Being taught by Prashant Iyengar this last week or so has been a revelation of kinds. He is a philosopher of the truest colours. As a linguist and etymologist he often ‘invents’ word structures to express the truth at the core of meaning. His craft as a teacher is to bring the student by degrees and via many circuitous, wondrous, mind-bending routes to an experiential understanding of his subject. His discourses, for me (a lay beginner), are full of sudden flashes of light, connected by obscurer passages that it will take many long years of study and practice to discover. The flashes are luminescent; jewel-drops of experiential wisdom. There are so many more golden nuggets waiting to be picked up from those darker passageways. I’ll continue through the labyrinth and see. In Pune: go to Raya to bend your body (and self); go to Prashant to bend your mind (and self). Breath is the unifier.
The notes below are paraphrased and necessarily represent my subjective understanding of what was taught. Much was missed. These are the drops that landed.
People often distinguish between theory and practice. This is theory OF practice.
We are engaged in physical, mental, sensory, ‘breathly’ activities. So how breathly are you in yoga?
Our mind, our body, has enormous influences on us (meaning, the inner Self).
Mind and body are always in relation to gravity, but not so the breath.
The body and mind can be feminine or masculine, but the breath is non-gendered.
The body and mind can be young or old, but the breath is ageless.
Breath is transcendent. It is the ally of all aspects of embodiment, and can unify them all.
For example, when a sage person is around, we forget all the pettiness and discriminations. Division comes from pettiness. But you don’t get that when a saint is around. The breath is like a saint that comes in. So yoga takes recourse to the breath. The breath is a godly being that comes and goes.
If the breath is there, what’s yours is yours. When breath departs never to return, so does what’s yours (body, mind, psyche, consciousness etc etc). You and yours separate, and all the ‘yours’ disintegrates. Are the potentials of the breath potentialized?
Be ‘breathonomous’ not ‘autonomous’.
Have an experimental practice.
Take narration. There is no narration in the experience of tasting honey or smelling a rose. The should be no narration with the breath.
Yoga is not something to enjoy. This is pseudo-yoga. Yoga is not the narrative of ‘I feel well’. This is not classical yoga. This is consumer yoga. Yoga should give you neutrality; transcendence. Breath is not supposed to be gratifying. It exists in a trans-empirical condition; trans-worldly, trans-psychological etc etc.
Develop superior narratives. Question yourself constantly. Be the assessor within you.
Remember this; that words have meaning, and that can be confusing.
What is the meaning of extension, contraction etc?
For example in janu sirsasana the abdomen is extended, elongated, stretched.
Also in supta virasana, the abdomen is extended, elongated, stretched.
The words are the same, but the why and how are different.
Understand the illusion described by words. Therefore, develop narration.
Teachers; do not parrot. My father said to me, do not be a puppet.
Classify data, select, then apply.
Experiment with the initiation of the breath. For example, a ‘hippy’ inhalation (initiated in the hips/pelvis).
Try kumbhaka after inhalation. Are you holding the breath from the head?
Now do it again; but hold the breath from the hips and pelvis, not from the head. Notice how then the brain becomes quiet.
The lower trunk is a major initialiser.
Consider mobility and immobility. For example, a tree-trunk seems immobile. It is not moveable; but something inside the trunk is moving.