Why do we practice asana and what's up with all those props!?

Jan 28, 2021

"Yoga is not about touching your toes. It is what you learn on the way down" Jiyar Gor

I found this quote on a website and thought it simply summed up what the Iyengars have been trying to teach us.  It also addresses some issues that I have confronted as a student of yoga and a teacher of yoga. 

If we become so focused on the physical asana practice and achieving poses no matter what we will stay on this  peripheral level and the ego doesn't back down but it becomes fueled to a blaze and we miss the point.

Fact is,  if we focus only on the body, it will greatly disappoint us because it will change.

A dear and lovely man I knew from my time in NYC, Richard Jonas,  died this week.He was a diligent practitioner, a fearless fighter for those suffering from HIV and AIDS and still, cancer found him. It was because of his his practice, his dear friend Tamar Kelly wrote, he faced the end of his life in the way he did. 

"He was constant with the practice right to the end, only the shape changed. His practice helped him face death with such enormous dignity, courage and compassion for those he has left behind.Practice has helped me through these last months as I witnessed him fade."

Touching the toes, wrapping the leg around the head is not the goal. Unfortunately, when we have pain, stress or the desire to do the poses we see on social media we come to the pracice focused on physical needs. Nothing wrong with this, pain can deliver us to the practice.

Iyengar yoga is known for the props. I've had students leave because they didn't understand the props and were simply annoyed by them. The props are there to help us when we are suffering or cannot do but they are also there  to help those without an issue to understand the pose and oneself  deeply. There are some that need a prop to practice and others  that have become dependent on the props and stay in one comfortable place on their path.The journey is moving foward and getting closer to the toes. This is tapas. (will, effort, fire)

I've been thinking so much about tapas as I study weekly with my teacher Gulnaaz Dashti from India. She is a force and does not let me sit on a nice bench on the side of this path, she doesn't let me get satisfied and set up a picnic under a tree on this path and enjoy my cheese and wine. Instead, she forges me ahead through resistance, fear, excitement, pride etc. to learn and to discover. 

As life changes with outside events and internal events it's easy for that fire to dampen to a small flame. 

BKS Iyengar states “You will not reach Knowledge of the Divine Self without passing through self-knowledge. Your practice is your laboratory, and your methods must become ever more penetrating and sophisticated. ...it continues through the self-culture of asana and pranayama practice where one has to be able to sensitively to verity differences in actions and make adjustments.  (Light on Life, page102)

Yoga is a learning process or as Prashant Iyengar says, the culturing of the consciousness. Consciousness, BKS Iyengar explains, is "propelled by two forces, energy (prana) and desires (vasana)." It moves in the direction of the most powerful. When prana leads then the senses are held in check but when desires takes over the breathing becomes "uneven and agitated." And these, he says are things you can observe just like you observe evenness in action and effort  in your asana and "this is why your practice of yoga brings self knowledge (svadhyaya)." (Light on Life page 102) 

Today, I showed a way to put this all into practice using the props for self-discovery and using the props to get you off the park bench and move along your yoga path.  Check it out here. 

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