Awakening the Consciousness

Chris - Guruji

On March 15th , Chris Saudek presented a yoga class as a benefit to members of IYNAUS (Iyengar
Yoga Association of the United States). It was part of Coast to Coast which highlighted 8 senior
teachers who had worked directly with B.K.S. Iyengar (Guruji). The theme of the classes was to
focus on actions from Guruji’s teaching that have awakened consciousness. Before the class,
Chris gave a short talk about what this means to her and some of her memories of Guruji’s
teaching. Her talk, that has been adapted for this blog, follows.

The theme of this class is supposed to be focusing on actions from Guruji’s teaching that have
awakened my consciousness. As far as what awakening your consciousness means,
the definition of consciousness from the dictionary is “awareness of one’s own existence,
sensations, thoughts, surroundings etc.” What does this mean in the context of yoga?

Culturing Intelligence

I think Guruji says it best in his commentary on sutra I.7 PRATYAKSA ANUMANA AGAMAH
PRAMANANI, which translates as, correct knowledge is direct, inferred or proven as factual.
In that commentary Guruji writes: “The quality of intelligence is inherent but dormant, so our
first step is to awaken it. The practice of asana brings intelligence to the surface of the cellular
body through stretching and to the physiological body by maintaining the pose. Once
awakened, intelligence can reveal its dynamic aspect, its ability to discriminate. Then we strive
for equal extensions to achieve a balanced, stable pose, measuring upper arm stretch against
lower, right leg against left, inner against outer, etc. This precise, thorough process of
measuring and discriminating is the apprenticeship, or culturing of intelligence.”

For me, Gurjui’s teachings have brought a new meaning to my life and made me more aware of
my movements, my actions, my reactions, my thoughts, my breath, my surroundings, my
interactions with people among other things. In that way, I feel his teaching has awakened my
consciousness and has also given me an inner strength that has helped me endure the difficult
times in my life.

Finding The Way to Transformation

Were there specific actions or his touch at times that did this or was it Guruji’s presence, his
demand of complete attention and the way he taught us to keep questioning ourselves, to keep
looking, keep learning, to keep going deeper within? Yes, I can think of some specific things
that he said to me in particular or he said in a class that helped transform a pose or that
brought me to a place of quiet that I had never experienced. However, to take just one
particular thing he said or did out of context does not give an experience of how he could say
something at just the right moment that would change the energetic flow of my whole being.
It was the experience that has kept me inspired in my practice and motivated me to try to
inspire students with my teaching.

Guruji would get you to a place where you had thought you had done as much as possible and
add one more thing that would make you realize that the work is infinite, the space within is
infinite, and there is a whole part of yourself that has not been explored. Every class I had with
Guruji inspired me to explore a deeper sense of existence. And I was fortunate to have seen
him work and experienced his teaching in general classes as well as intensive courses.

  • He could connect the visible parts of body to those you could not see
  • He could get you to what you felt was your maximum and then ask for “any amount” more and something in you would change
  • He could ask you to work the inner layer and outer layer of a muscle in opposite directions and it would take you to a deeper experience
  • He could ask you to move the skin in a particular way when you had never thought it possible
  • He could make you aware of your deepest habits and motives and encourage you to look deeper into their source
  • He said things that seemed impossible to do and yet in the attempt there could be a dramatic change in the energy of the pose
  • And his Pranayama and Savasana could take you to place where you felt truly transformed

Making Space and Going Beyond

When I first went to Pune in 1980, I had only been taking Iyengar yoga for 2 years. There were
not many in the US teaching it at that time. The first visit I spent two months there and
have been to study at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute on more than 20
occasions, including twice for 5-6 months. What had attracted me to Iyengar yoga was the
attention to detail and the fact that a chronic minor backache that I was plagued with due to
scoliosis seemed to have resolved with the practice. I also came out of classes with Guruji
wondering, in a sense, where I had been during that time. It was somewhere I had never
experienced before.

Through his teaching, he taught me the importance of the karmendriyas – the arms and the
legs – to heal my minor body aches. But beyond that, he taught me how to make space in my
body and my mind and how to go beyond discomfort. Perhaps even more importantly, he
taught me that living and acting from the heart was more important than living and acting from
the head. The intelligence that Guruji tried to develop in us was the intelligence of the heart.

Guruji has said that, in doing yoga, your body must tell you what to do and not your brain. As a
student of yoga, you will have the best experience in classes if you don’t try to process the
words you hear through your brain, but try to bring the directions directly into your body. In
that way, the totality of the class can give you a new awareness that inspires your practice as
well as a relaxation of your brain that gives you a sense of total well-being.

A yoga practice should go beyond the time you spend on the mat. It is a practice that continues
even when, for reason of disability or age, you cannot physically do what you once could. It is a
lifetime and whole life practice. And going beyond physical strength, and more importantly and
more lasting, I believe it is the inner strength it can give you to face the difficulties that life can bring.

Chris Saudek

Chris’s love of yoga inspired her to start The Yoga Place in 1988 and she is especially grateful for the teachers and students who have enthusiastically kept it going. She started teaching Iyengar Yoga through the University of Wisconsin extension program in 1981. Since 1980 Chris has made numerous trips to study at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute with BKS Iyengar, Geeta Iyengar, Prashant Iyengar and most recently BKS Iyengar’s granddaughter, Abhijata.