This summer we went back and re-read an all time favorite by the late B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the greatest yoga teachers of our time. Most of us know and love his earlier work, Light on Yoga. In fact, it is seen on most every Yoga Teacher Training required reading list around the country, but fewer of us have read his other works, and we have to admit Light on Life, is probably our absolute favorite.
In this book, Mr. Iyengar draws upon his lifetime of experiences both as a student and teacher of yoga to highlight the steps on the journey inward. This journey is one that transforms lives and takes us on one epic adventure as we illuminate who we are at our very core. As Mr. Iyengar puts it, this journey is one where “freedom awaits”, and freedom is that elusive quality and feeling that we all surely desire. When we feel free, we feel complete and carefree. Life seems as though it is lacking nothing and that leaves us ultimately wanting nothing. No more or no less as they say. We also no longer find ourselves attached to things, including: material goods, outcomes of our actions, and goals. Mr. Iyengar describes the process by which Yoga allows us to feel this by saying: “It does not just change the way we see things; it transforms the person who sees.” It is certainly the beginning of this transformation that so many of us feel when step foot onto our mat, or when we go through the teacher training process.
Mr. Iyengar takes us through this journey by moving from the most tangible kosha to the most subtle. Essentially a kosha is a sheath or layer of the self, which represents who we are.
1. Anamaya Kosha: Physical body; food; asana; gross anatomy (muscles, skin, bones)
2. Pranamaya Kosha: Energetic body; emotions, breath/ prana; subtle body (meridians, nadis, chakras)
3. Manamaya Kosha: Mental body; ego, senses; consciousness
4. Vishanamaya Kosha: Intellect body; discernment+ decision-making
5. Anandamaya Kosha: Bliss body; Samadhi
Often described to be like peeling back the layers of an onion, when working through these layers we get closer and closer to the source of who we are at the very core. It becomes a process that forces us to find both clarity and integration, and the result of course if harmony within and with nature.
As Mr. Iyengar describes the steps become the following:
1. Asana: In our physical practice we have the opportunity to incorporate all aspects of ourselves in the poses, so that the whole body is involved. You can’t have a yoga pose without the breath or without concentration. Nothing is left out as the process is complete and allows us to explore mind, body, and spirit.
2. Prana: When we become aware of our breath and it’s rhythm as the heart beat of life we begin to embark on the inward journey through the latter steps on Patanjali’s 8 limbed path of Pratyahara (withdrawal from senses), and it is at this point that we begin to become still.
3. Manas/ Mind: One of perhaps the most important steps on the path is deciphering the thoughts of our mind. And it is through this work that we begin to gain clarity and we can become quiet.
4. Intellect: It is our intuition coupled with our intellectual faculty that allows us to discern and cultivate wisdom, and which takes us deeper along the 8 limbed path to Dharna (intense focus), and Dhyana (prolonged and uninterrupted focus). We let go of attachment and the ego’s desires and abide in the tranquility and peace of our core essence.
5. Bliss: The last destination on the journey is true oneness. Mr. Iyengar describes this as an “involution” rather than an “evolution” since it is drawing us more deeply inward.
“The yogic journey guides us from the periphery, the body, to the center of our being…”
Purchase the book here!
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