Archive for September, 2020

“My body is my temple, asanas are my prayers.”

“My body is my temple, asanas are my prayers.”

B.K.S. Iyengar

The photos above were taken during a quiet moment at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in November 2008. It is where Guruji practised, taught, and inspired all who came to learn the subject of Yoga.

May these images inspire your own practice and encourage you to create a space dedicated to your sadhana.

Whether it be a room of one’s own, or a corner cleared inside your busy household, email iyoga@telus,net to share a photo of your practice space with your community.

Yoga is Perfect Harmony

True yoga is perfect harmony

Yoga is nothing
if it is not perfect harmony of body, senses,
mind and intellect, reason, consciousness and self.
When all these are integrated that is true Yoga.

At the start of the pandemic I wrote an article about the essential role of a personal practice for anyone embarking on the path of yoga. I have continued to refine this idea in several articles.

Early in my yoga journey I studied with a man called Swami Venketesananda who as a disciple of the renowned Swami Sivananda served his guru in many capacities, one of which was as editor for Sivananda’s many books. One day his master presented him with a new book for editing and noting its similarity to a previous book Venketesananda pointed this out. “I know, I know,” was Sivananda’s response, “but few people would have understood the teaching at first and since they are unlikely to reread that book I am giving them another chance!”

With that in mind, here I go again!

Unhealthy air from wildfires in the US west coast states is blanketing Victoria and environs at present. Along with Vancouver on some days last week we shared the distinction of having the worst air quality in the world! Once again there is a need to adapt.

The practice of yoga is more valuable than ever to meet this additional challenge to life and health, and while classes and good teachers are excellent guides, there is nothing as reliable as knowing how to modify your individual practice for all eventualities. We are being advised not to undertake strenuous outdoor activities. Yoga, of course, is generally an indoor activity but this too needs modification .

Guruji would often speak about giving us clues. A guru doesn’t tell you what to do but points out the consequences of your choices. A guru will guide you on the path of yoga. A good teacher will instruct and train you to use the tools of yoga. The fellowship of others also attempting this challenging journey can strengthen your resolve. All of these will encourage you to persevere. All have a role to play but there is one role which rests entirely in your own hands: that of yoga practitioner.

To become more proficient and refine your yoga, discrimination is essential: how, when and where to make use of the tools you have acquired in the face of the idiosyncrasies of your own body as well as the excuses and emotional dependencies which cloud your judgment and interfere with your resolve. The more you practise the firmer your steps become, their purpose clearer. You develop a clearer sense of what strengthens and what weakens you. You become a warrior not a wimp.

Now is not the time for complex breathing techniques or spectacular accomplishments. It is time to refine body, mind and breath to become more efficient and discriminating in living through the challenge of today while at the same time becoming flexible and steady enough to face come what may for as long as necessary.

Practising by yourself on a regular basis may enable you to come face to face with your Self. From my own experience, the person who goes downstairs each morning to practise yoga is not the same as the one who emerges later on. I prefer the second one as probably so do most others in my life.

Shirley Daventry French
September 17, 2020

Walking in Nature

We started exploiting nature. Walking outside was taken for granted. Now all that has changed.

Abhijata Iyengar

Sustaining Alertness

Sustaining alertness For the duration.

Memory is necessary to see
whether we are regressing or progressing.
If you use memory to live in past experiences alone,
it becomes your foe and hinders progress.
Memory is a friend when used for progress.

Today is the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. This will mean little or nothing to most of you who are reading this newsletter; but to those of us who lived through those six years it will have great significance for as long as we live.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic I am constantly finding links and remembrances from this time. I was young then, seven when it started and thirteen when it ended. I am old now and living half a world away from my native London but those six early years coloured, and, in some instances, scarred my life.

One of the significant things I learned from that time was the benefit of staying informed. Newspapers and BBC News on the Radio were daily rituals and two important resources for those of us on the Homefront. The other was the need to practise discrimination. Rumours abounded fed by know-it-all’s and scaremongers. Perhaps, most important of all, we learned that we had to sustain this alertness for the duration—however long that might last.

This is where we find ourselves today facing a threat we know very little about for an unknown duration. Lacking direct counterattack weapons such as an effective vaccine we have to rely on common sense in ourselves and others. We also have two potent weapons at our disposal: Yoga and Discrimination. The practice of Yoga will strengthen our ability to discriminate and make the best choices for our own well-being as well as that of others.

In British Columbia, in Dr. Bonnie Henry we are fortunate to have a public Health Officer who communicates clearly and compassionately on a regular basis. Sometimes what she has to tell us is not what we want to hear. This also brings back memories of wartime Britain where the BBC Evening News was listened to regularly and reverently in a majority of households in the UK. Oddly enough we often found humour in our predicament. Humour can be a potent tool for navigating a crisis but only if we are still able to hear and follow the recommended course of actions to safely navigate this pandemic.

In the maxim quoted at the beginning of this article, Guruji speaks of the atrophy of dwelling too much on the past but qualifies this by saying that memory becomes your friend when used for progress. How to make progress in this time of Covid? One of the skills a regular practice of yoga hones is discrimination. Discrimination shines light on ignorance at the same time as it reveals a path ahead.

Last night as I went to bed this article was in need of a final paragraph. Today as I made my early morning cup of tea it came to me. There are many jokes about the propensity of the British to make a cup of tea as a way of coping with almost anything. Each day as you wake up to live another day in the face of this pandemic, make your equivalent of a “cup of tea”, drink it, do your yoga practice, then be grateful for and live this day.

The past can teach us but we can only live in the present.

Shirley Daventry French