Ask A Teacher: How Iyengar's Teachings Will Live On

Post (and most images) by: Jill Futter

In class yesterday, teacher Jacob Kyle asked us to dedicate our personal practice for the day to a great teacher. It didn't have to be yoga related; it could be from university, from school, a friend, a lover, a parent (I chose my dad's dad). We also chanted in memory of BKS Iyengar and his passing, at the age of 95, earlier this week. "There isn't a yoga class you can take today without Iyengar's influence," Jacob said. 

It made me think: after the lovely tributes to BKS Iyengar and how he profoundly affected the practice of yoga in the west, how will today's teachers continue to carry his work forward? Since most of us are most likely not practitioners of the actual Iyengar style, we asked some of our favorite vinyasa teachers here in New York. Here are their thoughts.

Lisa Bermudez

Which Iyengar teaching or quote is a personal favorite of yours? 

"When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world." 

This reminds me to always be grateful for everything I receive and to always remember that I need to be conscious of what I put into the universe. I have one lifetime in this body to create a positive wave in some way, and staying connected to what's beyond myself helps me stay on that path.

If you could impart just one Iyengar teaching for your students to always carry with them, which would it be?

Iyengar talked a lot about the connection between the head and the heart. For me, the yoga practice has become a practice of creating and maintaining healthy connections - both in terms of my relationship with myself and in terms of my relationship with everything external around me. Living in this material world poses billions of challenges, and if we don't continuously work on connecting the heart and the head, compassion and practicality, impulses and wisdom, and love and strength, it can get really messy.

Lisa Bermudez is a 500-hour RYT based in New York. Find out more about her work here.

MERAV BEN HORIN

Personal Iyengar favorite: 

"Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what can not be cured".

For me, this quote summarizes the essence of this practice: the acceptance, compassion and patience we learn to cultivate on our mat towards, on one hand, things in our life that can not be fixed (and probably don't need fixing because they are part of who we are), and, on the other, the constant work on changing the things in our life (both physical and emotional) that we do have control over.

Lesson to impart to students' lifelong practice:

"Transformation is sustained change, and it is achieved through practice."

This idea really emphasizes the importance of the practice in relationship to change: The ongoing discipline, commitment and hard work that one has to do in order to experience a sustained change. I think this idea is so important especially in the fast-paced culture we live in, because we often tend to look for quick fixes and immediate gratifications while at the same time expecting long lasting changes. Yoga teaches us that it's impossible, that in order to really enjoy the benefits of the practice on a physical and emotional level you have to show up, you have to commit over and over again, you have to do the work...and its never ending.

Merav Ben Horin is a yoga teacher and a psychotherapist. Find out more about her work here.

KERI SETARO

Image credit: Nora Charters at Area Yoga

Image credit: Nora Charters at Area Yoga

Personal Iyengar favorite:

"The hardness of a diamond is part of its usefulness, but its true value is in the light that shines through it"

This gives me hope that even for the toughest of us to break, the folks that have the most walls up can embrace their strength, not run from it. They can let the light and become so radiant, that all that is left is brilliance.

Lesson to impart to students' lifelong practice:

Iyengar's death has illuminated in me how life has so many teachers. Some teachers you actually get to meet, and some reach you from the furthest corners of the world and inspire you through writing, through example or through the filters of the teachers that have been inspired as well. There are so many ways to be educated and inspired--you just have to open your eyes and your heart.

As for Iyengar himself: his early years were so much about the physical strenuous practice, and then when life and injuries (a scooter accident) left him unable to practice the way he used to, he found a way to still practice. And the method of Iyengar yoga that we know today grew from that injury. He used props to make it able for any body, regardless of injury or shape, to find the physical practice. He didn't give up. He made it work. Tenacity and the dedication to continue is a great lesson: to come to the mat, let go of old ideas, and embrace new ones.

Keri Setaro is a Brooklyn-based vinyasa teacher. Read some of her writing here.

DANIELLE GREGAN FIGGIE

Personal Iyengar favorite:

"The physical body is not only a temple for our soul, but the means by which we embark on the inward journey toward the core. It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity."

In  time when it seems that no one is completely satisfied with their bodies--everyone wants to be taller, thinner, stronger, the list goes on--this wonderful insight reminds us that no matter what our bodies look like or feel like, they are sacred. Iyengar gives us permission to love our bodies and trust them to guide us toward our own light. When we understand that our bodies are a vehicle for enlightenment, we might see them differently the next time we look in the mirror.

Lesson to impart to students' lifelong practice:

Do not compromise your safety to achieve an asana. There are countless ways to make each asana available to everybody, via props, modifications, and so on. I've seen students anxious to get into a pose that their physical body isn't ready for, creating more stress for themselves. We live in a society where people can get what they want when they want it, and I think that this mentality is often brought to the yoga mat. Iyengar encouraged his students to take things slowly, one step at a time. His attention to detail is so profound, and his respect for the human body truly something to admire. My hope for all yoga students would be to approach their practice with the same level of care and patience.

Danielle Gregan Figgie is a yoga teacher in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Find out more about her here.

ARIEL KILEY

From our e-mails with Ariel: "I am in Ojai at an extremely intensive yoga therapy summit"...hence a bit of brevity (for now).

Personal Iyengar favorite:

"The hardness of a diamond is part of it's usefulness, but its true value is in the light that shines through it."

Lesson to impart to students' lifelong practice:

I think we should each be inspired by the power Iyengar exemplified, through his life's work, to change the world for the better. Just one person--you--could create infinite ripples of transformation through your contribution to the planet.

Ariel Kiley is a yoga teacher, Yoga Tune-Up specialist, and book author. Find out more about her here.