|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
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: http://www.sadhakafilm.com/|
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.
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 Stillyoga.com
Rhonda Geraci is a freelance writer and avid Iyengar practitioner