Wednesday, April 20, 2016


RETREAT has military connotations as in a withdrawal of troops from the battlefield. It could be said that each of us has an ongoing internal and external battle that we wage at various levels of intensity depending who we are, what we do, where we live, and what we believe. A Yoga RETREAT is a retreat from the battlefield of life to a more secluded spot where we can gain a new perspective and are better able to bring about a dedicated focus inward - a focus that reunites us with the wholeness of our being. It pulls our energy back in from all the places we've allowed it to scatter.

Kquvien DeWeese's SPRING RETREAT came at the tail end of tax time with presidential debates blaring blame and throwing the energy of the nation all over the place like the solar flares of the sun. Yoga practitioners new and old chose to RETREAT from it all. We weaved our way up to Dahlonega Resort and Spa.  There we reunited our energies and bonded with each other in true Yogic form. Kquvien teaches The Iyengar Method of Yoga, which was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar. The method could be described as a systematic RETREAT. It is a slow involution from the gross to the subtle. It brings our awareness from the external to the internal. Kquvien began her lessons with simple poses that focused on our arms and legs; and then, she added props like chairs, blocks, and straps to support a deeper understanding of our body and its tendencies.

Once she shifted our focus to RETREAT inward, we were more receptive to the guidance of a few of the 196 Yoga Sutras of the sage Patanjali. Patanjali describes yoga as "Citta Vrtti Nirodha," Iyengar translates this in Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as "Yoga is the cessation of the movements in the consciousness." We discussed several other translations of this sutra (1.2) along with a more recent translation by Rohit Mehta's from his book Yoga, The Art of Integration. Mehta explains Citta Vrtti (read monkey mind) as a comparing or contrasting reaction to any stimulus. The reaction perpetuates itself into a chain of reactions.
We might react to a cup of coffee with a comparison of the warm milk we got as a child that made us feel loved then contrast that reaction with a reaction of pain brought about from an imprint of when our father spilt hot coffee and burnt us. The cycle can go and on and on and follows the same groove as every other set of chain reactions. We can trap ourselves into this endless pattern our entire lives. Or we can learn to see each experience as new  -- void of any comparison or contrast. Interestingly, it was about here in our discussion that Kquvien brought up Albert Camus' Myth of Sisyphus (I encourage you to click and read it, along with this Elephant Journal article) and consider the last line that imagines Sisyphus happy.

The Yoga of Patanjali's Sutras teaches us how to RETREAT from this chain reaction of thoughts. In RETREAT, we gain strength of awareness of a part of us that is separate from the meat suit where we live. Kquvien discussed Sutras 2:26-2:27 where Patanjali explains that there are seven stages to this awareness. Iyengar Yoga guides us through them systematically from the external body and senses to more internal areas of breath and prana (energy) to mind/intelligence and consciousness and finally to the innermost part of us that is none of that - what some call the soul. As we grow strength in the awareness of this innermost part of us, we learn to stay there. And staying there, with uninterrupted awareness,  Nirodha Parinama (a transformation that reduces the power of our reactions) results in growing moments where we experience the "Incomparable joy" that "comes from self-containment" [Mehta: Sutra 2:42],  and a steady (Sthira) stream of happiness (Sukham).

Kquvien will have another SPRING RETREAT. Until then, consider that your thoughts are merely a chain of reactions. That what's behind your eyes are your own Samskaras or imprints and you are constantly comparing and contrasting them, ad nauseam, against any new information or experience. Therefore, perhaps you don't need to take your chain of reactions so seriously. If you're not an Iyengar practitioner, I encourage you to find an Iyengar Studio near you. There you can begin to learn how to RETREAT from the chain of reactions, so you can see all your experiences with fresh eyes. And who knows where that could take you.

To learn more about Kquvien DeWeese visit her website at

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Romantic Love

A blush of sensation
A share of information
A shower of affection
A heart that opens
A passionate expansion
A safe space for truth
A ground to grow dreams
A thread of moments sewing
A tapestry of experience
A hearth of forgiveness
A window of ideas
A door to possibilities
A family furnace heating
A burning desire to fix
A battlefield of wounds
A mirror projection
A cut that oozes
A poisonous pattern repeated
A million years before
A scab of hope begins to heal
A reunion of souls now able to see
A clear path to travel on
A source of energy that flies into forever.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Valentine's Day is my sister, Maribeth’s favorite holiday. She reminded me the other day that one year I gave her a gold safety pin that I hung little charms representing all the members of
our family. Another year, she gave me a floating heart. I wore it when I went to New York for ballet. I believed it gave me courage. One late night, I was mugged and the mugger had a knife pointed at my belly. I’d never been mugged before and didn’t know the protocol for such an event, so when an innocent question came into my head, I let it come out of my mouth, “Does your mother know you do this?”
Love is never lost. 

My words shocked the mugger just enough to go away, but not before grabbing my necklace with the floating heart. That night, terribly troubled by the loss of such a sentimental yet otherwise worthless piece of gold, I dreamed about the incident again and again. I thought about how the floating heart always got caught on the clasp. It dawned on me that the mugger might not have gotten the heart. The next day, I went right back to the mugging scene and there on the sidewalk shining in the morning sun lay the floating heart. 
Love is never lost. 

Our family has had to learn a lot about love this year. We’ve wondered where love goes when we can’t see it. We’ve thought about how it can appear that love loses its way when life turns it upside down. However, appearances are deceiving. Love never loses its way. It knows exactly where it’s going and it is steadfast despite what our mind tricks us into thinking. 
Love is never lost. 

Love for people we care about who behave in ways we never imagined, love for ourselves when we don’t meet our own expectations, love for situations that we didn’t plan for, love in loss, pain, anger, and suffering –all seem to elude us. But it simply doesn’t have our attention. We are too attached to the behavior, the disappointment, the loss, the pain, and the suffering. We are caught in a whirlwind of thoughts, anxieties, and stresses that we can’t feel the power of its presence. 
Love is never lost. 

It knows it doesn’t have our attention, so it finds another way in – it finds a loving sister, a dear friend, a supportive mentor. They show up or call or arrange a get-together. You talk and laugh and the knots of pain, anxiety, and stress disappear for a moment. Love says, “feel me now? I am still here. I am always here for you.” This Valentines Day, please pass love’s message on and keep believing: 
Love is never lost.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Little Piece of Cerebral Bubblegum To Chew

Richard Tarnas in his recent book, Cosmos and Psyche, marks Copernicus, more specifically his heliocentric theory, as the impetus to transforming the human psyche from a belief in the divine will of God to a more science-driven world view. The heliocentric theory put the sun in the center of the universe with the planets orbiting around it as opposed to its geocentric counterpart, which put the earth in the center of the universe. Tarnas explains the heroic efforts and boldness of the Copernican Revolutionaries, who stood up against the Catholic Church and forged an entirely “new conception of reason.” All conventional paradigms of our place in the universe had to be redefined. Needless to say, it took generations.
While I do not assume to have any deep understanding of Tarnas work (which I hope you will explore) or the historical contexts within it, he has my attention and for purposes of my fodder here, suffice it to say whether it was this revolution or something else, the power of scientific discovery began to carve out a superior spot for us on the planet. While linguistic symbolization stands as a precursor to what is separating us (subject) from that which is not us (object), the sense of superiority we gained from science gave us a greater sense of personal autonomy and freedom. The residual effects are still being seen. 
Though empowering and innovative, with us as the subject and everything else as the object this worldview has reduced planet earth and everything else in the universe to something to be exploited as a canvas, a treasure chest, or trash can. It has distanced us from Nature. Most ancient and spiritual teachings allude to the paradox of dualism to subject and object; matter and anti-matter. Regardless what you choose to call it, prakrati and purusa, yin and yang, or any other duo without our otherness or opposite there could be nothing to learn from or play off of –no ally or enemy, no heaven or hell, no canvas, treasure chest, or trash can.
It’s interesting how much we admire our reflection in everything we create or destroy, (look what I made from that forest of trees) and yet we turn a blind eye to our connection to it. Science came about as an antithesis to religion, yet now is discovering micro units of matter and a proposed smallest unit that ended up with the nickname, “God particle”. It is uncovering things on a macro level as well with the possibilities of an ever-expanding universe or multiverse. Lately, the more we uncover, the more we learn about our interdependence and interconnection with it and a seemingly magical interplay at work of which our ego is not always creating.
These discoveries have brought about words like limitlessness and non-linearity, which all sound fun; however, in the vein of a non-dualistic world with its actuality of vast nothingness even iron-willed Existentialists might become anemic. Like Tarnas points out Nature seems indifferent to our presence much less our ego needs. As the light of knowledge keeps shining ever brighter through our windows, we can try to keep the curtain closed.
We don’t want to end up like the students of the sage Patanjali. The story goes that after Patanjali took the form of Adesesha, the 1000-headed cobra, he set out to carefully and systematically shed the light of knowledge on his 1000 students one-on-one. However, despite his warning not to peek behind the curtain that shielded them from the true brightness of all that Adesesha knew, curiosity got the best of them and they all burned to death. It might behoove us to be more like the one student who survived.  The one who ultimately received all of the knowledge of Patanjali even after he disobeyed the rules and left in the middle of class to answer the call of Mother Nature. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

97 Reasons To Explore Iyengar Yoga

BKS Iyengar, the World's Best Yoga Teacher, would be 97 years old today. He is renown for his life's work in developing a systematic method of teaching the eight-limbed path of Astanga Yoga to the masses. Today Google honors his work as does this documentary:  

As a tribute to his 95th Birthday, I started a list of 95 reasons why everyone should experience Iyengar Yoga. I have now added two more to honor his 97th Birthday. I urge Iyengar practitioners to contribute, add to, enhance or correct my attempts here. Please keep in mind I am a student. I am by no means a master of Iyengar's work.  The choice and order of my reasons were approached very organically and based on my humble idea of how to begin simply (some may view it as oversimplified) and progress into less simple reasons. Needless to say, this list is not in the right Krama (sequential order), though some effort has been applied to do so. As I gain more Light from the study and practice of Iyengar's work, I will probably want to change this list.  For now, it is simply a small tribute to a man I will never meet, yet who has affected my life in profound ways. Perhaps it will also serve to encourage at least one person to explore The Iyengar Method for themselves. 

1.  Alignment matters:  Poor body alignment leads to poor bone, muscle, joint, and ligament alignment. improve your body alignment and you extend the life and vitality of the body.

2.  Alignment matters:  Poor body alignment leads to poor health. When the body is misaligned it puts undo stress on all the systems of the body, decreasing function and capability. Improve your body alignment you improve your health.

3.  Alignment matters:  Poor body alignment leads to poor mind alignment.  When the body is misaligned, the mind is constantly troubled by tamasic (dull/heavy) and rajasic (fiery/active) states of mind and unable to reach a harmonious sattvic state. Improve your body alignment you improve the state of your mind.

4.  Alignment matters:   Poor body alignment leads to poor emotional alignment. When the body is misaligned the emotions are troubled and mentally imprisoned by the kleśas (five afflictions).  Improve your body alignment and you improve your emotional health.

5.  Alignment matters:   Poor body alignment leads to poor inner alignment.  Improve your body alignment and you improve your connection to your true self.

6.  Alignment matters:  Poor body alignment leads to poor breath alignment.  Improve your body alignment and you improve your ability to bring this vital nutrient to more areas of the body and tap into your own life force energy.

7.  Alignment matters:  Poor body alignment leads to poor energy alignment.  Improve your body alignment and you improve the alignment of (72,0000) energy or nadi channels in the body.

8.  Alignment matters:  Poor internal alignment leads to poor external alignment.  Improve your internal alignment and you improve you ability to align with the world around you.

9.   Alignment matters:  Poor alignment with your community responsibilities leads to poor community integration and support. Improve your alignment with your community responsibilities and you improve your standing in your community.

10. Alignment matters:   Poor alignment with healthy habits leads to poor alignment with your aspirations in life. Improve the alignment of your personal habits and you clear a path to your goals.

11.  Dedication pays:  Dedicating yourself to the study and practice of the Iyengar Method will enable your highest self to unfold naturally.

12.  Dedication pays:   Dedicating yourself to the study and practice of the Iyengar Method will enable you to focus to such an extent that learning anything becomes easier and more accessible.

13.  Dedication pays:   Dedicating yourself to the study and practice of the Iyengar Method teaches you to know yourself --your habits, your strengths, your weaknesses, your emotional state, your conscious state, your ignorance, your intelligence, your wisdom, your sense of grace and compassion for yourself and others.

14.  Dedication pays:   Dedicating yourself to the study and practice of the Iyengar Method gives you wisdom and discretion.

15.  Dedication pays:   Dedicating yourself to the study and practice of the Iyengar Method systematically and compassionately opens new pathways to healing yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

16. Dedication pays:  Dedicating yourself to the study and practice of the Iyengar Method gives you courage so you can liberate yourself from your fears, stresses, and anxieties.

17.  Dedication pays:  Dedicating yourself to the study and practice of the Iyengar Method teaches you safe ways to push your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual abilities through the use of props and other resources.

18.  Dedication pays:  Dedicating yourself to the study and practice of the Iyengar Method demonstrates how small successes can accomplish big goals.

19.  Dedication pays:   Dedicating yourself to the study and practice of the Iyengar Method gracefully shifts what and how you choose to engage your mind, body, and spirit; whether that's choosing a healthier diet, or reading, watching, and listening with more discernment.

20.  Dedication pays:  Dedicating yourself to the study and practice of the Iyengar Method gives you the tools, the words, and the experience to share what you have learned with others.

21. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning: "Transformation is achieved through sustained change, and it is achieved through practice." - BKS Iyengar

22. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning:  "Knowledge is always something that is universal.  It is not meant for one person.  It is not individual, but every individual contributes.  When knowledge goes in the right direction and ignorance is removed it takes all of us in the same direction. So I learn when you learn.  When you feel, and you understand, that gives knowledge to me.  In a similar manner when I give knowledge to you, you also start to understand."   Geeta S. Iyengar.  

23. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning:  "The intelligence […] grows faster vertically than horizontally." - BKS Iyengar.  (Vertical = Intelligence, Horizontal = Wisdom).

24.  Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning: Learning to stand first roots the body's intelligence in the feet first providing what is known as "base intelligence."

25.  Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning: Learning to root the body from the base enables vertical growth to happen.

26.  Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning: Learning standing poses enables the practitioner to activate and grow the intelligence in the outer limbs and basic structures of the body.

27. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning: Mobilizing the mind to activate the outer limbs of the body through extension develops a firm foundation and fundamental intelligence needed for standing forward bends.

28.  Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning: Standing extensions and forwards bends mobilizes the gluteals and teaches the concavity actions necessary for seated forward bends.

29. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning: Seated forward bends increase the flexibility in the gluteal, sacral, and coccyx regions to prepare the body for lateral extensions (twisting).

30. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning:  Standing upright teaches the elements of inverted standing poses on our shoulders, hands, forearms, and head.

31. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning:  Standing, forward bends, lateral extensions, and inversions, ready the abdomen for deep abdominal contractions.

32. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning:  Mastering the proper alignment of the sacral and coccyx regions along with the concavity actions of the upper back prepare the body for the introduction of preliminary back bending poses.

33. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning: Systematic learning enables the body, mind, and intelligence to awaken gracefully and compassionately.

34. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning:  Sequencing is not provided in a haphazard way according to the instructor's whim, it is progressive to foster maximum growth of the mind and body at every stage of development.

35. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning: Systematic learning frees the body and intelligizes the mind while increasing awareness how different sequences stimulate the adrenals, while other sequences pacify the adrenals while still others stimulate the pituitary and thyroid glands to balance the hormones.

36. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning:  The Iyengar Method systematically teaches in order to stimulate specific systems in the body in order to bring more physical, mental, and emotional balance.

37. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning: From a more balanced body, "the body becomes a universe for the mind to travel within."  BKS Iyengar.

38. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning:  Once vertical intelligence is achieved horizontal wisdom can flourish.  The intelligence can spread to occupy every minute area of the body creating space. This is what BKS refers to as a "yogic mind".

39.  Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning: Once a "yogic mind" is developed physical and mental health flourishes and control of intensity in action, relaxation, or stillness are in your hands.

40. Study of The Iyengar Method Quickens Learning:  Once a "yogic mind" is developed the body and mind can evolve in such a way as to ready itself towards deeper inner awareness or "involution".

41. Dedicated Study in the Iyengar Method Makes Discipline Easy: Once the "yogic mind" is developed the Yamas (Global Disciplines) and the Niyamas (Self-Disciplines) naturally follow."They are meant to train, channel and purify the energy of the organs of action and senses of perception ." "The principals of yama tame the organs of action. Yama strengthens dama -restraint of the senses; whereas the principles of niyama bring śama - calmness and quietness in mind due to simplicity in life." --BKS Iyengar Aṣṭadala Yogamālā- Vol. 1

42.  Dedicated Study in the Iyengar Method Makes Discipline Easy:  Once the Yamas and Niyamas are cultivated higher levels of āsana naturally follows.

43.  Dedicated Study in the Iyengar Method Makes Discipline Easy: Once the Yamas, Niyamas, and Āsanas are mastered, the discipline of Prānāyāma follows naturally.

44.  Dedicated Study in the Iyengar Method Makes Discipline Easy: Once the discipline of the Yamas, Niyamas, Āsanas, and Prānāyāma  become a natural part of the practitioners life, a discipline of sense withdrawal or Pratyahara naturally follows.

45.   Dedicated Study in the Iyengar Method Makes Discipline Easy:  Once the discipline of the Yamas, Niyamas, Āsanas, Prānāyāma and Pratyāhāra become a natural part of the practitioners life, Dhārnā (concentration) and Dhyāna (meditation) can be cultivated naturally in succession.

46.   The Iyengar Method was developed by a Man of Integrity:  Integrity in his physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual life. 

47. The Iyengar Method was Developed by a Man of Integrity:  BKS Iyengar has dedicated over 80 years of his life to analyzing his own practice and discovering ways to give voice to the subtleties required to evolve every āsana. His early practice was up to 10 hours a day.  Today, at 95 he continues a 3-hour daily āsana practice with a 1-hour pranayama practice.  It has been said that he explains he has to continue practicing because he hasn't been able to access "every cell" in his body yet. 

48.  The Iyengar Method was developed by a Man of Integrity:  He has a rigorous teacher training program to ensure his teachers can safely and systematically develop students physically, mentally and emotionally into a more yogic state of balance and alignment.

49.  The Iyengar Method was developed by a Man of Integrity: He systematically gives voice to instruction that will eventually bring about an evolution whereby the student begins to experience Sthira Sukham Āsanam (Sutra 11:47, sweet, stable, comfortable yoga pose within a vibration of oneness), so that Prayatna śaithila ananta samāpattibhām (Sutra 11:48, the effort to perform the pose becomes effortless), and Tatah dvandva ānabhighātah (Sutra 11:49 from that dualities cease to disturb or constrain us).

50.   The Iyengar Method was developed by a Man of Integrity: BKS Iyengar has written over 20 books like some of the following:

Arogya Yoga
Light on Asthanga Yoga
Art of Yoga
Light on Pranayama
Astadala Yoga Mala - 1
Light on Yoga
Astadala Yoga Mala - 2
Light on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Astadala Yoga Mala - 3
Tree of Yoga
Astadala Yoga Mala - 4
Yoga - A Path to Holistic Health
Astadala Yoga Mala - 5
Yoga – Ek Kalpataru
Illustrated Light on Yoga
Light on Life
Growing Young
Yog Depict
51.  The Iyengar Method was developed by a Man of Integrity:  He trained his children in the art of yoga.

52.  The Iyengar Method was developed by a Man of Integrity: His daughter Geeta and son Prashant chose to continue their father's work.

53.   The Iyengar Method was developed by a Man of Integrity: With the help of his daughter Geeta he has developed "Guidelines for Teachers of Yoga".

54.    The Iyengar Method was developed by a Man of Integrity:  He fostered his daughter Geeta's passion towards women's issues and health. Her definitive guide for women Yoga: A Gem For Women has been a great resource for women interested in yoga all over the world.

55.   The Iyengar Method was developed by a Man of Integrity:  He fostered his son Prashant's exploration into subtler whelms of yoga.  Prashant is the author of several books:

  • Prashant Uvacha
  • Yoga and the New Millennium
  • Organology and sensology in Yogash_stra
  • Class After Class
  • Alpha and Omega of Trikonasana

56. The Iyengar Method was developed by a Man of Integrity:  He doesn't waiver from his roots and yet he is constantly dissecting those roots to learn more so he can share more with all of us.

57. The Iyengar Method was developed by a Man of Integrity: Please click on this link to read another recent tribute: Ingela’s Reflection, Guruji Turning 95, An Artist, Scientist; Philosopherforever learning, sharing; helping.  

58. The Iyengar Method was developed by a Man of Integrity: "Yoga, as practiced by Mr. Iyengar, is the dedicated votive offering of a man who brings himself to the altar, alone and clean in body and mind, focused in attention and will, offering in simplicity and innocence not a burnt sacrifice, but simply himself raised to his own highest potential." --Yehundi Menuhin in forward of Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar

59.  The Iyengar Method Works:  It progressively teaches the science of yoga, the art of yoga, and the philosophy of yoga. All of which result in the development of "a fresh mind"state.   

60.  The Iyengar Method Works:  "If we maintain that state in our daily lives, that is known as integration.  To be fully integrated means to integrate oneself totally from the body to the self and also to live in integration with one's neighbors and surroundings." --Tree of Yoga, BKS Iyengar

61.  The Iyengar Method Works: Iyengar constantly analyzes the details of ancient texts such as  Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā and Patañjali's Yoga SutrasHis method is based on developing what these texts define as the primary goal of yoga, which is to "Prana-vrtti-nirodha" or stilling the fluctuations of the breath and "Citta vritta nirodha" stilling the fluctuations of the mind. When movements of consciousness are restrained a space is created, much like the space between inhalations and exhalations. As that space expands, a realization begins: that consciousness has no light of its own. It is dependent on something else.  Much like the interplay between the Sun- Ha and the Moon-tha.  The Ha=Sun=Hot=day=light=atma=soul and tha=Moon=Cool=night=dark=chitta=consciousness. The moon is merely reflecting the light of the sun.  However, without the cooling effects of the moon, the energy of the sun would burn. Iyengar's Method works on the idea that the balance of Ha and tha is an imperative, which puts one on the path to experiencing the even greater force within the various levels of samadhi -absorption.

62.  The Iyengar Method Works:  Iyengar uses personal experience and constant reassessment to teach us how we can use the breath to control the consciousness, while in turn controlling the consciousness through regulation of the breath. 

63.  The Iyengar Method Works: Iyengar has systematically broken through the Western belief that yoga is only a physical exercise by teaching and abiding by the Eight Limbs Of Astanga Yoga: 1) Yama 2)Niyama 3) Āsana 4) Prānāyāma 5) Pratyāhāra 6) Dhārnā 7) Dhyāna 8) Samādhi.

64.  The Iyengar Method Works:  Iyengar's book Tree of Yoga serves as a guide to how yoga goes beyond the studio and permeates in all aspect of our lives to bring us more freedom and peace.

65.  The Iyengar Method Works: Iyengar is known as the first real "class" teacher of yoga.  He has developed a method that communicates according to the students ability. "In the majority of pupils, the intellect of the head is very strong, but the body does not react to the volition of the brain. Usually, their brain acts as the subject, but you have to learn to treat the brain as an object and the body as a subject.  This is the first lesson yoga teaches.  When that is learnt, the effect of yoga is very quick." Tree of Yoga.

66.  The Iyengar Method Works:  The Method works no matter if you are well or sick, young or old, energetic or lazy, well formed or deformed.

67.  The Iyengar Method Works:   Iyengar has a knowledge of the causes of the disease.  His Method integrates therapeutics that work on chronic issues by strengthening surrounding areas before addressing the affected area.

68.  The Iyengar Method Works:  It could be said, The Method's therapeutic approach is based on Sutra II.16, heyaṁ duḥkham anāgatham, which according to BKS Iyengar's Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali is interpreted, "The pains which are yet to come can be and are to be avoided." 

69.  The Iyengar Method Works: In the article linked above, "Therapeutics in Iyengar Yoga: 'Your Job is to Put the Student on the Path to Yoga'", by Stephanie Quirk, "[In The Iyengar Method] we have Abhyāsa and Vairāgya  No alternative health method has this. Your job as a yoga teacher isn’t to be someone’s doctor, nurse, or psychiatrist. Your job is to put the patient/student on the path of yoga. They must become followers and practitioners if they are to finally eradicate all trace of what disturbs them (dosha). Abhyāsa (practice) and Vairāgya (detachment) are at the core of everything one has to undertake. They are the irreducible plinths upon which yoga is based, and what truly separates the yogic path from other alternative health therapies."

70. The Iyengar Method Works:  The first book written on the technique of yoga with detailed descriptions and photographs, Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar is still the best resource on the proper practice of the yoga Āsana and Prānāyāma.  First published in 1966, it was written based on Iyengar's 27 years of experience at the time. The book covers 200 āsanas, bandha, kriya, and pranayama with over 600 photographs. 

71.  The Iyengar Method Works:  In addition to descriptive books on technique, the Iyengars also provide "Hints and Cautions" in order to assure the student is learning in the safest and most effective environment.  However, despite the many books and resources, Iyengar always stresses the importance of experience and study with an Iyengar Certified Instructor or Master Teacher to guide your progress. 

72.  Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patañjali:  He recognizes the nine obstacles that impede progress on the path of yoga.

Vyadi: Illness
Styāna: Langour, mental stagnation
Samṥaya: Doubt
Pramāda: Heedlessness, lack of foresight
Ālasya: Sloth, fatigue
Āvirati: Dissipation, overindulging
Bhrāntidarshana: False views, illusions
Ālabdhabhūmikatva: Lack of perseverance
Anavasthitatva: Instability, regression

73.  Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patañjali:  The physical obstacles, which can range from laziness to disease are overcome through the Iyengar Method with the use of all kinds of props.  Props make poses possible (even in illness) for everyone (removing doubt, laziness, and fatigue) which encourages the perseverance in practice that will begin to break through these obstacles.

74.  Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patañjali: The other obstacles are mental obstacles. These can range from doubt and illusion to idleness.  Iyengar recognizes that when teachers pace lessons they can begin to develop a student's mental faculties in order to reduce the mental obstacles while sharpening focus and stamina.

75.   Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patañjali: The five kleśas 1. Avidyā(Ignorance) 2. Asmitā(ego)3. Rāga (attachment) 4. Dveșa(aversion) 5. Abhiniveṥa(fear of death) along with the nine obstacles serve as distractions to that scatter the mind.  Iyengar's method works to significantly reduce the hold the nine obstacles and five kleśas have on the student in order to create a better foundation for progress. 

76.  Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patañjali: Iyengar encourages self-study or svadhyaya.  

77.   Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patañjali  By concentrating on a particular object the consciousness becomes serene.  Iyengar makes the āsana the object of focus. When the student becomes engrossed in the study of āsana, the mind steadies fostering deeper progress.

78.  Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 sutras of Patañjali: “The yogi conquers the body by the practice of āsanas and makes it a fit vehicle for the spirit. He knows that it is a necessary vehicle for the spirit. A soul without a body is like a bird deprived of its power to fly.” - BKS Iyengar, Light On Yoga.

79.  Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patañjali:  Though only three (to five according to Aṣṭadala Yogamālā- Vol. 1) sutras are attributed to the practice of āsana. Āsana helps the student move from the gross to the subtle - from the external to the internal.  Iyengar's method concentrates on the external alignment in āsana in order to create the environment to penetrate and align the internal world of the student.

80. Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patañjali: "Whatever āsana one performs, it should be done with a feeling of firmness and endurance in the body, good will in the intelligence of the head, and awareness and benevolent delight in the seat of the heart." BKS Iyengar Aṣṭadala Yogamālā-- Vol 2.

81.  Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patanjali:  Only after the perfection of asana (Sutras 11:47, 11:48, 11:49) is a student begin Prānāyāma.

82. Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patañjali:  Pranayama must be introduced gently. In his book Light on Prānāyāma, Iyengar covers the 14 basic types of Prānāyāma broken down into a careful formulation of 82 stages so that the student can safely progress. He outlines the difficulties and dangers while providing a detailed 200-week course to help avoid them. To explain he power of prana he said, "Hindus often say that GOD is Generator, Organizer, and Destroyer.  Inhalation is the generating power, retention is the organizing power, and exhalation, if the energy is vicious, is the destroyer. This is prana at work.  Vigor, power, vitality, life, and spirit are all forms of prana."

83.  Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patañjali: Iyengar takes great care in his teachings on Prānāyāma. "[…]breath-control, that is Prānāyāma is not merely deep breathing or breathing exercises, normally a part of physical culture.  It is something far more, involving exercises which affect not only the physical, physiological and neural energies but also the psychological and cerebral activities, such as memory-training and creativity." --R.R.  Divwakar in Forward of Light on Prānāyāma.

84. Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patañjali:  Iyengar offers respect and admiration to those who are credited for the discovery of Prānāyāma, namely Patañjali and the ancient Yogis of India.  He explains how he can write about the subject, but words are limiting.  Practice and experience done with caution, sustained effort, and patience are the only way to gain by this limb of yoga.

85.  Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patanjali:  Avidyā, (ignorance) is what Iyengar deems the "mother of all afflictions." This may be why he encourages the study of Yoga with the guidance of a Guru.  Gu=Light  Ru=Ignorance.  A Guru is simply someone who has mastered the art and science of yoga and can shed light on the dark areas where there is a need or want for knowledge and understanding. Pranayama is said to be "exalted knowledge" according to the Yogachudamani Upanisad

86. Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patañjali:  Patanjali prescribes ways to train the mind.  There are five basic qualities of mind 1) Mūda (dull) 2) Kṣipta (lazy) 3) Vikṣipta (oscillating) 4) Ekāgra (steady) and finally 5) niruddha (still).  Nancy Mau explained in class today what I will attempt to impart here: that Iyengar describes two banks between a river, one bank being the yamas and the other the niyamas by adhering to the boundaries of the banks we will flow in the right direction.  The two banks align us, irrespective of birth, time, place or sex. The banks keep us going in the right direction where friendliness, compassion, joy and indifference (as needed) naturally spring forth along the way. The mind steadies itself and eventually finds stillness.

87. Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patañjali:  The four chapters or padas of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1) Samādhi Pāda (Sub Consciousness) 2) Sādhanā Pāda (Study) 3) Vibhūti Pāda (Power) and 4) Kaivalya Pāda (Freedom) are according to Iyengar ordered for their interdependent cultivation. "The theory of the first chapter and the practice of the second and third chapters, when converted into science, art, and philosophy, become yoga sastra (teaching), yoga kala (unit/time), and yoga darsana (for sense awareness)." -BKS Iyengar Aṣṭadala Yogamālā- Vol. 1.

88. Iyengar follows the yoga as explained in the 196 Sutras of Patañjali: As a Master Teacher, Iyengar codified the Sutras of Patañjali according themes for quick study for his students in his Aṣṭadala Yogamālā- Vol. 1.  

89. The Iyengar Method believes three things must be united in yoga:  Love, Knowledge, and Action. "It must not be just your mind or even your body that is doing the āsana   You must be in it.  You must do the āsana with your soul. How can you do an āsana with your soul?  We can only do it with the organ of the body closest to the soul - the heart." - BKS Iyengar in Light on Life

90. The Iyengar Method believes three things must be united in yoga:  Love, Knowledge, and Action. Iyengar explains that he teaches a "spiritual practice in action."  He uses the body as the vehicle to discipline the mind toward consciousness of the soul. 

91.  The Iyengar Method believes three things must be united in yoga:  Love, Knowledge, and Action."You must feel your intelligence, your awareness, and your consciousness in every inch of your body." - BKS Iyengar in Light on Life

92.  The Iyengar Method believes three things must be united in yoga:  Love, Knowledge, and Action.
"Love must be incarnated in the smallest pore of the skin, smallest cell of the body, to make them intelligent, so they can collaborate with all the other ones, in the big republic of the body." --  BKS Iyengar in Sparks of Divinity

93.  The Iyengar Method believes three things must be united in yoga:  Love, Knowledge, and Action.
"Sadhana should be pursued even though pain and death are at our throat." Sadhana means self-effort, spiritual discipline. 

94. The Iyengar Method believes three things must be united in yoga:  Love, Knowledge, and Action.
"The eyes must go to the region that does not work, not the one that does." - BKS Iyengar in Sparks of Divinity

95.  The Iyengar Method believes three things must be united in yoga:  Love, Knowledge, and Action.
"You are in bondage.  So while you are sweating and aching, let your heart be light and let it fill your body with gladness.  You are not only becoming free, but you are also being free.  What is not to be glad about?  The pain is temporary.  The freedom is permanent."- BKS Iyengar in Light on Life

96.  The Iyengar Method teaches, "
Before peace between nations, we must find peace within the small nation which is our own being." - BKS Iyengar, Sparks of Divinity, The teachings of BKS Iyengar, Compiled by Noelle Perez-Christiaens.

97.  The Iyengar Method teaches, "The seed is the cause for the tree to grow, but the surprising thing is that in the seed there is nothing visible for one to know how the tree grows and with what content. From this apparent 'nothingness' of the seed the tree shoots up. In sthe same way, the seed of our life force, at the core is the Self."  BKS Iyengar, Aṣṭadala Yogamālā- Vol. 7.  


Monday, November 30, 2015

Certified Iyengar.

BKS Iyengar
Learning Iyengar Yoga is a humbling experience, but the lessons feed a part of us that is very hungry. BKS Iyengar dedicated his life to learning the many aspects of yoga at a granular level to be able to teach it to his students. Because of his inexhaustible work, Certified Iyengar Instructors are usually outstanding teachers and the more open we are to what they have to share the more we understand the incredible work BKS Iyengar did.

However, before anyone can be open to learning what an instructor has to offer, much less understand what it took for them to become certified to teach the Iyengar method, a few things have to happen. Thanks to Mr. Iyengar they are beautifully embedded into his teachings. His method wakes up our body and mind systematically by introducing poses in a sequential order.  Instructors teach the poses in Sanskrit with English translations. When we hear the names of the asana in every class and connect them with the actions of the pose, our hearing refines and adapts to a whole new language. Over the course of our studies, our ego takes a back seat to our desire to learn. At the same time, the ego provides us the necessary fuel we need to keep going. 
Meeting Dr. Geeta Iyengar in Pune, India

When our ego steps down a natural sense of reverence takes hold for the Father of Modern Yoga who synthesized the path of yoga into 196 pithy Sutras or threads: the sage, Patanjali. The Sutras are aphorisms that serve as an incredible tool to guide us as we delve into the vast subject of yoga. To honor his contribution many classes begin with an Invocation to Patanjali. BKS Iyengar's daughter, Dr. Geeta Iyengar, said the following about the importance of chanting The Invocation:

"We chant so that at the very beginning that feeling of sanctification comes from inside, with the feeling of surrendering oneself, because nothing can be learned in this world unless you have the humility to learn.”

With a humble disposition comes an openness to learn more and work harder that is met with help from your instructors. My Iyengar instructors did some little things that made a big difference in my belief I could do the work required.  Kathleen Pringle, the owner of Stillwater Yoga and a Senior Level Iyengar Instructor, showed me a trick with my Microsoft Word program, so I could begin to save the Sanskrit words as I documented the classes I took. Nancy Mau, an Intermediate Junior Level 3 Certified Iyengar Instructor let me borrow a CD of the Invocation, so I could carve out time to learn the invocation in my car. Kquvien DeWeese chanted particular Sutras of Patanjali in her classes each week and had them listed on her website with the translations so that I could study them. After a while, the names of poses began to resonate, I began to recite the Invocation with some proficiency and chant some Sutras. The once daunting language of Sanskrit slowly began to make sense.  I'd gained a better sense of hearing that seemed to wake up my mind and fostered my belief in my ability to keep learning about this vast subject. It also fed a desire to want to share what I was experiencing with others. 

I remember when I asked Kathleen how to become a Certified Iyengar Instructor, she smiled then explained the process. It is something Kathleen has had to do innumerable times in her 30-years as an Iyengar Instructor and Teacher Trainer. However, she knows that until the student goes through the process, they won't understand what is required. That’s because, like anything with the Iyengar name in front of it, it is something that comes through experience. Earning the “Certified Iyengar Instructor” title is only a small, albeit important part of the Iyengar Teacher Training Process.

B.K.S. Iyengar is renown for being the World's Best Yoga Teacher. His teacher certification process assures that teachers of the Iyengar Method strive to be the best teachers they can be. Therefore, the process is designed to have very high standards. One recent Certified Iyengar Instructor, Sam Cooper explained, "This is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I graduated from college, from Seminary, and earned a Doctor of Ministry degree.  Becoming a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher was harder than any one of those three. Academic work engages your brain. You pour information into your brain, you process it, and you produce something with your mental faculties. To be a yoga teacher you have to be a yoga student first, and being a yoga student, means that you must cultivate the intelligence of your body. This demands a lot more than developing mental intelligence. I believe this is why it was such a challenge for me, I think.”

The rewards for becoming a Certified Iyengar Instructor are much greater than a title or a piece of paper you can hang on a wall. They are life changing: for you and more than likely for the people with whom you share the practice. While the process is being re-evaluated on an ongoing basis to encourage more students to embark on it, it is still a process that requires a long-term commitment, focus, and discipline.  I believe it is challenging because it creates the ‘opportunity’ for you to face yourself in a way most people may never have to. I came to the practice after ten years of other types of yoga and over 23 years of ballet training. I felt I had body/mind intelligence, but I’d also developed a lot of bad habits. To overcome these takes time and feedback from our teachers.

Kathleen Pringle and some of my Teacher Training Peers
The wonderful part of the Iyengar Teacher Training process is you have a mentor to guide you through it. Not only that, you have an amazing community of Iyengar peers, practitioners, and instructors who are always at the ready to answer questions and lend support or advice. In Iyengar Yoga, moments with your mentor can be very uncomfortable: "I did that? Oh no. I said that, really?" However, these moments bond you to someone who has gone through the process and helps you learn about yourself in a way you never thought possible. You continuously hone your ability to hear your teachers and yourself. You systematically learn restraint and discrimination, along with the power of your breath in affecting your thoughts, words, and actions. None of this could happen without the help of a mentor. Your mentor understands what you're going through; therefore, they are the perfect guides to get you through the process.

The process seems to assure the self-realization that Patanjali's Yoga Sutras so succinctly describe. Not that by the end of your first level assessment, you'll be a self-realized human being, far from it, but you will realize enough to know you want to stay committed to your Sadhana. Sadhana is the means by which anyone reaches a goal. It is an effective and effortful practice that continues regardless of any obstacles in your path. The more directed your Sadhana, the more you can apply ever-increasing skill and efficiency. In other words, the more effort you put into it, the more things fall into their proper place to allow for sustained practice. Sadhana Kriya or the skilled action of any practice requires tapas, discipline, svadyaya, self-study, and Isvara pranidana, faith.  With these three qualities, a Sadhana transforms from effortful effort to effortless effort.

I liken the Iyengar Certification Process to a psychotherapist going to get their Ph.D. to become a psychiatrist. Many programs require they go through psychoanalysis before they serve others. One article I read, by Steven Reidbord M.D. in Psychology Today referred to it as "Calibrating the Instrument" so the therapist can better help their patients. I feel BKS Iyengar strived to develop such a rigorous training process so that his teachers are well-calibrated instruments for serving the students of Iyengar Yoga. The bonus is we become well calibrated for life, too.

My Mentor, Kquvien DeWeese
My mentor, Kquvien DeWeese is an Intermediate Junior Level 3 Iyengar instructor. She is very committed to Iyengar Yoga and her personal self-realization process. Her lessons on how to remedy the obstacles on our path along with how to “stay behind the chaos” we create for ourselves have been invaluable and come from her personal experiences. I'm grateful for her insightful albeit hard-to-swallow truths about my teaching skills and her meaningful encouragement. She's not afraid to be honest about her process; therefore, she serves as an inspiring mentor who helps me learn to honor mine.

The distinction between Iyengar training and most other types of yoga teacher training is that it encourages things like assisting more senior instructors and peer training.  My training group for my second assessment met about once a week to practice and enjoyed guest appearances by our other training buddies from other states (Peer training eventually becomes a World-Wide experience in Iyengar Yoga). In addition to Peer Training, there is Personal Study and research that must take place. Each assessment level (there something like eight levels) has a specific syllabus to follow.

Once I went down the rabbit hole of all the information available on the subject, I didn’t want to come out of it. However, yoga is about learning balance, restraint, and discrimination. It’s amazing how many places in my training process and my life these lessons reared their head. 
Some of my study material

Finally, there is the “Mock Assessment.” Each Mock comes with a set of very honest notes about how the teaching could improve. The choice to improve stays with you, but with effort improvement happens. No matter what the critique, how much apparent backslide, or noticeable improvement there is it’s important to maintain abhyasa and vairagya (continuous practice and detachment). 

My final assessment for the Introductory II Certification happened in Charlotte, North Carolina, at 8th Street Yoga. The owner, Phyllis Rollins, who I’d had the honor of meeting at trainings and workshops was unable to be there, but I felt her presence through her warm and inviting studio. Assessors, Sue Salaniuk from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Sandra Pleasants from Charlottesville, Virginia, and Mary Obendorfer from Kalaheo, Hawaii complimented that warmth with their own. I will never forget the sincerity in their eyes when they explained, “Please don’t misinterpret our facial expressions as anything negative. We want you all to pass.” Overall, I felt during the assessment weekend all the prospective teachers were rooting for each other. We bonded much more than last year when we all were like deer in the headlights not knowing what to expect. This year, we had folks from many states across the U.S. as well other places like Holland and Israel. We shared meals and stories, fears and worries, and emails so we could keep sharing.

The first day involved an assessment of our level pranayama or breath regulation practice, a timed written exam, and a demonstrated practice of up to sixty-six poses in our level syllabus. The final portion of the assessment was the teaching demonstration.While you can prepare as any teacher would prepare, an Iyengar Instructor must be ready to address whatever presents itself that day. They must be prepared to “see” and “teach” the students who are in front of them.

Erin Bailey greeted me with a hug the day I came for the teaching portion of the assessment. She is another peer I’ve trained with who’d recently received her certification and was hosting this assessment (with aplomb I might add). When the assessors arrived, each one engaged me in some way, either by asking how I was or how I slept the night before. I responded in kind.

I didn’t tell them that before I went to sleep, a deep reverence for B.K.S Iyengar, who is no longer with us came over me. The thought of him put things in perspective. I wanted to honor this great man whose personal Yoga Sadhana spawned a systematic method of teaching that enabled the transformational effects of this art, science, and philosophy to spread around the world – a method of teaching he did with more love, humility, authenticity, and integrity than anyone I know.

The epiphany calmed me down that night. The next morning, before the clock (on the wall and my wrist), started timing the 40-minutes I had to teach six poses, the assessors allowed me to be in the studio alone. I focused on the photos of BKS Iyengar that surrounded the room. I said the Invocation to Patanjali to myself. I did some of the poses I’d learned that calm the system down and sharpen the mind. I thought about the support of the community that I’d built over the years through this practice. When the time came, everyone including the three assessors took their places, then, with faith and courage, I turned around to share what I’d learned with my students.