience not only held my attention and fascination; it gave me tools to explore much more in my practice.  To me, it felt like I got to take home a toy chest filled with things like a Ferris wheel, Merry-go-round, Bag Swing, and Big Wheel. All with the potential to thrill me to the bone, but also to teach me and deepen my practice through a vastly different perspective, while making me feel happier and more alive.

Thank you, Steve.


To learn more about Steve Jacobson and his classes visit

Rhonda Geraci is a freelance writer and avid Iyengar practitioner

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Homage To A Guru: Manuso Manos July 31st Atlanta Weekend Intensive

The Manouso Manos Weekend Intensive in Atlanta, hosted by Stillwater Yoga began on a very special day. July 31st is not only a rare blue moon; it is the day that Guru Purnima is celebrated. Purinma is Sanskrit meaning full moon. The word Guru is made up of two Sanskrit root words Gu (darkness or ignorance) and Ru (remover of). Manouso said having a workshop on July 31st was one of the worst and one of the best days to have one. I have to agree. July 31, 2006, is the date my mom passed. I could argue she was my first Guru.  Though she was not a spiritual teacher in the strict sense, she was enlightened in her own way. She taught us from a deep spiritual place of knowing and we embody her lessons today.
BKS Iyengar
Manouso’s Guru is of course BKS Iyengar and though he too is no longer with us physically, he is working his magic light through others with more vibrancy than ever.

Stillwater Yoga studio owner, Kathleen Pringle explains, "Manouso¹s  years of dedicated study with Guruji, and the depth of his personal practice shines brightly through his teaching, helping to illuminate our path.  Our community is grateful that he comes to Atlanta. And I¹m personally grateful for his guidance and support all
these many years.
Kathleen Pringle with Manouso Manos

Manouso shares BKS Iyengar's magic light through stories and sensations that attach themselves deep within our body’s intelligence. He engages us with an anecdote and teaches us by fixing our minds on a particular action, so our mind doesn’t wonder.  It is focused. Perhaps, at first, it is just our imagination on the action, “I am extending the inner line of my big toe forward.” However, that unwavering focus, becomes our Dharna point or concentration, which becomes our Dhyana, our meditation, and then something amazing happens – our imagination turns into intelligence as it seeps into the layers of our skin, to our muscles, and bones, and our intelligence. The physical parts yoke themselves together with the mental parts in ‘beautiful synchronicity’ and nothing else exits. Or perhaps it is more fitting to say that everything yokes to the one action in singularity. The yoking of our intelligence to the action gets stronger and stronger. It brings to mind the Sutra 3.25: baleshu hasti baladini, by practicing samyama (Dharna, Dhyana, Samadhi) you can become as strong as an elephant. In time, we learn to yoke our intelligence to that particular action at will – and then we discover deeper and deeper yoking taking place. Who knows, at some point perhaps we could say, “I reached Samadhi by extending the inner line of my big toe forward.” Stranger things have happened in Iyengar Yoga.

Manouso shared a particularly strange story about one of BKS Iyengar’s special Vibhutis or powers, namely being able to shift the hairs on his body at will. Yes, you heard that right. I wish that could have been captured on film with all of the stop motion technology we have today. The story goes something like this, that BKS Iyengar could make the hair on his legs move towards his hips as he drew the skin of his outer thigh towards the hip in Utthita Parsvakonasana.  When Manouso saw this, looking on with mouth agape, BKS Iyengar proceeded to show him another ‘parlor trick’.  BKS turned around and made the hair at the nap of his neck stand straight out, a powerful demonstration of his intelligence yoking to pores of the skin and hair.  Needless to say, most of us are a long way away from being able to do anything like that, but it goes to show what a steadfast, uninterrupted practice over a long period of time:  1:14 sa tu dīrghakāla nairantarya satkārāsevito srdha bhūmih can do.

Manouso Manos in Utthita Trikonasana
Manouso systematically worked our upper and middle backs on Friday evening. On Saturday, he woke up our hips, sacral area, and coccyx. On these boney masses of ignorance, he attempted to fix our intelligence in such a way as to help us discover parts of ourselves we have yet to know intimately. Repeating some actions from previous workshops with more depth and detail to an abiding audience of “more seasoned practitioners”. In Bharadvajasana I and II, we shifted the lift under each buttock, turning to one side and experienced new feedback on the inequities of effort in the right and left sit bones. The poses became a curious wonderland of sensation that deepened with the exploration of the neck’s role in the revolutionary actions.

The Upavistha Konasana, Marichyasana, Janu Sirsasana, and Virasana hip sequence prepared us for Sunday’s hip work, which expanded on our new awareness of the benefits of opposing actions on each hip through poses like Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana at the wall – something introduced in previous workshops, and yet, totally different-- it felt like reading a book once as a kid then reading it again as an adult. His Supta Parsva Padangusthasana with strap singed our awareness even deeper. Personally, I felt a branding iron in my hip joints as I realized how much work I still need to do to get stronger there to avoid hip surgery in years to come. His upper body lessons over the weekend were similar in intensity and resulted in the same branding-iron awareness. However, none of this happens unless we learn to listen and fix our intelligence to the integrity of the directions Manouso provides.

During Geeta’s Birthday Intensive in India, it became very apparent that part of our practice involves the evolution of our hearing capabilities. One student was asked to leave the stadium to put her notes away. Manouso did so as well in his Atlanta workshop. However, I want to stress that having our pen and paper taken away, so we can’t take notes is not a punishment. It is a gift. It is part of our yoga practice. Evolving our hearing faculties in order to remember and yoke mind to body is part of the lesson. Our teachers provide lessons; however, these cannot be taken lightly.  These are mere introductions for further exploration.  

This is one of the many distinctions between Iyengar Yoga and other yoga. Iyengar Yoga demands the student continues to explore even after the class or teacher training is over. The answers aren’t given to you.  You have to seek the answers.  Your body and your mind have to embody the lessons, which is why Iyengar Yoga demands a certain level of evolution from its students. It may also be why Iyengar students tend to skew a little older and have higher educations than other yoga students.

Either Iyengar students are smart enough to know they must open themselves up to a new view of themselves, or they actually have enough self-awareness to know they know very little about themselves and Iyengar Yoga is the way to learn more. Regardless, Iyengar students have the discrimination to know there is no other yoga practice that will give them the kind of detailed instruction to bring them to the level of self-awareness they seek better than Iyengar Yoga.

BKS Iyengar spent his entire life, every minute of every day, seeking self-realization. Not only that, he cared enough to figure out how to verbalize his innumerable quests (Bahiranga Sadhana, external quests, Antaranga Sadhana, Internal Quests, and Antaratma Sadhana, Inner Most Quests) through his Kriya Sadhana practice of Tapas, burning interest, Svadyaya, Self Study, and Isvarapranidhana, devotion. Iyengar Yoga demands that of every student and especially their teachers.

Iyengar Yoga can teach you how to gain self-realization and freedom from suffering; however, it is up to you where you take it from there. Iyengar Yoga has a strong community and it is very much yoked around the teachings of BKS Iyengar and his children and grandchildren who carry his legacy. At the same time, the path of Iyengar Yoga is a very individual one. 

To gain even a thimble full of the imperishable enlightenment that seemed to seep from every cell of BKS Iyengar's body, you must develop indomitable striving for your own self-realization. You can't be pacified by an illusory community of "thought" or by simply regurgitating Sanskrit and Sutras so that your ego gains the pat on the back it so desperately seeks. The lessons must penetrate your inner-most being.  

The pain of that seeking is your guru. Manouso Manos is a testament to that and to the humble albeit grand rewards of liberation that result. He knows his work is not done, he still has much to learn. An example of his continuous striving came when he talked about how many times he practiced the lessons from Geeta's Birthday Intensive last December, so he could understand in his body what she was describing. At sixty-three years old, he truly embodies the intelligence of the lessons he learned from BKS Iyengar and continues to learn from the Iyengar family, and like his Guru, he takes great care in sharing it with us.

Thank you, Manouso.  


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Stretching Our Idea Of What We Can Do: Nancy Mau's Annual Yoga Hip Opening Workshop

Nancy Mau’s annual Hip Opening Workshop at Stillwater Yoga in Atlanta stretches your idea of what you think you’re capable of. Stillwater owner, Kathleen Pringle said, “I was so glad to be here for Nancy’s Hip Opening Seminar. The sequencing was so great and the instructions so clear that I was inspired to share many things from her class in my classes the following week.”

The workshop is the “go to” workshop to many students and non-students, especially those who feel they have ‘tight hips’.  Most of us lose flexibility in our hips due primarily to under use. What is most prevalent way we under use the muscles in our hip area is by over doing one common behavior: sitting.

However, even active runners get ‘tight hips’. The repetitive act of running under utilizes and thus shortens muscles around the hips. When this area gets tight, we tend to develop back issues as well because of the way it forces the pelvis to tilt.

In Nancy’s Hip Opening Sequence, she progressively utilized the tight areas around the hips in such a methodical way, many students were surprised at how much more flexible they were by the time they got to Padmasana or lotus pose.  Nancy explains, “The sequence is designed to wake up the muscles in the legs, hips and pelvis while also creating stability, which leads to better alignment for the spine.  For example, standing, balancing, and seated poses, along with twisting poses work to create space and flexibility in the hamstrings, quadriceps, and sartorius muscles, as well as the gluteus medias and piriformis muscles. The same sequence of poses can also reduce injuries to knees and lower back for the same reason.”

Iyengar Yoga is pretty awesome that way. What distinguishes Iyengar
Yoga is not only its precision in alignment, but also its timing of sequencing asana in order to systematically strengthen the body to open and move more consciously. In this way, students reduce injuries and safely increase their range of motion in their poses.

Corinne Lee who is new to the Iyengar system learned a lot about being more conscious in her poses.  She explains,  “In the workshop Nancy said, ‘Be interested in the pose, yet not wanting.’ Her words have resonated in me on and off the mat after her workshop. She talked about when we have practiced a pose a thousand times we may fall into bhrantidarshana or illusion, of a pose. Taking a pose for what it is not. An example of this illusion would be in vrksasana, tree pose, where we sacrifice the integrity of the pose (making sure the pelvic bones are facing forward) by "wanting" to have the balancing knee turn all the way out. She stressed to be "interested" in reaching that final pose but not "wanting" so much that we sacrifice our integrity, our alignment, our awareness for it. Thanks for that little life nugget, Nancy!”

Sophia Terranova a more seasoned practitioner agrees and adds, “Nancy’s hip opening workshop was a wonderfully informative sequence of poses with her instruction helping each pose become attainable at some level for all different ages and stages of yoga study. Her clear and logical instructions and explanations of where to focus your attention and what areas to engage while moving into poses was enormously helpful releasing tense areas of my hips that are tight and periodically ache. Great class and very encouraging! Love it! I’ll be back next time! Thank you.”

In Astadala Yogamala Vol. 3,  B.K.S. Iyengar advised, “Teaching yoga is a very difficult subject, but is one of the best services you can do for human beings.  Work, not as a teacher, but as a learner of the art of teaching.”  When you take any of Nancy’s classes you know, she has done just that, and she continues to refine the art of her instruction. Her clarity and impeccable sequencing, gently opens our mind and body to the possibility that we can do things, we never thought we could do. 

Thank you Nancy Mau.


To learn more about Nancy Mau and Stillwater Yoga please visit,

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Kquvien's Yoga Karavan goes to Dehlonega Spa Resort

Kquvien Photo by Holly Sasnett

Kquvien lives her yoga heart and soul. When she shares her practice with you, you get caught up in the yoke of her wheel and it takes you places you never thought you'd go.

Origami Swan by Kquvien
Photo by Holly Sasnett
It is no wonder why Kquvien has a Karavan of folks 
that include all types: from doctors, lawyers, and nuclear engineers to writers, musicians, and photographers all dedicated to following her path as she discovers the vast world of yoga. Her summer retreat put like minds together doing what we love in a place that took us away from it all:  

Dehlonega Spa Resort by Lee Barrineau
Friday evening the resort welcome came from a gentle woman whose name escapes me, but her kind heart left quite an impression. She delivered the resort offerings and regulations with earthy compassion and ended it by adding assurance to the group to feel free to walk around safely at any hour. Following the welcome, Kquvien quickly engaged us in the back leg of our standing poses. Standing poses in Iyengar Yoga are designed to open, strengthen and purify our nervous system to bring sharper awareness to our karmindryia's, our organs of actions: the arms and legs. Each pose is a confine, Kquvien explains, from which we can discover more about ourselves like if we take our inner eye off of what is behind us, we lose the foundation for what we are building.

Kquvien Demo Photo by Holly Sasnett
During the class, we merged with the peace of the mountain and slowly let go of our attachments to the city. All levels of students attended and were taken care of accordingly. Kquvien approaches yoga teaching in the same way that she approaches her own practice. She teaches with a plan of no plan to allow and honor those who are present and not force an agenda. Though taking charge, she enables the group energy to mold the class so something bigger can happen. What happened is the classes and the entire retreat took the shape of exactly what we needed. 

Chiara and Laura Photo by Rhonda
As the days passed too quickly, we found ourselves becoming closer. Being mat-to-mat practicing Iyengar Yoga at Stillwater Yoga on a weekly basis and some of us a daily basis for many years, our mistakes, anxieties, fears, anger, exhaustion, and frustration are all exposed. For that reason, friendships born from the mat feel deeper -- more compassionate, more patient, and more joyful.
Reflections Photo by Lee Barrineau

The retreat gave us an opportunity to witness our energetic link in nature. Each evening passed with more heartfelt conversation or a unified silence in awe as the crickets, frogs, and ducks performed their serenade and the fireflies danced over the water.

Morning View by Rhonda

Our mornings began in silence on the porch watching the mountain mist move up to the sky and lift us from our slumber. Prānāyāma was set to begin at 7 am. The first morning, we arrived in the studio early and waited for the hour with our chest lifted in a restorative pose of our choosing. Kquvien had us build a high throne that easily placed us in correct alignment to sit, along with a supine setup at the ready. The practice focused on awareness of alignment, an exploration of the rechaka or exhalation, and a glimpse of pratyhārā through the sanmukhi mudra (san or six openings, where the eyes, ears, and nose are covered to bring the attention inward).The second morning, we practiced outdoors overlooking our beautiful mountain view. On the fortunate request of a student/CDC doctor, we explored some mudrās (gestures) and bandhas, (binds) which are physical locks that hold or direct the prānic (lifegiving) energy

Sutra Study Photo by Lee Barrineau
Our Sutra study in the afternoon was taught in an organic way as well. We reviewed Patanjali's Sutras 1:12-1:14, beginning with abhyāsa-vairāgyābhyam tannirodhah, which states that the way to stilling the fluctuations of the mind is through practice and detachment and ending with Sutra 1:14 sa tu dīrghakāla nairantarya satkārāsevito srdha bhūmih,   steadfast, uninterrupted practice over a long period of time. The question came up: How can we have uninterrupted practice? The answer came through the door later that afternoon as if Patanjali himself sent it to us special delivery in the form of a puppy dog open for love. After as many hugs and ear scratches as she could get, the rest of us went into Sālamba Śīrṣāsāna. We stood on our heads. The puppy stayed.  She wasn't an interruption. She became a part of our practice.

Kquvien has been reading Mircea Eliade's book Yoga: Immortality and Freedom and said he described the purpose of Tapas (disciplined practice) as making us more fit to endure the dualities (read detach, acclimate, accommodate rigidly or subtly depending on the moment)--endure the qualities or states of being or gunas: rajas (firey), tamas (inert), sattva (harmonious). 

Front Porch Friends by Rhonda
Later a student mentioned, that BKS Iyengar spoke in Light on Life about doing our āsanas from the heart, and not the head. Mircea Eliade adds in his book Yoga: Immortality and Freedom about being led by our thoughts by not thinking. Allowing the movement of chatter in our head to run our lives prevents us from acting from our heart. As we discussed more, the lesson presented itself as if from the ethers and because of its universal applications it was received and readily absorbed. Our higher mind is in the heart center, the seat of the divine, not the chitta vrittis  acts of our brain.

Our entire Sutra lesson rolled up like well-used yoga mat with Sutra 3.35 hrdyye cittasamvit, which Iyengar translates: "By saṁayama (concentration, meditation, absorption) on the region of the heart, the yogi acquires a thorough knowledge of the contents and tendencies of consciousness." 

The weekend gave us a delicious taste of that. Our connection to Kquvien, to the practice of Iyengar Yoga, to each other, and to the singularity of energy that animates us all seemed to foster a kind of concentration, meditation, and absorption that created a natural parinama, a transformation born of our unified desire to be open to receive it.  
Thank you, Kquvien

Group Photo by Holly
Group Photo by Henry


Special thanks goes to Kathy Koenigsberg for organizing it all and bringing her sparkle to the group.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Mother's Day Tribute to a Magical Mom.

About nine years ago, two months after Mother’s Day, I lost my Mom. In my last memory, lying next to her, I held her hand and she let go. She didn’t pass that night. In fact, I didn’t understand why she let go of my hand. However, for Mom even dying became a teachable moment. It seemed as if she knew what she was supposed to do at every stage of her illness, so we learned from it.

She knew she had to let go. Let go of her attachments to this world: her roles as a professional realtor, a mentor, and a dutiful friend. She knew she had to release her attachment to being a loving sister and mother of the five heirs to her wisdom, passion, and sense of humor. I had a hard time letting go of that fact. The feeling of her freeing her fingers from their interlace with mine rewound in my heart time and time again after she passed.

Months later, I had a dream that she came to my bedside and took my hand. It felt like there was a distinct sense that she was in a different place than me, but the energy of her love and mine intertwined again. Mom made a point to say things when she was still alive that made us believe she'd be around us after she died, like she said she'd be a Cardinal. I think the Cardinal is one of the most frequently seen birds aside from the Robin. She didn’t want us ever to feel alone. When Cardinals fly by me, or perch on my porch I pause a moment and think of her. The energy of her love swoops in with a full wingspan and wraps her warmth around my heart.  Happens every time.

One evening, my printer turned on (without anyone turning it on) and printed out a page with Mom’s name on it.  It was a legal document on my computer, but not one that had been in my printer queue or even one that had been pulled up or edited for over six months. It woke me up in a fright. I can’t bring much logic to this incident, except to say that the very next day someone broke into my house and took my television. Luckily, I wasn’t there.  But my printer’s mysterious 'wakeup call' the night before felt like a warning of some kind. It stuck with me. I took the lesson from the experience and reinforced the security of my home.

A year or so later, driving home from a meditation class, I thought to myself, ‘Mom, why haven’t you tried to talk to me. I’d listen. I miss you. I want to hear from you.' Not two minutes later, I stopped behind a big white truck. The height of the truck put its license plate in direct line with my eyes. I did a double take.  It said, “I LUV U”.  I looked down and the state on the plate said, “Montgomery” where my mother was born.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I appreciated the synchronicity of these two events. Needless to say, I like to think of it as Mom giving me a timely and wonderful, heartwarming response to my question.

Who knows what’s on the other side of life. I don’t. However, I will say, my Mom set things up for us before she left this world, so it feels like she’s still very much a part of our lives. So this Mother’s Day, I’d just like to celebrate what great mother’s do to keep us believing in the possibilities of life and anything that might be beyond it. I love you, Mom!  Happy Mother’s Day.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Triangles of Breath - New light from an old lesson by Prashant Iyengar

This week Kathleen Pringle taught a pattern of prāṇāyāma based on something that Prashant Iyengar taught in a class at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute many years ago. It is a pattern that I have found myself wanting to practice more and more.

At Geeta Iyengar's Birthday Intensive back in December of last year, she teased us about our prāṇāyāma practice. She said we get it over with as quickly as we can so we can say, "I did my Ujjāyī. I did my Viloma."


Even though I have heard Geeta's voice in my head ever since her workshop, other chitta vrittis (again read chatter) would inevitably sneak in and make me wonder how I would have the time to fit everything in my day that I needed to. The thoughts actually got in the way of my practice.  They shortened time. I couldn't stay present long.

This week, I could. The pattern Kathleen shared with us kept my attention and focus. Earlier in the class she talked about how BKS Iyengar explains in Light on Life that our vertical actions in āsana practice bring intelligence and our horizontal actions bring wisdom. She also spoke about atha, which she defined as the 'eternal now' as in the first sutra of Patañjali, 1:1 atha yogānuśāsanam, which BKS Iyengar translates as, "[...] now begins an exposition of the sacred art of yoga." Prashant's pattern of a breath seems to bring attention to the vertical and horizontal actions, and a peak at the eternal now.

His pattern is an inverted triangle pattern that Kathleen introduced during our Viloma I practice.  Like an āsana practice, there are many different types of prāṇāyāma you can practice.  Viloma means against the grain.  Basically, it's three or more equal volumes of breath taken in sections along the trunk of the body and separated by equally timed pauses. Viloma I might go something like this:  after a full exhalation, inhale and pause, inhale and pause, inhale and pause,  a very small inhalation and slow, soft, smooth exhalation - all followed by a normal inhalation and exhalation as needed.

With this new triangle pattern to focus on during Viloma I, the concentration required on the vertical and horizontal actions seemed to bring about a deeper sensitivity to their differences. Last week, Kquvien DeWeese gave lessons on the direction and focus of our eyes during poses. When we look up or down, on the horizontal plane, hard focus, soft wide and expansive focus - all bring about different sensations in the mind and body. The pattern brought about a similar realization and yet my eyes were closed and my focus inward.

What's more, with my intense focus and concentration on this pattern, the Sutra 3:53 Kṣaṇa Tatkramayoḥ saṁayamāt vivekajaṁ jñānam came into play. This is a Sutra that Nancy shared during Spring Training last weekend. Nancy has talked about Kṣaṇa often in her Saturday classes.  I kept saying to myself that I would remember the word and research it more, but by the end of class the word would escape me. I lost my focus; therefore, it didn't stick with me.

It did this time.  I wrote it down.  I looked it up and I could associate its meaning with glimpses of experiences in my āsana practice.  I also got a glimpse of why Nancy shared it. And in Kathleen's prāṇāyāma classes this week, I got to be with its meaning a little more. Now I'm beginning to hold onto a bit of understanding.

BKS Iyengar translates this sutra in Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali as "by saṁayama on moment and on the continuous flow of moments, the yogi gains exalted knowledge, free from the limitations of time and space." Saṁayama literally means holding together, it's the integration of concentration, meditation, and self-realization. When I finally took the time to read the commentary on the translation, it opened me up to something much bigger that my teachers have been trying to teach.  It turned on another light. We've all experienced time expanding. Unfortunately, it's usually only in a tragedy situation (read my blog Expanding Time in a Moment).  However, the idea of learning how to sustain being that present all the time is pretty incredible. An infinitesimal moment, now that could put a new angle on our day. I know I've enjoyed the peek at the possibility. I am forever grateful for my teachers who care enough to keep learning and sharing their experiences.


#StillIyengar #StillLightingTheWay #StillwaterYoga  #Stillit.

Monday, April 20, 2015


When you've studied and trained in Iyengar Yoga as long as is required for your Level 1 Assessment, which is a minimum of three to four years (or as long as it takes for you to be truly ready) and even longer for Intermediate, Junior Level or above Assessments, hearing the rumor that Iyengar Yoga may not offer Assessments after this year until 2017 took many of us aback. The chitta vrittis (read chatter) in my head whispered, "but what if I don't pass this year?" Fortunately, we all recovered from any lapse of focus and put our eyes back on what mattered: our Spring Training at Stillwater Yoga.

Stillwater Yoga owner, Kathleen Pringle is dedicated to training and assessing teachers. As one of only a few Senior Iyengar Instructors in the Southeast, she conducts Teacher Training in Atlanta as well as other states. Her curiosity and fascination with the mobility and stability aspects of poses with various body types and issues is infectious. She takes us on a journey of learning that I wish all academic teachers could witness. Charlotte-based instructor, Erin Bailey explained, "I feel like Kathleen is a great fit for me as a teacher. I appreciate how gentle she is. Since I am a very sensitive person, I am glad that she puts compassion towards her students as a very high priority. She comes across as patient and a very careful communicator in all aspects of her teaching. And her beautiful smile alone is enough to put anyone at ease."

In Atlanta, students come from far and wide to study with her. Teacher in training, Kim Blitch drove from Kentucky despite the fact Kathleen will be in her town in a few weeks to teach another training. Kim said, "Kathleen is an inspiration. Her dedication and love for Iyengar Yoga is obvious as a teacher and as a student.  She is generous with her time and knowledge for which all of her students benefit."

Learning from those in the Iyengar system who have more knowledge is what distinguishes an Iyengar Instructor. Iyengar teachers never stop learning. For example, mentor, Kquvien DeWeese is away for a few weeks training at two different workshops with Senior Advanced instructors, Patricia Walden and Manouso Manos. One of the ways Kathleen continues learning is by going Pune, India every winter to study with Geeta Iyengar. 

Kathleen's ever-growing mastery of training teachers showed itself immediately. She set a seamless pace for the weekend by having us pick poses to teach in Nancy Mau's Saturday morning Level 2 Purva Pratana Sthiti or backbending sequence and then grouping us to fulfill a task. By focusing on our task together (eg. listing the linking actions between three poses in our sequence) each person in the group became a visible and viable part of our training. "We bonded right off the bat," said Phyllis Rollins of The Yoga Center in Charlotte, N.C.  

Phyllis demos a bad pose so Kathleen can 
teach us the correct hands-on adjustment.
We learn from Kathleen and we also learn a great deal from each other. In fact, Kathleen even learns from us. For example, she may witness common tendencies that teachers in training might have teaching specific poses. She shares those tendencies with us so we learn to avoid them. Aspiring Intermediate Junior Level Instructor, Phyllis Rollins explained, "I enjoyed working with the individuals to practice teach and get feedback on some of my problem poses."

Practice teaching is an important part of teacher training. Kathleen creates a safe space for us to brave the act of teaching some of the poses in our level syllabus. To keep us on our toes, she has the 'students' purposefully do common wrong actions to help us train our eyes to see them. "Kathleen makes the process supportive and helped me focus on the areas of my teaching that need improvement. It was a very positive experience for me," Phyllis concludes.

The secret to a great Iyengar class or training session is having some of what Patricia Walden calls your 'Yoga Vitamins'.  Nancy Mau explained in her seemingly flawless Level 2 class on Saturday that those 'yoga vitamins' are from Sutra 1:20 śraddhā vīrya smrti samādhiprajñā pūrvakaḥ itareṣām. śraddhā(faith) vīrya(trust)  smrti (memory) samādhi (concentration) and prajñā (wisdom) pūrvakaḥ.  BKS Iyengar translates this in Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali as,"Practice must be pursued with trust, confidence, vigour, keen memory and power of absorption to break this spiritual complacency."

In training, we have to put ourselves out there so we learn the most we can in the time alotted. That takes faith and courage. Luckily, Kathleen sets a tone of compassion that emanates to all of us. Erin adds, "It warms my heart to feel the support of everyone in our group. The feeling is certainly one of 'we are in this together' rather than that of competition."

No matter how raw or new to the system you may be you will get through it. Our Spring Training happened to be Atlantan, Corinne Lee's first Iyengar Teacher Training. Her openness to learning and willingness to put herself out there in an egoless way served as a reminder to us all to keep a beginner's mind. Corinne shared this about her experience, "Being new to the Iyengar lineage of yoga, I was thoroughly impressed and challenged by the rigorous and seemingly dogmatic practice and overall mindset. But I realized after my first teacher training, that the rules are there to keep your practice safe and steady as you progress into more advanced asanas. The Iyengar queing and sequencing has definitely strengthened and deepened my practice to a whole new awareness and communication with the mind-body connection."

Like Phyllis, I chose poses that I knew I needed work learning to teach. I'd done my homework, studied the material, and knew the primary actions; however, knowing it and teaching it through the Iyengar Method are two very different things. Kathleen explains, "In Iyengar Yoga, you teach one-on-one even if you are teaching a large class."  Everyone gets seen.  Therefore, we train not only to learn the actions of the pose, but also how to observe each student and know how to help support them where they are, further them along, or correct any wrong action that might come up for them.

After the Saturday Level 2 class where we each taught a pose, Erin Bailey of Charlotte admitted "Nancy Mau is a tough act to follow." Nancy's expert demonstrations, her economy of words in instruction, her clear and succinct corrections, not to mention her seamless linking of poses and yoga philosophy gave us a prime example of what we should all be aspiring to.

Becoming an Iyengar Instructor challenges every part of you in a very fulfilling way. You have to keep taking your 'yoga vitamins'. Your faith, trust, memory, and concentration are tested constantly. You transform and discriminating wisdom follows. Patañjali encourages us not to give up and not to loose focus with the Sutra (of which he has about 196 of them) that comes just after Sutra 1.20.

In Sutra 1.21 tīvrasaṁvegānām āsannaḥ, which BKS Iyengar translates as, "The goal is near for those who are supremely vigorous and intense in practice." The goal is Samadhi and here I will use the definition of that to be self-realization in every fiber, cell, and synapse. Self-realization so you can share what you have learned with an honest and pure heart. You can deliver your simple demonstrations and clear instruction with enthusiasm and ease.

I believe Corinne Lee saw the results of that vigorous and intense practice in Kathleen's Spring Training, "Once you've sat through an Iyengar teacher training with Kathleen, you can understand why she is so highly respected and well-known in the Iyengar community. Her succinct teaching approach paired with her genuine tenacity for the practice and her dedication to her students is inspiring."

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this article. To Nancy Mau for showing us how it's done and once again allowing us to teach in her class.  To my training peers who I've enjoyed learning from and getting to know better. And of course to Kathleen who is committed to passing this great lineage along with the utmost dedication, integrity, and respect. 

If you'd like to learn more about the Iyengar Method visit and our Southeastern Iyengar Association at To learn more about Kathleen Pringle and her other great instructors please visit #stillteaching #stillinspiring #stillwateryoga  #stillit.