Yoga with Ruth White
Is a scientific, disciplined and deeply researched system developed over 65 years by Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar. It emphasises the integration of body, mind and spirit. The Iyengar approach to yoga is firmly based on the traditional eight limbs of yoga expounded by Patanjali in his classic treatise, The Yoga Sutras - written over 2,500 years ago. In these writings Patanjali systematized the concept of yoga and wrote it down in the form of 196 sutras or aphorisms contained in four chapters. The Sutras outline a way of life which allows each individual to develop the way to a healthy body and mind which can lead to liberation (mukti) and self-realisation (kaivalya). The philosophy is explained in several of B.K.S. Iyengar's books. The simplest, perhaps, is in the introduction of Light on Yoga, published in 1966, which is today considered a modern classic on yoga.
The term "Iyengar yoga" has been coined by the pupils of Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar to distinguish it from the teachings of other styles of yoga. He has described his yoga as Patanjali Yoga and says: "I have no right to brand my practices or teachings as Iyengar Yoga. My pupils, who follow me, call it Iyengar Yoga." The only thing I am doing is to bring out the in-depth, the hidden qualities of Yoga to the awareness of you all. What I do is pure, authentic traditional Yoga. It is wrong to differentiate traditional Yoga from Iyengar Yoga as it is also not fair to brand Yoga, as Raja-yoga, Hatha-yoga, Laya-yoga, Kundalini-yoga, Taraka-yoga and so forth. There is no distinction between one Yoga and another. Yoga, like God is one."
In Iyengar Yoga, the search for a developed consciousness begins with physical awareness. When first coming to yoga, students are introduced to asanas (postures). There are thousands of these yoga asanas but in Iyengar yoga the beginner student is introduced to elementary postures with an emphasis on the standing asanas. In all the asanas taught in the Iyengar tradition emphasis is on accuracy in alignment in the asanas - alignment of the skeletal body, which brings alignment to the muscles, skin and flesh of the body. This accuracy and attention to detail is not merely a "physical effect" - as is often thought of Iyengar yoga - but involves also the psychological and physiological processes. The asanas affect and penetrate every cell and tissue, sharpening the intellect and concentration, bringing relief from countless ailments thus generating a sense of health and wellness. Asanas are psychophysical, unlike physical exercises which are purely external. The attention to detail and alignment brings increased mobility and co-ordination, improves circulation, concentration and mental clarity, reduces stress and tones and rebalances the body's vital organs.
Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar sees the asanas as one of yoga's most significant "tools" which cannot be discarded. The particulars of breathing (pranayama) become known only when the student is properly established in the asanas. If the asana is correct, the breath moves properly. In each posture, every part of the body is acted upon with intent and precision. Iyengar Yoga goes beyond the physical to embrace emotional and spiritual growth. As students learn to extend awareness to each part of their bodies they begin to explore the limitless potential of the mind and the soul. This system of teaching helps the student to progress gradually from beginner to proficient advanced level, taking account of their strengths and their weaknesses.
Another aspect of B.K.S. Iyengar's many years of teaching and unrelenting research is the innovation of the use of "props" - bricks, belts, benches, chairs, weights, blankets. In the beginning Guruji used stones, household bricks, tables, chairs, walls and the floors. These props are used with beginners, the ill, the infirm to assist in the understanding of the asana and to feel correct movement and action without stress or strain. They are not seen to be used permanently, but to help "towards harmless practice" and for the practitioner to gain courage, confidence and clarity in the asanas. "The use of props stimulates the practitioners body and mind and creates zeal to stay longer and longer to make the sadhaka a lifelong student of yoga" (B.K.S. Iyengar).
The evolution of this therapeutic application to postures gives all an opportunity to gain the benefits of yoga. Leading members of the medical profession in India, Europe, and North America recognise Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar's intimate knowledge of the body and his explanations of pathology from a yogic point of view. He has in particular worked with cardiologists, immunologists and orthopaedists, particularly in relation to spinal problems. For his work in this area B.K.S. Iyengar has received many awards, citations from around the world. "The yoga asana practised with props is unique in that it is the only form of exercise which allow both action and relaxation simultaneously. It activates the muscles, tones the body's organs and relieves undue mental and physical stress and strain. Props help to increase flexibility and stamina and, at the same time, relax sick and tired muscles. They help to rejuvenate the entire body, without increasing physical fatigue." (B.K.S. Iyengar).
Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar sees yoga as an art, a science and a philosophy. He has popularized all aspects of yoga developing them without sacrificing the purity of the original teachings. He continues, in 2002, at the age of 83 to teach and inspire students all over the world, to write and research and live his life according to the philosophical precepts of yoga.