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  1. a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced.

Excerpted from B.K.S Iyengar - 'Yoga, The Path to Holistic Health'

Aligning the Self

Many yoga practitioners are flexible and practise asanas in a habitual manner, without involvement or reflection. Mr Iyengar teaches his students to understand that asanas are not just about the movement of the physical body; there has to be a microscopic awareness and inner penetration, so that the asana becomes an asana in the real sense. He realised that there is an instrument of awareness in everybody. The average yoga student is aware of his or her body with respect to the asana’s technique and outline. However, most do not understand the concept of developing inner awareness. Mr Iyengar awakens the intelligence within. This allows practitioners to sharpen their awareness resulting in an inner action. For example, during Tadasana (mountain posture), Mr Iyengar goes beyond “Stand with your legs and feet joined together”. He asks the students to question the need to align the inner and outer foot. Alignment increases the sensitivity in the foot and balances the energy. Now, the practitioner lifts both sides of the knee resulting in a firm grip of the quadriceps, moving it closer to the thigh bone. In Tadasana, the firmness in the thighs leads to a lift in the gastric and lower abdominal region. This, in turn, relates the thoracic and organic region; the breath automatically becomes deeper and more rhythmic with corresponding changes to the senses, mind, and emotions.

Balancing the Energy Within

Mr Iyengar’s teachings might appear to be physical in nature, but the casual spectator cannot observe the internal workings of the practitioner’s mind. He believes awareness brings perfect balance between work output and energy expenditure. Correct utilisation of the mind and body ensures that the energy is retained and correctly distributed.

Every person has two facets of energy: the pingala or the surya nadi (masculine energy/sun) and the ida or the chandra nadi (feminine energy/moon). The sun is positive energy representing heat and daytime activity. The moon is negative energy representing coolness and nighttime restfulness. Mr Iyengar understood the importance of creating the perfect balance between the right (surya nadi) and left (chandra nadi) sides of the body. Alignment and precision allow the energies to work, interact, intermingle, and unite, bringing about health and balance. Optimum energy is used in the correct practice of yoga and leads the practitioner to a state of equilibrium (samatvam).

The Bhagvad Gita scripture states: Samatvam yoga ucyate (Yoga is the state of equilibrium).

Sage Patanjali, who wrote the treatise Yoga Sutras, explains that the differentiation between the muscles, limbs, joints, organs, mind, intelligence, and self has to disappear to reach this state of equanimity. Mr Iyengar ensures that students bring more of their consciousness into each asana, through precise instructions and demonstrations. Through this they begin to experience equilibrium.

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