My insight on The Light on Yoga
My book report for RYT-200
Introducing: The Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar
The book, The Light on Yoga, immediately introduces the reader to yoga by giving its meaning, which is described as meaning “to bind, join, attach and yoke, to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply” (pg. 19).
Yoga means to bind, join, attach, and yoke
B.K.S. Iyengar isn’t introduced other than on the cover as the World’s Foremost [Yoga] Teacher. Iyengar preached when the restlessness of the mind, intellect, and self is stilled through the practice of yoga, the yogi finds fulfillment. It’s simply not enough to practice the asanas otherwise it would be considered an athletic endeavor.
Control of the mind (king of the senses) gives yoga its spiritual base.
There are seemingly endless amounts of guidance given to readers through Sanskrit terms and their definitions, however, the eight most important spiritual aspects of yoga include:
- Yama: universal moral commandments
- Niyama: self-purification by discipline
- Asanas: posture
- Pranayama: rhythmic control of the breath
- Pratyahara: withdrawal and emancipation of the mind from the domination of the senses and exterior objects
- Dharana: concentration
- Dhyana: meditation
- Samadhi: a state of super-consciousness brought about by profound meditation, in which the individual aspirant becomes one with the object of his meditation (pg. 21)
Union of my will with the will of God
The spiritual philosophy of yoga, according to Iyengar, is the union of the yogi’s will with the will of God. This spiritual alignment frees the yogi’s life of pain. There is peace. There is no sense of “I” or “mine” in terms of the physical.
How to find Bliss
Song of the Soul is a beautiful poem that people who’ve achieved Samadhi feel in their hearts (pg 53). Briefly described as possessing neither ego, reason, mind, though, name, life, nor air. Casting aside hatred, passion, delusion, greed. Claiming no rights to virtue, vice, pleasure, or pain. Denying any knowledge. Dwelling within the senses, but not making a home there. Can be found only in Bliss.
Part 2 on The Light on Yoga
Yogaasanas, Bandha, and Kriya
In the second part of the book, Iyengar gives detailed instructions and benefits of 200 poses spanning between pages 61 to 424. Details of the poses makes this an excellent reference book for asanas and pranayamas.
Details for poses such as:
- name meaning
For example, the final pose in the book is Savasana. It defines the name as meaning corpse pose.
The purpose of the pose is described as “by remaining motionless for some time and keeping the mind still while you are fulling conscious, you learn to relax.”
Iyengar gives nine steps for corpse pose technique. The effects of the pose removes fatigue caused by the other asanas and induces calmness of mind. Seeing as how savasana is a pose naturally done in everyday life, the reader might be surprised to see Iyengar go in such great lengths to describe the pose, however, he says that it’s one of the most difficult poses because there’s a great emphasis on the state of the yogi’s mind.
Iyengar listed 27 effects of asanas. I found the following most interesting:
“The right method of doing asanas brings lightness and an exhilarating feeling in the body as well as in the mind and feeling of oneness body, mind, and soul.”
“Continuous practice will change the outlook of the practitioner. He will discipline himself in food, sex, cleanliness, and character and become a new man.”
“When one has mastered an asana, it comes with effortless ease. Movements become graceful. He looks within himself while practicing and feels the presence of God in different asanas which he does with a sense of surrender unto the feet of the Lord.” (All quotes from pg. 60)
I’ve found these effects interesting because I’ve consistently experienced them. I’m drawn to yoga because of the lightness and exhilarating feeling that lingers long after a practice. My outlook has expanded in depths and heights unexpected before I had studied the spiritual philosophy of yoga. I attribute the ease and grace of a mastered asana to muscle memory and also the fact that you’re not longer fighting yourself, your own body for a desired result.
You’re able to flow into it with a sense of surrender.
Part 3 on The Light on Yoga
This section opens with some rules and guidelines for proper breathing techniques. One thing that sticks out in my mind is, “Pranayama should be practised with determination and regularity at the same time and place in the the same posture” (pg. 432).
Ideally, I like that ritual. However, I can’t decide if I were to attempt to do that, if my life of chaos would evolve into one of stability. Or, if I would be setting myself up to feel like a failure and disappointed with my lack of control.
Specifically covering the basics of pranayama, Iyengar convicts the reader that the practitioner must be physically and mentally fit and under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher. Otherwise the practice becomes harmful instead of helpful.
I hadn’t yet heard this piece of advice: “Each should measure his own capacity when doing pranayama and not exceed it. This may be gauged as follows: suppose one can with comfort inhale and exhale for 10 seconds each in rhythmic cycles for a given length of time, say 5 minutes. If there is any change in the rhythm in which the period of inhalation or of exhalation decreases, to say 7 or 8 seconds, one has reached one’s capacity. To go beyond this point, strains the lungs unduly and brings in its wake a host of respiratory diseases” (pg. 434).
To be honest, I find it dramatic to say that to going beyond your breath capabilities will cause respiratory diseases, but I like the part about paying attention to the rhythm of your breath to find where it breaks.
A part of what separates yoga from other physical activities is the focus on the breath.
“Evenness of breathing leads to healthy nerves and so to evenness of mind and temper” (pg. 434).
It’s great that the breathing exercises are described in the book, but I don’t feel comfortable attempting to do them just from reading directions from a book. Even Iyengar himself says how dangerous it can be if done wrong.
Appendix 1: The Light on Yoga
Iyengar created detailed practice for readers to partake in. I can’t even wrap my mind around it. I would need Google Translate for the entire 25 pages.
Appendix 2: The Light on Yoga
Iyengar lists 88 different ailments and body parts in alphabetical order with the asanas that would help alleviate symptoms.