B.K.S. Iyengar 14 December 1918 - 20 August 2014 …
“I KNOW THE PATH
It is straight and narrow. It is like the edge of a sword.
I rejoice to walk on it. I weep when I slip.
God’s word is: He who strives never perishes.
I have implicit faith in that promise.
Though, therefore, from my weakness I fail a thousand times,
I will not lose faith.”
And, more words of wisdom, from Shirley Daventry-French, of Victoria BC…
Last night I had a restless night with some gastric issues which disturbed my sleep. Perhaps it was the Japanese takeout I had eaten. Probably they were exacerbated by the dire warnings about the proliferation of Covid-19 I heard on the evening news. Who knows?
Or it could also have been concern about the water leaking into a storage room in the basement through cracks in the foundations of the house. Or any one of the myriad household tasks lying in wait that are far more challenging than usual to deal with. No matter what the cause, the irritation I was experiencing this morning both physical and psychological had to be dealt with on all levels.
After my morning cup of tea (always step number one), I went down to my yoga room to practise.
For several weeks I have been balancing what I call my infrastructure practice (aligning and strengthening muscles, bones and joints so I can accomplish these tasks) with a focus on Pranayama. Like all aspects of yoga they build inner and outer strength at the same time as strengthening resolve and individual resources. They also liberate me from harmful, unhealthy and weakening behaviour which is constantly lying in wait—just like the virus!
I have a lot of choices. A dedicated yoga room which contains a huge variety of props with vibrations from years of practice and courses taught and taken there, along with photographs of Guruji and Swami Radha and images of Patanjali, Siva and Krishna acquired in India. Light on Yoga and a few other yoga books sit on a shelf for reference when required. Apparently this room was a gunroom for the person who built the house! Once a student enquired if I felt strange practising yoga in a space which had served such a purpose. On the contrary I feel it is positive to change its purpose to personal spiritual growth.
Getting on with my practice, dealing first with some creaky early morning joints and spastic muscles, I decided to focus on the abdominal tightness from my gastric disturbance. The first posture called for a series of props. I arranged some of those I expected to be required, then lay down with abdomen elevated and instantly realised I needed some more. Good yoga student that I am, I got out of this supine position and acquired a little more support; but it was still not enough. “Could I manage? Would I be able to relax eventually?” etc., etc.. I really didn’t want to get up again to rearrange.
And then the voice of my husband came into my head from his days as a practising physician who was also a practising yogi and taught some small yoga classes to the few patients who were interested enough to investigate. “Take time to be well, otherwise you may end up having to take time to be sick!”
Isn’t it annoying when you are in a funk and your spouse who, as far as you know is still in bed, dispenses some wisdom? But nevertheless I did move and rearrange my props, found the position which was right for me at that moment and very quickly began to experience the recuperative nature of yoga.
As I write these pieces for Yog e-news* touting the benefits of personal practice, I appreciate few readers will have the years of study of yoga behind them that I have, along with phenomenal teachers. But these teachers shared their knowledge and emphasised the importance of those trained by them to do the same. First we must learn something about the subject. Secondly we must practise. Then the little we know expands as our body-mind memory and awareness mature. In the beginning we don’t want to modify too much but repetition awakens intelligence, and I’ll leave the last words to Guruji: Intelligence when awakened says: “What a fool I’ve been!”
*This essay first appeared in Yog e-news, the newsletter of the Iyengar Yoga Centre of Victoria.