About Iyengar Yoga
Iyengar is the core of what we teach at our studio, and Lillah
Schwartz is one of only three certified Iyengar Instructors teaching
in North Carolina. Iyengar is a science, a philosophy and an art.
During Iyengar practice, technique is emphasized along with the
practice of correct anatomical alignment during asanas. Props, such
as wooden blocks, chairs, blankets and belts, are often used to help
the body into the correct positions. Because of the focus on proper
anatomical alignment, Iyengar is considered by many to be one of the
safest forms of yoga. In fact, Time magazine named Iyengar as the
"safest for beginners" in April 2001.
Sequencing is also emphasized
in Iyengar. Practicing asanas in certain sequences may offer
powerful cumulative effects. By using the actions of the limbs,
awareness of the senses, and breath students are guided to the
integration of body, heart, and mind.
Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar yoga, brought his method to the
United States in 1976. Since then, Iyengar has spread the world
over and influenced, or formed the basis for, the majority of yoga
styles recognized today. B.K.S. Iyengar is recognized as one of the
most influential yogis of his time. At 85 years old, he continues to
travel, teach at workshops and events, and write. For more
information, visit www.bksiyengar.com.
In the Presence of BKS Iyengar
There are moments in the lives of those of us who
seek truth and beauty that leave us forever changed. For yoga
enthusiasts, one such moment was the recent Yoga Journal conference
in Estes Park, CO. in September 2005 where BKS Iyengar began his
teaching and U.S. tour for his new book Light on Life.
As a yoga student, I was first introduced to the
Iyengar method in 1977. The intelligence behind the practice gave me
support, stability and freedom from nagging back and shoulder pain.
BKS Iyengar was a student of Sri Krishnamacharya, the man who
revived the teachings of Astanga Yoga in the 21st century. The Astanga yoga path has at its base the Yoga Sutras of
Patanjali, the guiding principles on the path of yoga, or Union.
Mr. Iyengar shares this lineage with other notable
teachers such as Patahbi Jois, T.K. Desikachar and Indra Devi. BKS
Iyengar?s outstanding contribution is how he has codified and
refined the practice of Asana (poses) and Pranayama (breath control)
to reflect in action, the whole of the Yoga Sutras. Mr. Iyengar?s
methods have been recognized the world over. In 2004 the Indian
government crowned him the Emperor of Yoga, a prestigious education
award, and the BBC has hailed him as ?the Michelangelo of yoga?.
At Estes Park in September 2005, 800 of us stood on
our mats inside a perfectly designed rectangle to define our
personal space. We waited patiently chanting the Yoga Sutras and
reviewing our Sanskrit on the overhead projectors. Then like a
single organism, we were drawn to the stage anticipating the
appearance of BKS Iyengar. The applause began the moment his face
appeared and continued seemingly forever until every cell of our
bodies were filled with gratitude for this great man and his life?s
work. And then class began. Each senior teacher took turns teaching
a yoga pose to the crowd and, after giving their best instruction,
the master would speak: ?Observe your mind?what is its state? Now
(in tadasana), bring the inner skin of the big toe mound down onto
the floor. Observe, did your mind become quiet? Peaceful? Yes or
no?? Invariably, the answer would be ?yes.? And so it went, pose
after pose, pearls of awareness that expanded and tied together our
consciousness into a seamless strand of action, peace and poise.
This was not my first experience being a student in
his presence. I met Mr. Iyengar in San Francisco in 1984 at the 1st International Iyengar Yoga Convention, made a trip to India, and
attended two other conventions where he taught before seeing him
this year in Estes Park. Each time I have been impressed with his
forthright honesty and instinctive knowledge and skill. I have
watched him time and again adjust people in poses, add a prop, give
weight and resistance, or take the resistance away, always with the
end result of restoring them to balance and lightness of being,
beyond their pain and suffering. Yes, he was always a passionate and
demanding teacher, but not in any ordinary way, only 100%. This year
I saw a mellow man of 87 years, easy to smile and make a joke. Yet
still absolutely clear about what was important, the integration and
inner freedom that was possible for every human being through the
mindful practice of yoga. He wants us to see what he sees and know
the importance of every nuance on the path to freedom. As his
students he calls us to study long, observe carefully and learn to
be fully human so that we might serve others in the highest sense.
Having myself studied and performed the basic yoga
poses thousands of times over the past 25 years, I still scurried
between poses to cryptically jot down each renewed or deeper
insight, refusing complacency and thirsting for the larger vision of
yoga, for the truth of being. I have never been disappointed by Mr.
Iyengar, but rather awed by his simple yet profound teachings, his
keen observations, and his deep sense of compassion and wisdom. I am
still puzzling over his comment that we either breathe and draw
oxygen from our brain or breathe and draw oxygen from our lungs.
Mr. Iyengar is no doubt a living master who has
reached out and touched so many, often giving them back their lives
after illnesses and injury. For those of us who have seen him in
action he has awakened in us a deep sense of compassion and a desire
to learn. Those yoga students who had the great good fortune to be
in Estes Park with Mr. Iyengar have had a glimpse of the light, the
wisdom, the truth, and the vast possibilities yoga has to offer. To
quote the master himself, ?The Light of yoga, which once lit will
never dim, the better your practice, the brighter the flame.?
After studying and teaching for 25 years and
assisting thousands of people in finding pain relief through yoga? I
am grateful and humbled as I return again to my mat to investigate
the polarity of nature and soul, to study, to learn and to grow.
Lillah Schwartz pioneered the Iyengar method in North Carolina
beginning in 1981. She is an Introductory Certified Iyengar
Instructor and is celebrating the 26th anniversary of her
studio, Lighten Up Yoga - in downtown Asheville.