The most precious gift of all.

“From Freedom of the Body comes Freedom of the Mind
and Freedom of the Mind leads to Absolute Freedom”

—BKS Iyengar

Last week because of my year of birth, I received a shot in the arm against Covid-19. This is probably not the sort of information you expect to find in this newsletter. Most readers will not yet have reached this milestone and whilst paying attention to when your cohort will be eligible, from Yog-e News you are probably seeking information on when in-house classes will recommence and meanwhile what Zoom classes are available. However, the fact that this rollout of vaccines has commenced and is slowly gathering momentum in Canada is one of the factors which will allow us to reopen sooner provided most people roll up their sleeve and get one!

Nowadays yoga is widely known as a form of fitness focussing on flexibility or perhaps a means of recovery or rehabilitation after injury or illness until you are ready to return to full physical activity. Sadly that misses its main purpose by a long way. As B.K.S. Iyengar states in the aphorism quoted above: Yoga is a Path of Liberation. Similarly to vaccines which only work if you have one, yoga’s potential benefits only accrue if you practise.

Yet, despite the touted benefits of personal practice, many students only practise with or under the direction of others. Study with qualified teachers is essential and invaluable so you gradually become familiar with the subject and learn to adapt as body and mind respond to the vicissitudes of life; but your personal practice time in communion with your true or higher self is the most precious gift of all. As you gain experience you learn to distinguish between needs and wants, and tune in to a fount of wisdom hard to hear amidst the hubbub of modern life. Most important you begin to create a dialogue between yourself and your Higher Self.

No-one, not even the best yoga teacher in the world, has the potential to know you, your body and mind better than you do; and the resource of a good teacher is not lost once you begin practising on your own. Many of the questions I receive challenge me to reflect, clarify and refine my words, thoughts and actions before responding.

Once, when Mr. Iyengar was speaking about therapeutic yoga he told us that when someone comes to him asking for help, first he gives them pleasing asanas while he assesses their calibre and strength of mind. Then, if deemed to have courage and stamina for the task, he offers a chance to rebuild strength, stability, stamina and initiate whatever changes are required to function healthily and more effectively in all aspects of life. To students of all ages and varying states of health he made it abundantly clear that no progress would come without practising what you have been taught until you better understand its significance and purpose in your life.

Those of us who studied with Guruji learned quickly that without practice we cannot uncover the purpose of being alive here on earth in this body at this particular time. He had no patience and little time for students who returned to Pune without having practised what he had taught them last time—and he could tell instantly! Although he is no longer here in the flesh, we have access to direct pupils trained by him along with many texts to guide us.

As mentors it is our duty to set our pupils free so they can follow their own unique path and act as mentors for other generations of pupils. It is our responsibility to provide them with tools and train them in their use. Yoga is a discipline which requires discrimination to adapt and adjust to practise alone or with others, in spaces large or small, come what may.

This pandemic has interfered with many of our preferences in life but not our independence. We still have the choice to learn, to make use of this learning and live a full life.

With gratitude for yoga and my daily practice,

Shirley Daventry French