When someone talks about the proper way to do a yoga asana, they often reference the Iyengar Method, and B.K.S. Iyengar, its founder, one of the foremost most famous yoga teachers in the world, and the author of “Light on Yoga,” considered by many to be Yoga’s bible.
Having experienced injuries himself in his early years, Iyengar dedicated his life to making it possible, with the aid of props like belts, blocks, chairs, and ropes, for everyone to practice yoga, regardless of their age or physical condition. He was so successful in spreading the practice globally that in 2004, ten years before his death, Time Magazine named him one of the one hundred most influential people on the planet.
Without ever having personally met him, B.K. S. Iyengar has deeply influenced my way of being and living.
My own yoga journey began at OM Yoga in New York City, where I studied with its inspiring founder, Cyndi Lee, who combined Tibetan Buddhism teachings with an alignment-based Vinyasa Yoga. After two years, I returned to Athens, and started practicing Ashtanga Yoga. Though I was training my body well, I soon found that I missed the joy I’d found in Cyndi Lee’s classes. I rediscovered that joy in Rishikesh, India, studying with Usha Devi, who teaches Iyengar Yoga.
“It is through alignment of my body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self and intelligence”, wrote B.K.S Iyengar. In Iyengar, each asana is patiently approached with careful attention to the alignment of the entire skeletal-muscular body. There is a specific process in how you start, move, stay in an asana and then return to your starting place, deconstructing and then reconstructing the asana with your whole being until, inevitably, your soul appears. Studying Iyengar, I am able to bring my mind into the present, where it works with me instead of just pulling me here and there. A practice can be physical and meditative at the same time. And this is exactly what I try to share in my classes.
Like my experience as an actor training in the theatre, Iyengar is not simply training for its own benefit, but a tool to understanding who you are. Both disciplines demand a daily, challenging practice in which you work over and over again on the details until, when you least expect it, a door opens and a light shines on a new path. And for as long as you continue to practice,, new paths continue to open up that allow you to offer up the best of you to the world you are living in.