The Happiness Con

There’s this pair of shoes which are just perfect. They would really, really suit me. Silver, strappy, chunky, cool. They will look great and will perfect so many outfits. They will make me happy. If I can just have those shoes I won’t want anything else. Right?


When you make it to five thousand followers on Instagram, that will be mega-satisfying for you.  And what about buying the car, achieving the asana, passing the exam, getting the promotion, writing the best-selling novel? These will all be happy moments, no doubt about it, and especially so if the desired outcome has been preceded by hard work and dedication.


They will also be moments tinged with something else. Is it fear that the happiness will soon come to an end? Oh yes, here it comes. Inevitably: the next ‘what next?’.  Our human experience is so chocka full of desires we barely notice them most of the time.  Desires which may or may not be satisfied. A chronic hankering. When we achieve satisfaction of a particular desire, another arises to take its place. This is the nature of desire; it can never be satisfied. Ever. This is because we spend our lives trying to satisfy the cravings of the self, rather than existing in the true nature of the Self (the individual self with a small ‘s’, which is manifested through personality and all the costumes of external worldly existence, as opposed to the universal Self with a capital ‘S’, the spiritual core common to us all). We will go on wanting and wanting and then we will die. And whilst we are dying we will be wanting to stay alive. Unless we decide to practise not wanting. In advance of dying. Hopefully we have a little time, but you never know, so best to get started.


In yoga, practice (abhyasa) goes along with detachment (vairagya); these are often described as the twin pillars of yogic discipline. They must be built together, in unison, block by block, in order to hold up the roof. If we build one without the other it all crashes down. Consider. Practice without detachment builds up the ego, and detachment without practice becomes fanatical, isolationist Self-denial. In both scenarios the roof caves in and there we are, buried, miserable and desperate, beneath the rubble of our own hubris. Every inch the tragic hero.


Practice is probably the easier of these pillars to understand. It is tangible: it makes you strong physically and mentally and allows you to face challenges with equanimity. But why detachment, and how far do we take it? Any popular psychology magazine will tell you that to form healthy attachments as a very young child is important for continued mental health into adulthood. So why as yoga-practising adults are we then trying to un-attach? To de-tach?  Those lucky enough to have formed healthy attachments in childhood are provided with the foundations from which to detach effectively from unhealthy and unhelpful cravings (for people, for substances) in adulthood. Others may need to work out more as they go along. In both cases yoga provides an extremely clear and effective road-map.


The practice of asana and pranayama is the laboratory of themind. Notice the condition of the mind when you practise trikonasana. Do it with the aim of perfecting the pose in all its refinements of action, extension, contraction, alignment, directionality; with the aim of performing BKS Iyengar-style perfection in trikonasana, with all the benefits. Strive to do a trikonasa to be noted, a trikonasana to be seen, and once seen to be applauded. Observe the state of the brain and the heart in this situation. Expansion or contraction?



Now do trikonasana again. Do a good trikonasana. Your best, your most perfect pose; but this time with the aim of opening the heart and, from the stable frame of the asana, literally pouring out any beneficial effects. Consciously gift any good that arises from your practice of trikonasana to a higher and nobler universal principle. Be in the pose from the Self, rather than doing it for the self. In this situation, again observe the state of the brain and the state of the heart.


What is the difference between the two trikonasanas? What are the conditions of body, mind and breath? From the outside they will look the same. And they both require a certain motivation and ambition in order to occur at all. But notice the contraction or expansion, the hardening or softening of the brain, the heart, the mind, the breath. It’s what happens inside that counts, the unseen, that cannot be judged by anyone but your own inner teacher, your intuitive intelligence, your buddhi.


So when we are craving whatever it is, the silver shoes, the likes on Facebook, the perfect house or job, the company of a beloved absent friend, maybe we can take our body-mind back to the mat, go back to the lab, and decide that rather than striving for transitory happiness for the self and its subsequent continuous craving, we’ll work to put another block on each of those pillars, raise the roof, and rest, even for a moment, in the state of blissful contentment that is the Self.

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Separation, Integration, Re-integration

As always it’s been a privilege to take time away from family and daily working life to practise and study yoga.

There are many people I know for whom this would not be possible. There are many more people I know for whom this would be possible and beneficial but is inconceivable.

We are taught early that ‘contribution’ to society is equal to economic activity (earning and spending money, hence the disenfranchised status of full-time parents/home-makers, the disabled and the unemployed).  There is a commonly marketed attitude that to take care of one’s Self, one’s spiritual life, is selfish, inward-looking.

It is inward-looking. This is something that we need to celebrate, and to stop apologising for.

To look inwards takes courage. It demands hard work and dedication. It requires discipline and determination. It is not always pretty and the path is often obscured by illusions and delusions; it’s a journey littered with obstacles and false turns.

If selfless intentions are set clearly and honestly at each stage of the inward journey, then what is discovered during involutionary practice will necessarily and fundamentally effect the evolution of our ‘outer’ life. In fact they become one and the same; they become integrated.

In order for a process of integration to occur there must first be an acknowledgement of the integrated state’s disparate parts. For example the body, the mind and the breath. We can approach each action, for example each asana, from the position of ‘body-major’, ‘breath-major’ or ‘mind-major’. In this way our awareness, our Self, is trained to observe and to exist evenly in every separate aspect of conscious experience.

If a person exists and acts in the world from a place of unshakeable authenticity and spiritual integrity, it can be seen that the benefits of their practice are distributed in the interest of those around them (why and how are important questions for further discussion…). This person will become simultaneously further separated from worldly (materialistic) life and further integrated to a state of awakened consciousness from moment to moment.

It’s time for me personally to re-integrate into life as a householder. From weeks of being often alone or with a friend in yoga, prioritising practice and study, taking time for healthy food and rest to sustain that primary focus, I have recently catapulted into a large family festival; sixteen people in one house, seven of them under twelve; excesses of food and drink; multiple screens, entertainments and conversations; little or no time alone; love, affection, joy and sorrow in high-frequency stereo .

It’s a shift. A beautiful one; one that should and can be made with love and equanimity. From separation to awareness to integration in each situation, in each relationship, in each moment, in each breath.  This is awakened living. This is yoga in action. Wish me luck?!


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The Socialist Body

Perhaps the body-mind is a colony of single-cell organisms, drawn together for a brief period of co-operation to facilitate what we refer to as a life. Like a colony of ants, each with its own specific function and purpose, each individual cell works for the societal good of the group.

Inhalation is the unifier of this co-operative. Close your eyes, breathe in, and feel. The in-breath gathers and energises all of the cells of the body, unifying them in the purpose of living. If in-breath is the means of production, any surplus product of the breath (in the form of energy) accrues to the body-mind’s society at large, not to individual cells. Inhalation is parigraha; attachment to life. It is a necessary condition of living.

Exhale. The exhalation reveals and explores space within and between the cells. During exhalation all of our constituent parts are in synchronised motion with the expansion of the universe. Exhalation is aparigraha; non-attachment. It is a necessary condition of dying.

Normally, the exhalation is unconsciously and naturally followed by the next inhalation. In this way the cycle of breath, the cycle of gathering and dispersing, of productivity and distribution, continues; and the health and functionality of the colony is upheld.

If there is no inhalation after exhalation then the separation started by the exhalation, that is the dispersion into space of all the cells of the body, continues indefinitely in alignment with universal expansion. This is the ultimate demise of the colony, and the end of what we refer to as a life. It is the complete and inevitable re-distribution of energetic wealth.

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‘The first step is to get confused’: Pune Class Notes- Prashant (participated) 11.12.19

This was a fascinating lecture, and one that I’ve had to spend some time unpicking. My notes below do not do it justice, but hopefully give a sense of the depth of enquiry in which we are engaged in the practice of yoga, in the practice of living. Life is confusing. Unless confusion is accepted and analysed, it breeds fear and anger. If it is accepted and analysed it becomes curiosity, and curiosity is inherently hopeful. The conditions are set. So do we choose fear and anger or curiosity and hope? I have woken up this morning to what appears to me a confusing and confused political situation in my country. On a national level, confusion has led to fear and anger. We need to awaken our curiosity and fuel our hope. 

Analyse the process.

Observe the unified activity and dynamics of body, mind, breath.

When doing swastikasana for the prayer/invocation, this is done form the heart; so what comes out is humility, purity.

What is the purpose and function of the act? Are the act and purpose compatible? The gesture must fit the purpse.

We have to find out what is the chemistry of humility, of purity.

What is the gravity of the act? For example, when in swastikasana for prayer or for asana, this is not the same thing. If you do a very ‘proper Iyengar yoga’ swastikanasa for invocation then this is not appropriate; it is too hard; the gesture does not fit the purpose.


Body mind breath getting unified in different proportions.

Now do ‘dorsal major’ swastikasana. Now do ‘lumbar major’ swastikasana.

Strong asana is not appropriate for prayers, as it provides space for the ego to blossom. For example, in sirsasana, the ego is part of your materials hold the pose. It is a condition necessary to the process.

Consider the diagnostic conditions. Then it will be pragmatic, not dogmatic. Yoga is not dogmatic.

In the frame of discipline, there is a danger that we become dogmatic. Understand in what proportion discipline should come.

Take for example the proportions in a recipe. Discipline is a masala (mixed ground spice). Nobody ever says that discipline is very very tasty. It is a masala; you have to get the right proportions. Do you put the same amount of discipline into savasana as urdvha danuarasana? It is there, but its manifestation is different. From watery and bitter to thick and sweet. Adjust the ingredients proportionally in body, mind, breath.

Yoga is initiated by process, not actions.

What you do should not be what a teacher says; it should be from your own pragmatism. Beginners, yes, in the beginning they have to follow, but now you have to work from your own pragmatism. Iyengar yoga is not ‘practical’; that makes my blood boil. It is pragmatic.

Those who are the best assessors of others are the worst at assessing themselves.

If people come up to me and say ‘Oh, that was a really wonderful class’, I know that I have been allowing my ego-faculty to bloom and blossom in order that they can have that experience; so I have to go home and do atonement for that ego. This is for your own practice.

I have a letter on my desk. It says ‘Shall I believe my own mind and senses? Or are they misleading me? How can I know?’

Have recourse to the breath. Breath has no karmic background. Body and mind have sin-baggage. Breath has no sin-baggage. Improve your own deservations (from ‘to deserve’). In mundane gravity, only our desirations go up (from ‘to desire’). Breath will never mislead you. But that doesn’t mean that it will always rightly lead you. Breath will not mislead like the body and mind. You don’t have to mistrust the breath. Whatever it is, if it is suitable and right to bring it, then bring it.

Flush out with the exhalation. Do the housekeeping of the hips, pelvis, lower trunk. The associated breath is the housekeeper.

There are assorted conditions according to the person, so standardised processes not work. You need diagnosis and prognosis. We have this idea that yoga is therapy. That it is used as an aid to medicine; then it becomes paramedic. Is this really the application for this noble subject? At the cost of what? Therapeutic yoga at the deprecation of yog.

Empower the student, sooner or later, and sooner rather than later.

Do not just give everyone a standardised medicine, like paracetamol. Give some boost to the student’s awareness; give her ‘alerticity’.

We don’t anaesthetise, we ‘aesthetise’ (anaesthetic from the Greek an = without + aisthesis = feeling, from the root au = to perceive. Here Prashant has removed the negative pro-noun to create aesthesis = to feel, to perceive. Note also the root ‘au’ from the Greek ‘to perceive’ and ‘au’ the root of ‘aum’ in sanskrit, the cosmic vibrations of the divine. Is this coincidence or a cosmic clue??) 

Body, mind, breath are all mingled, unified. In a unified condition there is less chance of cheating.

Don’t call them actions, call them processes. For example, create dorsal processes with ropes in the shoulder blades.

The scheme of the asana is ‘pathi’ (primary centres of congregational worship in South India).

Paryanka = swing

Rotary breathing- the breath will enjoy being on a swing. The breath will be cradled.

Have spontaneous organic processes in place.

Guruji, when I was a child he was doing so much asana, he didn’t really know what yoga is, so he was working working working for perfection in his body and he got so many aches and pains. So he developed a language of ‘press here, press there, roll in, move out’ etc. and would ask us children to do it. He called us children to do the ‘stampeding’. I did it from the age of nine so I developed some proficiency. A few days before he died he had a lot of pain in his kidneys and he asked me to do it then. I thought that my body weight would be too much so Abhijata came and I held her shoulder and she placed her hands and I showed her what to do, pressing, rolling, and he got a big relief.

 Accupressure in yoga = accurate pressure. A person should exhale with pressure.

Consider what is the activator, what is the activated. Who/what is thebenefactor, who/what the beneficiaries.

Yoga is not a physical culture. We associate wisdom with philosophy. You can find a stupid lawyer, a stupid teacher, a stupid doctor. But a stupid philosopher? This is not compatible.

Yoga gives you the field for equanimity. This is authentic. Without that field it is pseudo-equanimity.

Consider all possible manifestations of the relationship between


Doing                 In body, mind, breath


For example, the body can be the doer, the mind the doing, the breath done; or the mind the doer, the breath doing, the body done etc etc. In asana, explore all of these conditions.

We are in the clamour of ‘I am doing’. Classical yoga quietens the clamour. Then you have a philosophy within you.

Not ENJOY but JOY-n (joy to the power n)

What is the definition of yoga in the Bhagavad Gita? We usually look to the definition of karma yoga (yoga of action). But where is the definition of yog? (root of yoga)

The Bhagavad Gita says: ‘When the mind is restrained by the means of yoga’

Being oneself, with oneself, in oneself, one gets joy.

The bliss factor is central to spirituality. There are more than one way to create restraint in the mind and access the bliss factor; for example with psycho-neural technology, with herbs, with drugs. The Bhagavad Gita knew this, and therefore clearly defines the means of restraint as yoga.

Being oneself, in oneself, with oneself leads to joy.

Consider the portal of vijnana kriya (cleansing through knowledge/discernment). In this case we have to ask:

What am I knowing?

Who is knowing?

What/who is known?

Make the known the knower. Make the known the knowing. This is all subjective and integral to you. The pronoun ‘I’ will become knower. The pronoun ‘I’ will become knowing. The pronoun ‘I’ will become known.

The subjective entity has a trichotomy (e.g. knower, knowing, known; doer, doing, done; body, mind, breath).

Epistomology (the theory of knowledge) is instrumental in entities through which knowledge can be raised up (for example body, mind, breath).

The first step is to get confused. In children we call it curiosity; in adults we call it confusion.

Philosophise your conduct in life.

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Pune Class Notes – Prashant (participated) 10.12.19

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.

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Calling Women


In towns and cities everywhere

The fathers yawn, the children stare

And wonder ‘Why did mummy go?

Will she be here if we get snow?

She’ll not be there to make my tea,

To make things fair for she, for he.

Some time at least she’ll be away

And I will have to go and play

With aunty, uncle, cousin, friend,

Granny, gramps, a neighbour, send

Her messages and miss her cuddles,

Look to dad to sort our muddles’.

Well done, children. Don’t be glum.

The world is out there for your mum.

The more she sees, the more she does,

The more she accesses the buzz

Of living with wide open eyes,

Of saying ‘yes’ to each surprise,

Inhabiting her body-mind

And breathing deep with wo/man-kind,

The more when home, you’ll see, she will

Have joyful heart and sharpened skill.

Love’s intimate caress is writ

On body, soul, and there will sit

In witness to her gratitude

That other people got your food.

Other people found your shoes,

The other things you always lose,

Gave a kiss and cheered you on

In order that she could be gone.

So thank you children, and the rest,

It’s really great, we are so blessed.

Calling women: play away

Then cherish more the every-day.

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Brahmacharya: channelling desire, building community

I went with a friend to find an ayurvedic doctor today, for a consultation and massage. We got lost. When we finally found the address it turned out he had moved.  A young woman came out on the front porch of the neighbouring apartment. ‘Are you from the Iyengar Institute?’ she asked. ‘Oh yes, I am a student there myself. Come, come.’

She invited us into her home and after helping us locate the doctor’s contact details told us that she had been a student at the Institute for about three years. ‘It is so good’, she said. ‘My teacher is Kishore. I have a sedentary job, designing embroidery patterns, always sitting, so twice a week when I am doing yoga it is good for that. But it is a lot of practice. Not just in class, but outside also.

Before, we thought that it was just for rich people and foreigners. We didn’t realise that local people could go there, because the foreigners came to see Guruji, and we thought it must be a lot of money, not for the likes of us. But then someone told us no, you can go there and it is not too much to pay. So we went. Everything there is so nicely done. The building is so beautiful. Look, I have this’. She produced from a large brown envelope a picture of BKS Iyengar; smiling, twinkling, piercing.  ‘He was so old but look how beautifully he kept himself’, she indicates his legendary bushy white eyebrows, trimmed neatly to reveal that gaze.

‘He did such a lot, bringing yoga across India and the whole world’, she continues. ‘He could have gone and settled in America, in Europe, anywhere, and have a lot of money, a big house. So many universities in America offered him so much money to come there. But he stayed here in Pune and taught yoga, and helped so many people.’

When the admissions for the new year’s class enrolments at RIMYI open in June, there are queues of local people from across the city wrapped twice around the block. They pay what generally seems to be regarded as an affordable termly fee and are allocated two classes per week.

BKS Iyengar was offered the untold glamour and riches of the world. For anyone, and especially for a boy from a poor village who has known real hunger, that must have represented a considerable temptation. Such was his sadhana (spiritual practice) that he stayed home on his mat, creating a local yoga community which quickly spread across the globe.

Brahmacharya is often mis-translated as just celibacy. Only in certain cases does its practice manifest as life-long renunciation of sexual activity. More broadly, it refers to the practice of continence; of the mindful control of sensuality, not its repression. Every time that life throws up a temptation, (and they will be thrown up in the most unexpected places and guises), we have a choice. We can decide to run with the desires of the senses, which will soon run out of fuel, or to re-channel the energy of that desire towards building a strong and stable community of body, breath and mind.

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Fire and Ice: Pune Class Notes- Raya 4.12.19 (Participated)

Ooh, what a cracker of a class. It was balanced, intriguing, challenging, and delivered with gentle ease and contagious joy. Perhaps it was due to jet-lag, but I found this combination pretty intoxicating. Usually a good sign when you can’t really speak or remember who you are for half an hour post-practice.

Disclaimer as per previous posts; this is a personal impression and mayn’t be accurate.

Invocation in swastikasana

Adho mukha virasana

Adho mukha svanasana

Adho mukha virasana- classical pose (knees together, feet apart, lean forwards. Support head if not on floor) Rest the head. Many of you have just flown in, so rest. Allow the brain to rest.  Allow the para-spinal muscles to release. Allow the muscles of the back and the intercostal muscles to spread.

Urdvha hastasna in virasana

Dandasana and urdvha hasta dandasana Raise yourself up. Be on the front of the sitting bones. Lift!

Parsva dandasana (gripping foot) Grip the outer foot near the toes and then lift away. Lift up and turn.

Bharadvajasana 1 (x 2: first time hand behind to floor, 2nd time hold the heel) Feel the diagonal breath. From the outer groin to the top chest. Bharadvajasana is a good pose in which to feel the diagonal breath. If you get stuck, look for the air pockets. Like a bubble of air that is trapped. Do not try to move on a physical level if you are stuck. You have to find out where is the air-pocket and release it, then you will move.

Bharadvajasana 2

Ardha matsyendrasana (x 2) You have all used a mixer? A blender? So you know how the sides of the container go up, parallel, and the contents inside, when you start the rotation, it goes out to the sides of the container, then up and falls back in on itself? Well in the twist here it is like that, only the contents goes the other way round; it has to lift up the inside, and then go down the parallel sides.

Parivritta trikonasana (x 2, hand inside the foot, then hand outside the foot. Palm to the floor). Press the fingers and press the palm.  Root the hand to the floor. From there, lift. Spread the ribs. The back left ribs should be like icicles, how an icicle melts, dripping down. And the front right ribs should be like flames, how a flame rises up. Don’t twist to do the pose, spread to do the pose.

Parivrtta parsvakonasana (x 2, palm to the floor, back foot to the floor; as in parivrtta trikonasana, hand on the inside then on the outside). Same turning actions. Your wrist and your ankle should be together, like married. I mean, fresh married; newlyweds. But don’t give your hip to your friend on the right. Keep your hip to yourself. Again, the icicles and the flames.

Utthita trikonasana What is rooted and what is shooted?


Purvottanasana x 2 Press the fingers to the floor. Lift the hips more. And lift the hips more. Now, press the fingers down, lift, and curve. Like someone is pressing your chin back, but you have to do that yourself.

Urdvha mukha svanasana x 2 Again, press the fingers and curve back. What is the grip in the buttock region?

Urdvha dhanurasana x 2 (hold for timing)  First time, lift the heels and walk in. Second time, lift the heels to walk in walk in, then, press the heels and lift the soles of the feet to make the shins go back.   Take the shins back. Then, walk the feet out just a bit and straighten the legs. Take the shins back to straighten the legs. Stay there.

Utthita trikonasana (isn’t it amazing what can suddenly be considered rest 😉 )

Sirsasana, urdvha padmasana, baddha konasana, then pull toes and soles down in baddha konasana (heels still together. Try this if you don’t know it- it gives a very good opening for the hips and groins).

Janu sirsasana In janu sirsasana, in any asana in fact, we have to be soaring like birds. You know when there is a thermal rising, and the bird catches it, and it goes around and up in the thermal? Does it beat it’s wings all the time like this? (Flap flap) No, it doesn’t have to. It is rising on the thermal. But it is not still. It does not need the gross action of flapping its wings, but if it makes subtle adjustments of it wing-tip feathers that will affect its direction and it will glide further up. So janu sirsasana is like this. Elbows up, and glide forwards and turn on the thermal. Second time, same, then release the elbows. Rest the elbows down. Find the spreading on your back. Fold your wings, but keep soaring.

Pascimottanasa Do this like janu sirsasana on both sides. Do you know what I mean? Actually the sticky mat is not the best surface for forward bends. Try doing on the floor, on a blanket, even on a cotton mattress, so the legs can glide, and move down.

Sarvangasana on 2 rolled blankets (one for shoulders, one for elbows). Urdvha padmasana. Halasana. Karnapidasana.


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How can you know the breather from the breath?

Yoga as an art form is at once interpretive and creative, scripted and improvised, individual and collaborative. The asanas are an expression and an exposition of an internal act of devotion, moment to moment. Each is born, lives and dies. Each tells its story of love, hate, joy, suffering, creation, destruction; the narrative of humanity.

As a yoga practitioner, as an artist, you have to look, and see, with new eyes every day. The world is rich. There is inspiration everywhere that can re-inform and re-ignite the fire of curiosity. Curiosity, enquiry, is the fuel, the engine, the life-giver of a living practice in which the pulse of the present is inhabited.

Today in class we were exploring ‘roots and shoots’; where are you rooted, and from the rootedness what shoots are growing, rising, climbing and expanding? I also had an inspiring post-class chat with dance and yoga practitioner Fleur Darkin, and both of these things sent me back to a much beloved poem. So here’s the eighth and final verse of ‘Among School Children’ by WB Yeats. It makes my heart sing. Hope you like it too.

Labour is blossoming or dancing where            

The body is not bruised to pleasure soul

Nor beauty born out of its own despair

Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.

O chestnut tree, great rooted blossomer,

Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,

How can you tell the dancer from the dance?

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Pune Class Notes- Prashant (participated) 3.12.19

These are notes from a class I participated in at RIMYI during December 2019, which might be of interest to Iyengar yoga teachers and practitioners.

3.12.19 Prashant 

The parts in italics are paraphrased, and necessarily represent my subjective understanding of what was taught. Although the list of postures is complete to the best of my knowledge, the comments are very incomplete; just the bits that I picked up and which stuck (with some helpful reminders from friends). They do not necessarily relate directly to the pose they come after- we were working on the asanas in rotation and his discourse could have been inspired by anything he saw happening in the room. I am planning on purchasing the recordings they are now offering of Prashant’s classes, as there is so much he says that I will have forgotten already, or not registered or understood the first time around. So these notes may well get an update once I can listen to the class again!

  1. Swastikasana for invocations
  2. Swastikasana Do swastikasana as an asana. Not only somehow to sit for the invocations. That is very important. But now as an asana where is the aspect of awareness, sensitivity, observation? Swastikasana from the base of the trunk. From mulha bandha. So what is the base? It is the support. The support of what? Of these aspects of awareness, sensitivity and all the processes of body mind breath.
  3. Parsva swastikasana
  4. Adho mukha swastikasana In the asana there is function and there is conditionality. What is the relationship? You put the body in a certain condition, and what are the resulting functions? Or there are functional processes occuring- what are the conditions that enable those?
  5. Sirsasana
  6. Utthita trikonasana (foot to wall, holding rope, hand on brick) When we build a building, we create foundations. What are the foundations of a building there to support? They sustain a structure. The structure of the building. But what is the function of the building? This is a place for learning yoga, but in 200 years maybe it will be a community centre, or a music academy, or somewhere where people meet to play cards and carom board. The structure is sustained, but the functionality has endless possibilities. In yogasana we are creating and sustaining a structure and observing the functions within it.
  7. Supta baddha konasana
  8. Upavistha konasana Look at the picture of Tadasna. We put the body-mind in the condition of Tadasana. That is the structure. But what are the potential functions? They are endless. 
  9. Parsva upavistha konasana
  10. Utthita hasta padangusthasana 2 (lateral, foot supported) Like a Swiss-Army Knife. If you tell someone about the Swiss-Army Knife they will think it is a military knife from Switzerland. You have to open it out and see all the possible functions within the structure in order to understand its potential. 
  11. Rope sirsasana I wonder why humans are classed as the most intelligent creatures. OK we are the most intelligent creatures  ut we are also the most foolish. We are so easily fooled. If there was a big advertisement for fodder, would a cow see it and think ‘Oh I must go and get that type of fodder’? No. It would be happy with what it has. But if  there is a big advertisement for anything, say boot polish, a human being will immediately think ‘Oh, I must go and buy that one’. I wonder that we are apparently so intelligent and yet so foolish. 
  12. Bharadvajasana 1 As yoga practitioners we have to study linguistics. This is very important. Language is indicative of condition and function. We understand through language. For example, we can say someone is spineless. We understand what that means. Why then do we not refer to someone who is ‘spineful’? Would you not rather place your trust in someone who was spineful rather than spineless? Those aspects of honesty, compassion, integrity, courage etc etc built up from the base of the spine.
  13. Bharadvajasana 2 Sometimes people will say, oh I can’t do this or I can’t do that because of this or that genetic problem, this or that hereditary problem. We use this genealogy to say we can’t do. But what about the things we think we can do well? We never say ‘oh I am good at that because my grandfather was very good at it’. We are happy to say that it’s because we studied hard and we ourselves became wiser or more proficient. So why use genetics in one case and not the other?
  14. Supta virasana The pose has a root, a base, a certain condition, but what about the route r-o-u-t-e? This is the functionality, the route r-o-u-t-e of body mind breath. Follow the route from the root.
  15. Virasana Do whichever pose you are in from mulha bandhasana. That is the condition. Condition of pelvis, condition of spine, condition of breath, condition of mind. 
  16. Sarvangasana and halasana or sethu band sarvangasana (with brick)
  17. Savasana


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