The Power of Unity

Abhijata Iyengar
May 2020

In May seven of the teachers from the Iyengar Yoga Centre of Victoria participated in an Intensive taught by Abhijata Iyengar and hosted by the Iyengar Association of America. The title of the seven day, on line course was “The Power of Unity”.

As a follow-up to their week-long experience, these teachers volunteered to lead a Professional Development Workshop for those of us on Vancouver Island. It was a significant undertaking, each teaching from their own places and spaces, relying on technology new to most. Each had a limited time and focused on a particular day of the Intensive. As a participant I appreciated the clarity and detail of their explanations and was especially grateful to them for expanding their teaching practice with words of Abhijata.

They brought a rich dimension to the work. In their own style, five of those teachers have agreed to share some of their impressions of Abhijata’s thoughts with our community, providing glimpses of the practice through her words. I thank them.

Carole Miller

· Body, Breath and Mind have to be gathered together. Yoga is Union.

· One part of your brain is involved in raising the spine. Another part has to observe this action, to check whether it has been executed properly. And still another part has to be responsible for maintenance of this action.

· Think of the brain as a multi-national company with many employees working for it – so many brain cells, so many neurons working together as a cohesive unit for you to function. Consciously bring this union between body, mind and breath – all those parts together….

· “A brooding mind has dull shoulder blades.”

· In Adho Mukha Virasana, “Bring your chest closer to the floor, so that we are closer to the comforting force of Mother Earth – as a child seeks comfort in the arms of its Mother, let your sternum embrace Mother Earth.”

· Learn to differentiate between dullness and quietness. They are not the same.

Glenda Balkan Champagne

Abhi says that nature has infinite potential. She refers to “prakrtyapruat” a word from sutra 4.2 where in BKS Iyengar’s translation of Patanjali’s sutras, prakrtya is translated as nature and purat as becoming abundant or flow.

She quoted Guruji saying that we get carried away in actions and don’t observe our responses.

So, for example in Adho Mukha Svanasana, when the front bottom shin moves back and the ankle moves back, observe how much the thigh moves. Every body part is a team member. If you tap the energy of the ankles, your thighs go back more. If you tap the energy of the vertical lift of the spine it has an effect on the thighs.

Ann Kilbertus

Abhijata spoke of ichhati – The desire to do, the desire to learn. Will. Have the desire and motivation to correct ourselves in our pose.

You can change the path that the breath takes by using the body, for example arm variations in Supta Tadasana.

With some asanas we have flooding and drought where we wash away or deprive the body. Overdoing in one part causes underdoing in another part.

Awaken a sense of discrimination like a flower falling from a tree. No ego of tree, flower or earth pulling.

Chair Bharadvajasana: Don’t be aggressive with your arms like trying to pull the lid off of a bottle. That inflates the arms. Soft hold so we can PERCEIVE better, not DO better.

Robin Cantor

Abhijata told us the story of teaching a strong Uttanasana to the women’s class while Guruji was practicing in the corner. She was determined to build motivation and enthusiasm for the forward bends so she was teaching with great gusto and working them intensely. Guruji stopped the class and asked her what she was doing? He told her to do Uttanasana like a flower falling from a tree! Does the flower tell the tree ‘I don’t want you! I am leaving? Does the tree push the flower away? Does the earth grasp at the flower, claiming that the flower belongs to me? None of this happens! There is no ego in the flower, the tree or the Earth. When the time is right, the flower simply falls.”

Marlene Miller

At the end of the seven day course with Abhijata she had us doing Sarvangasana on a chair and asked us to feel how we could learn from that prop.

Feel the seat against your back, which hip is touching more?
Are your arms puffing.
Where do you start?
Become your own teachers.

Don’t practice to become better teachers, it is not about making better teachers.
Refine your sensitivity in the chair.

Props are an extension of body
Like a piece of light,
Props are not just for beginners
Props are for everyone

Yoga is a way of life.

Leslie Hogya