An essay about my relationship with practice

Embodying Soul: Finding Freedom From Iyengar Yoga Discipline

By Daniel Simpson

"[It] is imperative that the sociologist submit himself to the fire of action in situ; that to the greatest extent possible he put his own organism, sensibility, and incarnate intelligence at the epicenter of the array of material and symbolic forces that he intends to dissect..."

Loïc Wacquant1

To uninitiated foreigners used to yoga in gyms, or giant heated parquet studios, the Patanjala Yoga Kendra2 in Rishikesh can resemble an esoteric torture chamber. Its stark white walls and marble floor reflect an icy pre-dawn wind, which whistles down off Himalayan peaks through open windows. At 7:30 a.m., in mid-winter fog, devoted yogis start arriving. None are Indian. The only locals in sight are two women who polish the entrance, a departing night watchman and the pot-bellied manager, who opens the door to the hallowed practice hall. Minutes later, this room is strewn with weird equipment.

Some of it might be familiar to fitness enthusiasts: hard foam blocks and buckled straps are workout staples, and an angular frame by the doorway looks like a female gymnast's beam. But what to make of the sandbags perched on a woman's outstretched thighs, or the barbell plates she keeps adding to pin her hamstrings to the tiles? From the grimace as she folds her guts across the weights, transcendent bliss seems some way off.

And so it should be, according to the "Rules & Regulations" on the yoga centre website,3 which decree: "neither freedom nor beatitude is possible without discipline." A walk-in cupboard is packed with contraptions that enforce it. Among the racks of blankets, mats and bolsters stand less cushioned sorts of objects: thick metal bars, broom-handle poles and wooden slatted boxes with curved-contour tops that might be sauna cures for hunchbacks.

Perhaps the strangest of these items is the "stump": a couple of feet's worth of two-by-four lumber screwed into a base plate. A wiry German hauls it out towards a wall, against which he kneels and grinds his hipbones. Arching back to wedge the stump between his shoulder blades, he rolls his deltoids further down towards his heels to make the posture more intense. His temples bulge until a stopwatch beeps in mercy.

"My God!" screams a middle-aged woman by his side. Her lilting English has a strong Swiss accent, although the last 30 years of her life have been spent in India. "Really," she exclaims, giving each word equal stress, "I don't know what you think you are doing in your practice!"

It takes a while to digest that these comments are aimed at me. I am balanced on my head by a wall, trying not to fall over. I realise that the speaker is a teacher; I first came here the previous evening for her class. She gave blizzards of detailed instructions in simple poses, which we held until I shook. Then she told us to come in the morning for "self-practice". I had hoped to avoid her piercing gaze; instead, she prods me in the ribs.

"Everything puffing here," she says. "See what has happened to his back." To my horror, a group of students gathers round: half a dozen of the keenest run their eyes along my spine.

"Compression," nods a young Israeli with a buzz cut. He thwacks a palm against the small of my back to make his point. The others grunt to show assent.

"Now look at the elbows," the teacher continues.

"They're not in line!" the Israeli scoffs.

"Not at all," she says. "Everything crooked, all the way from the ground." She switches focus back to me. "I don't know why you want to start with headstand when you don't know what is straight. Come down." I obey with a thud.

"You know what Guruji is saying?" she enquires. I glance up blankly. Her eyes are sparkling. "Crooked body, crooked mind."

"Guruji" is B.K.S. Iyengar, whose ramrod form adorns the walls in faded photos. Several of these are culled from Light on Yoga: a handbook of poses first published in 1966. Yoga Journal calls this text "the ultimate reference manual," because "when teachers refer to the correct way to do a posture, they're usually alluding to the alignment Mr Iyengar instructs and expertly models."4 He taught the woman in front of me personally, and his method forms the basis of her own. I struggle to say I was upside down at his suggestion. When I quibbled the night before, she slapped my head.

I had been trying since I woke to obey her injunction that "one should establish the habit of moving one's bowels every day in the early morning."5 The "regulations" alerted me to drawbacks of not doing so: yogic postures "do not come smoothly and subtleties are not grasped."6 Wary of seeking assistance from caffeine (another rule bans tea and coffee: like drink and drugs, they "create confusion, weaken the energy and destroy the sense of discipline"), I had consulted Light on Yoga. Iyengar informed me: "Topsy-turvy poses help bowel movement," so "if the student is constipated [...] start with Sirsasana [headstand]."7

In exchange for protesting, I get my headstand ripped apart. The Israeli takes personal charge of this endeavour. He straps a pole between two wall hooks as a plumb-line, and hems my elbows in with weights. A debate breaks out about wonky-looking shoulders: which joint in my weaker arm must be at fault? The Israeli says all of them. He opts to fix this with a splint, strapping two rods of iron across my left elbow, and tightening a belt around the same bicep to roll the shoulder out. This rules out headstands, so I try doing poses with straight limbs. Within minutes, a student laughs. "His hand is blue!"

The teacher looks up from contortions on a chair. She dismisses this objection with a wave. "Let him work," she says. "For now it is OK."

"How blue would be too blue?" I ask. No answer comes. Eventually, I take off the belts and go for breakfast. The Israeli remains for the full four hours of practice time.

*****

B.K.S. Iyengar's take on yoga is so influential that it appears in Oxford dictionaries. The eponymous technique is defined as "focusing on the correct alignment of the body, making use of straps, wooden blocks, and other objects as aids."8 Yet before Iyengar's death,9 he argued labels missed the point. "People, for convenience's sake, brand my practice as Iyengar Yoga," he said.10 "I just try to get the physical body in line with the mental body, the mental body with the intellectual body, and the intellectual body with the spiritual body, so they are balanced."11 He was a stickler for bodily precision because of its impact on the mind. "Beyond that, I don't think I've done anything," he said. "It's just pure traditional yoga, from our ancestors, from our gurus, from Patanjali."12

Leaving aside the lack of postural guidance from Patanjali (whose Yoga Sutra barely tells us how to sit),13 Iyengar's yoga was in constant reinvention. "To a yogi, the body is a laboratory," he said after 70 years of practice, "a field of experimentation and perpetual research".14 He was constantly dreaming up ways to make postures accessible. Teachers who flocked to his institute in Pune noted every innovation, forgetting that some were impromptu tips to specific students. This bred confusion,15 like Iyengar's own guru, who "said one thing at one time," then "used to contradict the same at another time."16

Although Iyengar turned postures into higher forms of yoga, by making them portals to inward focus and awareness,17 he first performed them as a public entertainment. "It was my guru's duty to provide for the edification and amusement of [his patron's] entourage," he said, "by putting his students - of whom I was one of the youngest - through their paces and showing off their ability to stretch and bend their bodies."18

On the surface, Iyengar yoga seems a paradox: essentially physical, yet with spiritual aspirations. Few of its senior teachers fuse both aspects. Iyengar himself combined them in a sentence. "Alignment leads to enlightenment," he said: "using the power of the body with a skilful brain is nothing but surrender to God."19 In Patanjali's terms, God is merely an object of yogic concentration; another way to perceive oneself as "pure, unchanging, content-less consciousness."20 The body can serve this purpose just as well, if we detach from its achievements.

The teacher in Rishikesh found this tricky to begin with.21 She only started a postural practice in her thirties, having long been immersed in yoga culture. Born in Switzerland, she travelled to India as a young woman and met an ascetic, with whom she later had a child. After wandering the country and living in caves, they moved into an ashram by the Ganges, where she would chant the names of Gods. She was even known by one herself: Usha Devi.

Initially, Usha got hooked on rousing backbends. "I practiced daily with full enthusiasm," she recalls.22 "It was wonderful. My back pain and headaches disappeared. I was more relaxed, not so tense and stressed." Everything changed one day when a bus knocked her off her scooter.23 One knee was crushed, a femur snapped, and a shinbone stuck out. She spent four months in hospital and had 18 operations. Once she could hobble around on a stick, she asked Iyengar for assistance. He got her working with props to do modified poses: she might hold herself up using ropes, or stretch her legs out from a chair.24

Her fears of making injuries worse soon disappeared, but the twinges in her limbs remained intense. "Guruji became quite harsh," Usha Devi remembers.25 He demanded forbearance, saying: "you are living in an ashram and you cannot face this much of pain?" One morning, as she bent over backwards on a stool, "Guruji came and pushed my chin down with his leg." This adjustment left her "really relaxed and smiling," she says, even though Iyengar told her to "remember one thing, I can break your leg also."26 She asked him: "why are you talking to me like this now that I am little confident?" He replied: "if you behave like this and resist all the time then of course I will break your something!" For Usha, this threat marked a turning point. "From then onwards," she says, "my whole attitude changed."27

Within five years, she was back in hospital.28 Another accident broke both her femurs. Further surgery left her bedridden for eight months. She worried less, because "I knew Guruji would help."29 As he taught her to move again, her practice was transformed. Since emulating poses from Light on Yoga was impossible, she studied the actions that enable them. A decade later, she walks with a limp, but has a deeper grasp of yoga. "I only learned to penetrate after my accidents," she says.30 "Before I was just doing, only flexible for showing." Now, she feels "able to maintain what I have regained, and for this I have to practice every day".31 She learned a "hard truth", she says: "it takes mental strength to pursue physical endurance."32


B.K.S. Iyengar in adho mukha svanasana33

Usha's classes aim to forge that in her students. She holds them in poses for up to 10 minutes and barks commands, as here in downward-facing dog (adho mukha svanasana):34

"Make the arms strong and solid, elbows straight, upper arms extend upwards completely, come on! Then open your armpits and extend the side trunk also upwards. No one should drop the side trunk... Then open your bottom of the foot completely, come on spread your toes! Even the skin of the heel has to lengthen... So become tall and lift the sitting bones higher upwards, and roll the front thighs in, back thighs open from in to out completely... And then push the shinbone, push the heels, push the thighs backwards, and then press the metatarsals down into the floor... And then lift the shinbone up, lift the thighs up, so the flesh of the front thighs should touch the skin of the back of the thighs, and make the calf muscles longer and back thighs lift upwards. Come on, kneecap has to go into the knee! And extend the trunk upwards. Shoulder blades have to go upwards towards the ceiling and not towards the head side... Make the inner and outer armpit long. And when I speak about the armpits, again the knees are falling forwards. Knees, thighs back completely, push the middle thigh more and more backwards. See how that is bulging, so push that middle thigh backwards, come on! Push yourself away from the floor. Don't fall into the floor. See, no actions in the legs. Nothing! Where are the solid arms? They are so loose! Open the armpits. Don't fall into your palms. Push yourself back! Push! Yes. That has to come. Come on! Did I say come down? Eh? Nobody should come down..."

Confronted by burning sensations and running commentary, the mind is occupied. Or as one of Iyengar's students put it: "His own term for this is 'meditation in action' - being absorbed in the action while it is being performed."35 Usha Devi has a similar statement on her website: "students are often astonished by the level of personal application and awareness that they are able to achieve during her classes."36 There is only one drawback: they find it hard to maintain the intensity alone.37 Many teachers had this experience with Iyengar.38 "I always knew how attached I was to him," one confessed before he died.39 "I count on going to India every year, being in his presence, and coming back ignited."

Ironically, Iyengar's own teacher dismissed him after two years.40 They kept in touch, but relations were strained despite family ties: his guru, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, was also his brother-in-law. "Guruji had a frightful personality," Iyengar wrote later.41 "He would hit us hard on our backs as if with iron rods. We were unable to forget the severity of his actions for a long time. My sister also was not spared from such blows."

We know little about the recluse who taught Krishnamacharya, but he is said to have been "a harsh taskmaster,"42 whose "uncompromising attitude" was "mirrored in Krishnamacharya's own tough teaching style."43 Iyengar shared this violence with his students, who used to joke his initials stood for Bang, Kick and Slap;44 all of which they received and mostly rationalised. "It's true he might give somebody a slap," one of them conceded, "but that slap would wake up that part of the body so you didn't forget it."45

In the "field" of Iyengar yoga, to use Pierre Bourdieu's term for "an independent social universe with its own laws of functioning, its specific relations of force, its dominants and its dominated,"46 the "particular form of capital" is control. Authoritarian teachers enforce a dogma of alignment based on Iyengar's demonstrations, even though his example proves perfection is elusive.47 As he remarked of his own experience with his guru: "whatever he wanted me to do, I was doing wrong."48

Around the world, local governing bodies ensure most classes feel the same. "Never fail to admonish your pupil for mistakes," Iyengar cautions in the UK Teachers' Handbook.49 "Never praise a pupil," he continues.50 "The moment you lavish praise, you are praising your own self." Strictness is almost a synonym for Iyengar. Those trained in his method "are not permitted to teach any form of yoga other than that which has been approved by BKS Iyengar."51 He used to award all certificates personally, before the process was bureaucratised. There are now at least a dozen hierarchical grades, from Introductory to Senior Advanced, plus such honorific titles as the "Most Senior Leading Teachers of the UK," reflecting instincts to pull rank.

This uptight edge scares students off. "What's the knock on Iyengar Yoga?" an American teacher once asked peers.52 "We are rigid. We are harsh. We are boring. We are arrogant. We are unfriendly." His suggested solutions rang less true. "If our intention is to share with others the great joy we have experienced," he said, "we will cultivate an attitude of friendliness, delight, and charity towards those with whom we come into contact."53

When Iyengar retired in 1984 (although he carried on teaching for 30 years when in the mood), two of his children took over classes at the institute. His daughter Geeta was his chief amanuensis, systematising postural techniques.54 She inherited Iyengar's fierceness, scolding students not only for errors but their impact on her health, which has got so bad she can barely walk. Her physique has ballooned despite her mastery of yoga, and being an Ayurvedic doctor. "See what you people have done to me!" she yells,55 as if she had no choice about whether to teach or rest in bed. Such public resentment was not directed at her father, though he treated her "not as his daughter but as a pupil."56 She also cooked for him for 40 years after her mother died.57

Now that Geeta is 70 and frail, it may not be long until the mantle is passed to Iyengar's granddaughter. He trained her hard until his death, saying: "I have shown you all these things, now realise them for yourself."58 This was a change from the way he was taught, while preserving some of its enigma. "Guruji did not explain to me any of the principles or subtleties of yoga," Iyengar said,59 not even pranayama breath techniques, with which he struggled.60 Everything had to be figured out alone.

*****

Over the course of six visits to Rishikesh in three years, I fell out of love with Iyengar yoga. I had discovered it 10 years earlier when depressed, and it had slowly changed my life. I began as a cannabis addict, mostly hiding at home from what I felt, which was mostly anxious. Going to classes stopped me smoking joints all day. I felt too scared to turn up stoned. Teachers saw through me, to alien parts of my anatomy: they made me lift my "dorsal spine" and "armpit chest". I got out of my mind in novel ways, and into feelings in my body. At first, I felt too tight to touch my shins, let alone my toes. But repeating postures soon worked magic: I felt less self-conscious around middle-aged women, who appeared more capable than me.

Before long, it seemed progress plateaued. Yoga became a substitute addiction. I went to classes to offset the stress that built up in the meantime. Although my downward spiral stopped, I failed to alter deeper tendencies. Iyengar foresaw this. "Yoga is a powerful tool for liberating ourselves from unwanted, ingrained patterns," he said: "we identify, acknowledge and progressively change them."61 Yet "unconditioned freedom" might be elusive, because "yoga sees even good habits as a form of conditioning or limitation."62

The more I practiced, the more I doubted my priorities. If, as Loïc Wacquant argues,63 learning occurs through "a set of acquired dispositions" known as "habitus", then yoga is a "social competency that is an embodied competency," whose "organized practices of inculcation" operate "beneath the level of consciousness and discourse."64 In classes, I learned to fold blankets with neurotic precision (to promote alignment, and stop my teachers freaking out), to chant verses of Sanskrit in praise of a snake-like graven image (which may have depicted an ancient sage, who may not have compiled the Yoga Sutra),65 and to wear bulbous "bloomer" shorts with elasticated legs (letting teachers see flesh without compromising modesty, while showing allegiance to the tribe: no other form of yoga features toddler-training underwear). In short, I was schooled in obedience in the name of liberation.

Adopting these basic conventions had helped me fit in, yet they detached me from my instincts. Instead, I developed what Wacquant calls "a cultivated instinct,"66 becoming "a socialized animal"67 to the point of securing approval from Usha Devi. After months of intensive training in her practice hall, she sometimes asked me to demonstrate postures to my peers, shouting: "Daniel, you do!" before she pointed out the flaws.

I once enjoyed being told what to do, until I sensed the limitations. Few teachers seemed bubbly and joyful or at ease, which left me doubting their obsessive self-improvement. I felt dependent on going to classes and ashamed of it. Whenever I practiced alone, I soon got bored. There were so many postures to work on and few clear ways to go about it. If I followed a sequence from books, it meant I failed to find my own. I often thought of giving up, but feared I was running from myself. I had recently read that: "A well-known ancient saying in India holds that the attitude of the student determines the quality of the teacher."68 And as a lapsed Iyengar teacher said: "The people most drawn to that practice need it least."69 I was already a guilty control freak as an addict. Did I really need to be more perfectionist, or self-flagellating?

Such questions refused to be ducked in Rishikesh. I went there to learn how to practice, and I made my problems worse. Competing with the eager Israeli, I sat in a wide-angled pose every morning, balancing weights across both of my groins to spread the hips. One leg went numb. Other efforts to work on errors fared no better. Repeating mistakes in a sun salutation gave one of my shoulders repetitive strain injury: no matter how I tried to adapt it, the upper arm kept rolling in. A local doctor prescribed eating meat (although the town is vegetarian by law),70 and said postural yoga was for teenagers.

I only started to practice intensively in my late thirties. Something clearly had to change. I felt strong by the time I left India, but plagued by injuries. I decided to try an alternative approach: Ashtanga Vinyasa. Popularised by K. Pattabhi Jois, who had the same guru as Iyengar, its more vigorous style is what both learned. Iyengar dismissed it as "raw", unlike his own "fine, juicy" version, which "flew over what my Guruji taught."71 To Iyengar, Ashtanga was "jumpings", an inferior "yoga of motion" to the comparatively static "yoga of action" he devised.72 "People are excited by motion," he scoffed, "because the external mind gets the vibration. But I want the inner mind to get the vibration. So that is jump I made from Krishnamacharya teaching."73

It almost seemed counterintuitive: switching to a system that played to my weaknesses. Ashtanga features sun-salutation-style transitions in most poses. Nonetheless, it freed me up to do things differently. I could be a beginner again, while drawing on a decade of experience. No longer concerned about trying to fit in, I wore Iyengar "bloomers" and stepped back and forth between each pose to spare my shoulder. As Loïc Wacquant observed, "it is the trained body that is the spontaneous strategist; it knows, understands, judges and reacts all at once."74 This fusion "erases the scholastic distinction between the intentional and the habitual,"75 and embodies the conscious self in focused action.

When Iyengar instructors teach "jumpings", they resemble his put-down of Ashtanga. He even modelled it himself.76 Bristling, he'd shout out names of random poses, connecting them too quickly for most of his students to keep up. In Ashtanga, the sequence is fixed. Patthabi Jois used to count people slowly through each breath, which allows for graceful execution.77 In my experience, breath-led movement facilitates evenness of mind, and helps avert the risk of injury; Iyengar-style "jumpings" make me jitter and get hurt.

Neither method is inherently superior. Each has its advantages and faults. But combining them helped me learn to teach myself, and others too. I had felt too inadequate to think of sharing what I knew, as if an inner Usha Devi screamed "my God!" at the very idea. When I first led classes I was terrified, until the process of doing it forced me to find my "spontaneous strategist". The bullying I had recoiled from disappeared. I felt no urge to humiliate students to shatter their egos, or to shout so my will was upheld over minor blunders, like putting "the wrong leg" forward first.

I no longer expect any system to offer "the answer". What I teach is a hybrid, combining Iyengar's attention to detail with a playful taste of flow. Ashtanga's sequences serve as a template I can modify, changing postures to suit people's bodies, instead of vice versa, as some Iyengar teachers preach.78 "Practice and all is coming," Jois advised.79 It feels at last like I might be learning where to start.




  1. Loïc Wacquant, Body and Soul: Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), viii. ↩

  2. Between December 2011 and March 2014, I made half a dozen trips to India to study intensively at the Patanjala Yoga Kendra and other venues. The episode recounted here occurred on December 6, 2011. I had been attending weekly classes in London for several years, but was a novice in terms of practicing alone. ↩

  3. "Rules & Regulations," Omkarananda Ganga Sadan Patanjala Yoga Kendra, accessed December 19, 2014. ↩

  4. "Light on Iyengar," Yoga Journal, Sep-Oct, 2005, 94. ↩

  5. "Rules & Regulations." ↩

  6. Ibid. ↩

  7. B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1966), 57. ↩

  8. Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 12th ed., s.v. "Iyengar". ↩

  9. B.K.S. Iyengar died on August 20, 2014, aged 95. ↩

  10. Diane Anderson, "The Namesake," Yoga Journal, Dec 2008, 120. Extended interview accessed online, December 22, 2014. ↩

  11. Ibid. ↩

  12. Ibid. ↩

  13. For an overview of scholarship on Patanjali, see: David Gordon White, The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: A Biography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014). ↩

  14. B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life (London: Rodale, 2005), 22. ↩

  15. Personal experience of studying with senior Iyengar teachers round the world; echoed by peers. ↩

  16. B.K.S. Iyengar, Astadala Yogamala, Volume 1 (Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 2000), 23-4. ↩

  17. Karl Baier, "Iyengar and the Yoga Tradition", trans. Muki Daniel and Helmuth Hausberger, B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga Teachers' Association News Magazine, Winter 1995, 12-32; accessed online, September 29, 2014. ↩ ↩

  18. Iyengar, Light on Life, xix. ↩

  19. Daniel Simpson, "China: The New Yoga Superpower," Yoga International, Winter 2011-12, 47. ↩

  20. Philipp Maas, "The So-called Yoga of Suppression in the Patanjala Yogasastra," in Yogic Perception, Meditation, and Altered States of Consciousness, ed. Eli Franco and Dagmar Eigner (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2009), 277. ↩

  21. Biographical information drawn from multiple conversations with Usha Devi, between 2011 and 2014. ↩

  22. Usha Devi, "From Doubt to Conviction", Yoga Rahasya, Vol. 13, No. 2 (2006), accessed December 19, 2014. ↩

  23. Ibid. ↩

  24. Ibid. ↩

  25. Ibid. ↩

  26. Ibid. ↩

  27. Ibid. ↩

  28. T. Surendar, "23 surgeries, then yoga," Times of India, January 6, 2008, accessed December 19, 2014. ↩

  29. Ibid. ↩

  30. Conversation with Usha Devi, March 3, 2014. ↩

  31. Devi, "From Doubt to Conviction." ↩

  32. Surendar, "23 surgeries." ↩

  33. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 110. ↩

  34. Class with Usha Devi, February 22, 2013. ↩

  35. "Retrospective on Silva Mehta," accessed December 22, 2014. ↩

  36. "Usha Devi," accessed December 21, 2014. ↩

  37. Personal experience, echoed in conversations with numerous fellow practitioners. ↩

  38. Kofi Busia, ed., Iyengar: The Yoga Master (Boston: Shambhala, 2007). ↩

  39. Ibid., 50. ↩

  40. Iyengar, Astadala Yogamala, 27. ↩

  41. Ibid., 55. ↩

  42. Mark Singleton and Tara Fraser, "T. Krishnamacharya, Father of Modern Yoga," in Gurus of Modern Yoga, ed. Mark Singleton and Ellen Goldberg (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 91. ↩

  43. Ibid. ↩

  44. "Yoga: Head to Toe", BBC World Service, broadcast January 16, 2001, accessed December 23, 2014. ↩

  45. Silvia Prescott, "My teacher, Mr Iyengar," The Guardian, August 23, 2014, accessed December 27, 2014. ↩

  46. Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993), 163. ↩

  47. Although Iyengar teachers speak about "Guruji" as if he were infallible, some of the photos in Light on Yoga show basic errors they correct. In the simplest standing posture, Tadasana (Light on Yoga, 61) Iyengar has a kink in one wrist that once earned me a slap from a teacher. ↩

  48. Iyengar, Astadala Yogamala, 24. ↩

  49. Teachers' Handbook, October 2013 ed., issued to certified teachers by Iyengar Yoga (UK) Ltd, 3. ↩

  50. Ibid. ↩

  51. Ibid., 35. ↩

  52. John Schumacher, "Iyengar Yoga and the Power of Intention", Keynote Address to New England Regional Iyengar Yoga Conference, October 17, 2009; archived online (in PDF, 11-12), accessed December 29, 2014. ↩

  53. Ibid. ↩

  54. The Iyengar institute in Pune sells a range of books and DVDs by Geeta Iyengar called Yoga in Action. ↩

  55. Comment by Geeta Iyengar during a class at the institute in Pune, October 2013. ↩

  56. Geeta Iyengar, Yoga: A Gem for Women (Mumbai: Allied Publishers, 1997), xiv. ↩

  57. Anna Dubrovsky, "The Other Iyengar," Yoga International, Winter 2012-13, 60-1. ↩

  58. "Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar," Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States, accessed December 29, 2014. ↩

  59. Iyengar, Astadala Yogamala, 17. ↩

  60. Ibid., 62-67. ↩

  61. Iyengar, Light on Life, 134. ↩

  62. Ibid. ↩

  63. Loïc Wacquant, "Habitus as Topic and Tool: Reflections on Becoming a Prizefighter," Qualitative Research in Psychology 8 (2011): 85-86. ↩

  64. Ibid. ↩

  65. As David Gordon White concludes in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, 234: the work "may or may not be titled the Yoga Sutra", its author "may or may not have been named Patanjali" and it "may or not have been the subject of an original and separate commentary by a person probably not named Vyasa," as once thought. ↩

  66. Loïc Wacquant, "The social logic of sparring: on the body as practical strategist," in Physical Culture, Power and the Body, ed. Jennifer Hargreaves and Patricia Vertinsky (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007), 155. ↩

  67. Ibid. ↩

  68. A.G. Mohan, Krishnnamacharya: His Life and Teachings (Boston: Shambhala, 2010), 11. ↩

  69. Comment from a conversation with a former Iyengar teacher in Boston, September 25, 2008. ↩

  70. Daniel Simpson, "Yoga Hideout, German Bakery," Roads and Kingdoms, March 2, 2013, accessed December 29, 2014. ↩

  71. "Iyengar on Yoga," [2005] YouTube video clip, accessed December 28, 2014. ↩

  72. Ibid. ↩

  73. Ibid. ↩

  74. Wacquant, "The social logic of sparring," 156. ↩

  75. Ibid. ↩

  76. "Iyengar teaching 'Ashtanga' 1977," YouTube video clip, accessed December 28, 2014. ↩

  77. "Primary Series with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois," [1993] YouTube video clip, accessed December 28, 2014. ↩

  78. Despite the Iyengar method's frequent use of props to teach the body basic actions, the "final pose" remains a goal, however distant. To quote a senior teacher in London (from a class on January 20, 2015): "Yoga is pure. We must adapt ourselves to the poses, not adapt them to ourselves." ↩

  79. "Practice and all is coming", Yoga Journal, October 29, 2009, two-part compilation of interviews accessed December 30, 2014 [part two here]. ↩


Further Reading