The Breath


Photo Credit to BKS Iyengar Yoga Studio of Dallas. Photo of Abhijata in supported Janu Sirsasana.

Day 5 with Abhijata left me in a state that was difficult to get to the computer to write. Even now, as I sit down, it is difficult to put together all of the content. I am thankful for the ability to go back and listen to some of the recordings as it is the only way that today’s blog would have happened at all.

“It is impossible to pinpoint where the body ends and the mind begins. It is impossible to pinpoint where the mind ends and the Self begins.”

BKS Iyengar quoted by Abhijata

We know theoretically that yoga is a body, mind, and breath practice of unity and integration. However, do we truly experience this? For many, the idea of “breath work” and “body work” and “emotional or spiritual work” is all separate. Abhijata’s point today is that that demarcation is impossible!

We spent the entire class in “experimental mode” not a mode of “doing” at all. Each position she chose or movement she gave was for us to feel vibration changes within the body as the breath was moving or not moving in certain areas – we had to become our own “seismograph” and “diagnostician” for monitoring the feeling and sensitivity of the breath/body relationship.

The reason for the variety of asanas is to open the body up to the various movements of the breath and the use of props gives us time to feel those movements. We spent some time in both standing and seated poses feeling the discrepancies that can happen when we are unaware of how we are moving.

“A physical mistake does not remain in the physical realm – it extends to the breath plane also. Recollect a situation when you are unable to breathe. When the breathing is effected can the mind be calm? NO. Not at all”

Abhijata Iyengar, May 11 2020

If the physical is restricted, the breath is restricted, the mind will be restricted. If the body is moving fast, the breath will move fast, and visa versa.

“There has to be coordination between body and breath. Those only interested in breathing talk only on the level of the breath, (ignoring the body) this cannot happen. Without dealing with or coordinating with the body it cannot happen. In the same manner if you are doing body activity without bringing the breath into the picture, it cannot happen. It is impossible to demarcate that until Asana (yoga) is physical then from Pranayama it becomes breath. Asana has breath, Pranayama has body. God has given you both…body, breath, mind….One cannot neglect the body in Pranayama and you cannot neglect the breath in Asana.”

Abhijata Iyengar , May 11 2020

Beyond that, Prana is not just breath, it is energy. It is this energy flow that will bring us true healing and bring integration to the body, mind and breath. “Prana is what infuses you with life.”

We of course have been using a lot of props for this more sensitive work, and Abhijata has mentioned all the ways that props are important to practice and to gaining knowledge and wisdom in yoga. Aside from just the time to stay and become sensitive in pose, spending time with the breath, she made a HUGE point today to acknowledge their usefulness in support…especially in this time of Covid. She has been asking us to see them at this time as “compulsory” and necessary.

“Props can bring a leap to your Sadhana (practice) and yogic journey. It is ok to be dependent. You did not come on earth independently. You did not get your life independently. At every moment you are dependent. To be independent you have to live in a vacuum in space. The props are there for you. They do not judge. A prop is a wonderful manifestation of a friend. A friend is there at all times for you and the props are there at all times for you”

Abhijata Iyengar, May 11 2020

Acknowledging the support of the prop, she also drew us to acknowledgement of those making it possible for us to be living now – family, friends, health workers, other essential personnel, etc… We are at a time to be more reflective of action and to be sensitive not to make waves within ourselves or transfer waves to the world around us.

“A yogi acts and reflects simultaneously. As students of yoga, let us at least start relfecting after the action. This will train us the lag between action and reflection should become lesser and lesser, lesser and lesser.  So that one day they will happen simultaneously. So that we indeed will become better human beings.”

Abhijata Iyengar, May 11 2020

Take this time of yoga, of isolation, of whatever space you have to reflect. Every action we take has a reaction, in breath and mind and beyond…we just have to pay attention.

Jennie Williford CIYT

Jennie Williford (CIYT Level 3) is a transplant to LaCrosse via Montana, Illinois, and originally Texas. Throughout her life moves and 5 trips to India, Jennie has acquired a well-rounded and multi-faceted approach to Iyengar Yoga since her start in 1998. Jennie loves the experimental and explorative nature of yoga in accessing deeper knowledge of the Self on every level. The practice of yoga can be intense and introspective, however as practitioners we can be light-hearted and open-minded in our discipline. Jennie is intrigued by the philosophy of yoga and hopes to share this depth of subject while teaching the physical and mental benefits that come from the practice of posture.