Like many Westerners, my first yoga class was an Iyengar one. The practice includes the use of belts, foam blocks and wooden bricks, known as ‘props’, which are sometimes frowned upon by some schools of thought. However, they make postures available to all regardless of their ability, which can only be a good thing. I studied in the Iyengar style for many years and enjoyed the precision and focus brought to each asana, which enables better alignment. B K S Iyengar was one of the most important figures in bringing yoga to the West, and thereby enabling me and many others over the years to train as teachers and attend yoga classes.
Light on Yoga is a well-known classic, but my particular favourite is The Tree of Yoga, which beautifully compares the eight limbs of yoga, of which asana is just one, to a tree. In this exert Mr Iyengar considered dharana; ‘To bring the wandering mind to a state of restraint is known as dharana. Dharana is concentration, or complete attention. It is the juice which flows within the branches and the trunk of the tree towards the root.’ Iyengar also explored the relevance of yoga to health, the different stages of life and the journey of the self. As the West has become increasingly obsessed with the physical practice of yoga, it is a joy to read a text which reminds us of its spiritual origins. Like many teachers and students I am grateful for the gift of yoga in my life and thereby also grateful to Mr Iyengar for bringing yoga to the West, so that it may enrich our lives today.
‘As the essence of the tree is in the fruit, so the essence of the practice of yoga is in the freedom, poise, peace and beatitude of Samadhi, where the body, the mind and the soul are united and merge with the Universal Spirit.’ B K S Iyengar, The Tree of Yoga