“It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.”
– B.K.S. Iyengar
B.K.S. Iyengar was born in India in 1918 and taught yoga since of the age of 17. He was one of the world’s leading teachers of yoga for over 70 years and was internationally recognized as a leading authority of hatha yoga. His own style of teaching, “Iyengar Yoga”, is followed by certified teachers across the world. Iyengar was the first person to teach yoga to large groups of students; he lays great emphasis on precision and alignment, a style that is faithfully followed by his students. He is also the only person to teach the highest aspects of yoga – Atma Darshan – through asanas. Through his work, Iyengar has established the relevance of yoga to the treatment and cure of many illnesses and has received a Doctorate from the United Nations Charter for Peace. Iyengar passed away at the age of 95 in 2014.
What is Yoga?
The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning to bind, join, attach and yoke, to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply. It also means union or communion. It is the true union of our will with the will of God. ‘It thus means,’ says Mahadev Desai in his introduction to the Gita According to Gandhi, ‘the yoking of all the powers of body, mind, and soul to God; it means the disciplining of the intellect, the mind, the emotions, the will, which that Yoga pre-supposes; it means a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all its aspects evenly.’
Yoga is one of the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy. It was collated, co-ordinated and systematized by Patañjāli in his classical work, the Yoga Sutras, which consists of 185 terse aphorisms. In Indian thought, everything is permeated by the Supreme Universal Spirit (God) of which the individual human spirit (jīvātmā) is a part. The system of yoga is so called because it teaches the means by which the jīvātmā can be united to, or be in communion with God, and so secure liberation (moksa).
One who follows the path of yoga is a yogi or yogini.
In the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, which is the most important authority on Yoga philosophy, Sri Krishna explains to Arjuna the meaning of Yoga as a deliverance from contact with pain and sorrow. It is said:
‘When his mind, intellect, and self-are under control, freed from restless desire, so that they rest in the spirit within, a man becomes a Yukta – one in communion with God. A lamp does not flicker in a place where no winds blow; so it is with a yogi, who controls his mind, intellect, and self, being absorbed in the spirit within him. When the restlessness of the mind, intellect, and self is stilled through the practice of Yoga, the yogi by the grace of the spirit within himself finds fulfillment. Then he knows the joy eternal which is beyond the pale of the senses which his reason cannot grasp. He abides in this reality and moves not therefrom. He has found the treasure above all others. There is nothing higher than this. He who has achieved it, shall not be moved by the greatest sorrow. This is the real meaning of Yoga – a deliverance from contact with pain and sorrow.”
As a well-cut diamond has many facets, each reflecting a different color of light, so does the word yoga, each facet reflecting a different shade of meaning and revealing different aspects of the entire range of human endeavor to win inner peace and happiness.
Yoga has also been described as wisdom in work or skillful living amongst activities, harmony, and moderation.
‘Yoga is not for him who gorges too much, nor for him who starves himself. It is not for him who sleeps too much, nor for him who stays awake. By moderation in eating and in resting, by regulation in working and by concordance in sleeping and waking, Yoga destroys all pain and sorrow.’
– Excerpt from Iyengar’s book Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika
Book to Hang out With: Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
The definitive guide to the philosophy and practice of Yoga–the ancient healing discipline for body and mind–by one of it’s greatest teachers. Light on Yoga provides complete descriptions and illustrations of all the positions and breathing exercises. Features a foreword by Yehudi Menuhin. Illustrations and photos throughout.