“Transformation literally means going beyond your form.” – Wayne Dyer
Some people practice yoga postures (yogasana) to improve their balance and flexibility. Some add yoga to their exercise regimen as a different supplement to running or weigh-lifting. Some find the premise that “yoga calms the mind” attractive and chanting OM could possibly help them relax and wind down. Regardless the motive, many yoga enthusiasts and practitioners probably agree on the “feeling of well-being” that cannot easily be put into words. After all, yoga is mostly experiential.
Iyengar Yoga is well known for its creative and therapeutic sequencing. For example, if I want to improve upon my back-bending postures, I would progressively open my shoulders and hips by practicing standing poses and perhaps inverted poses in a skillful sequence. It would not be prudent to practice a forward-bending pose to prepare for a back-bending poses. After a back-bending practice, I would neutralize my spine by adding some gentle lateral twisting poses to conclude the sequence.
Moreover, Iyengar Yoga helps deal with symptoms of different ailments. Headache, for example, may be alleviated when the practitioner, under the guidance of Iyengar Yoga Certified teachers, adopt an individualized sequence of supported supine and forward-bending poses. The outcome is often a pleasant surprise.
A pleasant surprise when you discover a new path while hiking in a forest. A pleasant surprise when you watch your first hand-knitted sweater being worn. A pleasant surprise when you watch the Sun breaking through dark clouds for even just a second.
When we practice yogasanas, we are transforming our perceptions and understanding of our very existence. Matthew Remski, a modern author of Ayurveda and yoga, most recently posted this comprehensive definition of asana on his Facebook page:
The descriptors such as “mindfully,” “expression,” “interoceptive” and “aspirational” resonate with the students’ experiences at Mary Reilly’s weekend workshop at Seattle Iyengar Yoga Studio last month. In the workshop, Mary Reilly artfully sequenced the yogasanas of different categories for an experience of self-transformation. She beautifully shared the theoretical underpinnings by citing the concepts in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali I.33:
maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhkha punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam ||33||
(Through cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy, and indifference to pleasure and pain, virtue and vice respectively, the consciousness becomes favorably disposed, serene and benevolent) – Translation from Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B.K.S. Iyengar.
Mary Reilly emphasized on the notion of “upekṣana,” or “impartiality” as she preferred as an English translation during our practice of yogasana. In coming out of a deep standing forward-bending pose (Ardha Baddha Padmottasana), Mary asked us to resume in Mountain pose, Tadasana to observe and absorb the “new things inside” about ourselves after the previous pose. Throughout the weekend, she guided us through the realization how “asmita,” the I-ego tended to revisit the habits of the past or the fears of the future. To neutralize asmita, we need to develop upekṣana during our practice of yogasana. When we are in a difficult pose, we stay open to possibilities rather than rely on the habits or fears to take over. Bound in this body and its worldly existence, we need to remain impartial in our self-perception to allow changes to take place from inside.
B.K.S. Iyengar’s quote here sums up what Iyengar Yoga practice of yogasana is not just physical yoga, but an accessible path for self-transformation: “Transformation is sustained change, and it is achieved through practice.” One pose at a time.