For me, the keys to any transformative practice are:
PRACTICE + TIME.
Iyengar Yoga appeals to me precisely because it promises no quick fixes & promises that you will face many challenges.
In fact, one of the main ideals espoused in ancient yoga texts speaks right to this:
“The practice of yoga is firmly established when cultivated consistently, with devotion over a prolonged period of time.” (Sutra 1.14 of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali)
Yoga explains the experience of serenity, provides recommendations for overcoming obstacles, and outlines practices to de-clutter your mind.
The ongoing practice of discovery is where I find the benefits of practice.
Through yoga, I remember and re-remember that living the life I want takes time, effort, and a lot of commitment. I learn over and over how I can relate to any obstacles in new ways. I bump up against my stuck places, and yoga practice helps me consider what’s behind the stuck-ness.
Spend just a few minutes on the Internet, and you’ll find 5 easy steps to any intractable problem or diagnosis. Usually, the faster I move to solve a problem (without seeking to understand) only exacerbates the original problem.
Here’s an antidote to “10 easy steps:”
“[Yoga] aims to map out a path that all may follow. It offers advice, methods, and a philosophical framework at a level that even a newcomer to the practice of yoga may grasp. It does not offer shortcuts or vain promises to the gullible…the light that yoga sheds on life is something special. It is transformative. It does not just change the way we see things; it transforms the person who sees. It brings knowledge and elevates it to wisdom.”
–BKS Iyengar in his book Light on Life.
The Beatles swept the world by storm 50 years ago when they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. In their first set, they played “All My Loving” and “She Loves You,” and Paul sang “‘Til There Was You.”
Ed Sullivan read a telegram on the air from Elvis Presley congratulating them on their American debut.
Six years later, they recorded a new song written by Paul McCartney, “Let It Be.”
This song holds deep meaning for me. It seems to come into my consciousness at times when I need comforting. It’s helped me as I’ve come to terms with pain in my life and learned to let it go.
In his book Light on Life, Mr. Iyengar interprets Isvara Pranidhana as “Surrender; letting it be whatever it is.”
In yoga, this is considered an active practice like Tapas (Applying your self) and Svadhyaya (Investigating your own experience).
I’ve always struggled with the concept of letting go. Holding on tightly seems to come more naturally to me. I became aware of my need to let go a long time before I was capable of actually doing it.
At that time I thought to myself, “I can’t let go. But I am willing to be willing to let go.”
That was the best I could do. Sometimes it still is.
Here are some ideas you might use if you are considering letting things be:
Visualize something that represents the concept of letting go. Conjure up your own image in your mind that feels like surrender or letting go to you. Sometimes I visualize water flowing freely in a river, a sailboat floating on the water, or a blue sky with fluffy clouds. This works for me. Experiment to find your own image that facilitates the thought of surrender. If I get stuck, sometimes I look online for images or find something in a magazine or book.
Focus on your exhalation. When you breathe out, you are literally letting go of your breath. And you don’t even have to try and do it. Your body has an intelligence all its own that makes this happen! Close your eyes and watch your exhalation just happen. With each out-breath, let go of your breath (and anything else) you no longer need.
Clean out a drawer or pocket. This is a practical step for the pragmatic people out there. If imagery feels a little woo-woo to you, then this is something you can do. Find a place where there is too much clutter, and clean it out.
Cleaning out my purse helps me clean out my mind. If I’m not paying attention, my bag becomes a bottomless pit of receipts, old Starbucks sugar packages, pennies, bobby pins, used tissues, yikes!
If I’m in a dither over something that I can’t control or fix or change, sometimes the best I can do is organize a small area of my life like my pocketbook or wallet. There is something about being able to affect change on a physical level. You can see a before & after, and realize that you have power to create change, however small. So maybe you can’t whip every problem into shape, but there are things you can do to shift your experience.
It is important to know that there is no obstacle, emotion or inner state that is beyond the influence of “letting it be whatever it is.” Whether you are performing a straightforward job like cleaning your house or facing the daunting task of a tough conversation, you can listen to your true intuition and connect to your higher self.
It may not be comfortable or perfect. In fact, it probably won’t be either of these things.
But, Iyengar says that when one practices Isvara Pranidhana (letting it be whatever it is) that “grace pours down upon [him] like a torrential rain.”
And I vote for grace every time.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Many of us are reading Iyengar’s book LIGHT ON LIFE. We are using the book as a back-drop for the conversation. But if you haven’t been reading along with us, no worries. Come anyway!
Here are some questions to generate conversation for those who plan to come: