I first met BKS when I was 36. Although I had been practicing yoga for three years, my practice remained very shallow—even by my standards. It felt like something was missing but I couldn’t say what. I didn’t have any answers, but in a sense, I did because the “bodies” of answers were all around me—I just wasn’t seeing them.
In my yoga classes, we would touch our knees and noses to the ground, fold forward to touch our heads to our feet—and then we would reverse the process, again and again, move our bodies into all sorts of shapes. In between poses, we rested, sometimes for as long as five minutes. The practice felt good but it also felt trivial to me—too easy, too simple, too small.
My Thoughts While Meeting BKS Iyengar
I thought that if only I could find a teacher who knew yoga then I could do more, be more. If only I had the right teacher, I could do what he or she did and everything would fall into place. Ultimately, it felt like something was missing—but what?
I decided to seek out the best teacher I could find. Being a yoga student has many benefits but perhaps one of them is that everything you need to know about yoga—well, at least everything that matters—is right there in front of you.
I went down to my local bookstore and found one of the first books by BKS Iyengar which was translated into English. It had a picture of him on the cover standing on his head with his legs in the air—something I was unable to do. Yet, when I started reading it something remarkable happened.
I Began to Look at My Practice in a New Light
For example, in describing how he taught his beginning students he said that they should do only postures which are comfortable for them and make their practice “a moving meditation, without strain.”
I had never thought about yoga like this before. I assumed that it would be hard, strenuous work—like anything worth doing. What he was saying seemed like heresy because all the teachers I had ever known said that yoga was a challenging practice and anyone who wanted to do it seriously needed to “push” to improve their poses, that yoga worked like an exercise in this respect.
But then I thought about the meditation practice I had studied for many years—one of sitting still and watching my breath which never goes anywhere…and what he was saying made sense again. I didn’t have to try to be spiritual or aspire towards some goal. It felt like I was already there, just as I was.
So Began My Study of BKS Iyengar’s Books and Videos
Each book seemed to put me more in touch with the quality of “stillness” or space that existed between my thoughts which were whizzing around inside my head like cars on a racetrack.
My teachers had never taught me that it was possible to be still inside, yet this is something that yoga seems—on the surface—to promote since everybody lies down on their backs with their eyes closed at the end of a session. But I think one can “go” more deeply into space by staying awake and watching what is going on inside.