More about yoga

More about yoga…

“Venture from the known to the unknown.” —BKS Iyengar

Yoga is an art, a science and a philosophy. It is not a religion. It touches the life of a person at every level, physical, mental and spiritual. It enables every part of the human system to become attuned to its essence, the conscious seer within.

The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning to yoke, join or unite. This implies joining or integrating all aspects of the individual — body with mind and mind with soul — to achieve a happy, balanced and useful life, and spiritually, uniting the individual with the supreme.

Yoga can enable the practitioner to perceive and experience the world within and around himself or herself and to touch the divine joy of all creation.
Yoga means union.Of all unions, none is more meaningful or fulfilling thatn the meeting that takes place within when an individual meets with his or her Self.

We commence each session by chanting the mantram OM followed by the invocation to Patanjali. OM is the sound of eternity and the melody of this cosmic sound draws the mind gently inward and awakens our blissful self. The sound vibration expresses the realization of our divinity within the self.

OM consists of three inseparable sound waves A… U… M… followed by a transcendental silence.

From the sound A, the causal body of the macrocosm and microcosm evolves.

From U, the subtle body manifests, and from M the physical body. Beyond the physical, subtle and causal bodies lies Pure Consciousness, the silence into which OM dissolves.

What is Mantra? Mantra is an ancient technique for attuning oneself to the Cosmic Vibratiion which permeates all of creation. They are sacred sounds that purify the mind and spread peace throughout the world.


This mantra means literally, “MAY ALL BEINGS FIND PEACE.”

In it’s translation, it implies that all beings are sustained by the same life force and therefore equal.

“Yoga is for all of us. To limit yoga to national or cultural boundaries is the denial of universal consciousness.” —BKS Iyengar

Historically, Patanjali is said to have lived some time between 500 and 200 BC. Much of what we know of this master of yoga is drawn from legend. He was the author of Mahabhayasa, within which are the treatises on yoga called the Yoga Darsana, which is translated as “mirror of the soul”. This was followed by his book on Ayurveda, the science of life and health.

The varied philosophies and methodologies of Yoga itself were clearly and methodically brought together and presented by the sage Patanjali in his set of 196 aphorisms called “The Yoga Sutras,” written some 2200 years ago. The Sutras bring together all the various strands of theory and practice from all sources of yoga and present them in one concise, integrated and comprehensive text. How all the aspects interrelate and form part of the whole body of yoga are clearly elucidated.

There are 8 disciplines to yoga as presented by Patanjali (thus Ashtanga yoga – 8 limbed yoga) which must be practiced and refined in order to perceive the true self, the ultimate goal of Yoga:

1. Yama – Universal ethics: Non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, sexual restraint and non-acquisitiveness.
2. Niyama – Principles of self conduct: purity, contentment, intense dedication or austerity, study of self and scriptures and self-surrender.
3. Asana – practice of the postures.
4. Pranayama – Breath control.
5. Pratyahara – withdrawal and control of the senses.
6. Dharana – concentration.
7. Dhyana – meditation.
8. Samadhi – a state of higher consciousness where the sense of self (ego) dissolves in the object of meditation and the individual self exists in its own pure nature.

“Yoga is the union of the individual self and the universal self.” —BKS Iyengar

Patanjali’s work was dedicated to man’s mental, physical and spiritual evolution.

The invocation to Patanjali at the beginning of each session is not a prayer but a traditional way of expressing respect and gratitude to the lineage of Patanjali and of making ourselves aware of the vast universal consciousness that pervades all of existence that we are all a part of. The majesty, the truth, the bliss, the silence and the knowledge are all reflected within ourselves.

The invocation to Patanjali

yogena cittasya padenba vacam
malam sarirasya ca vaidyakena
yopakarottam pravaram muninam
patanjalim pranjaliranatosmi
abahu purusakaram
sankha cakrasi dharinam
sahasra sirasam svetam
pranamami patanjalim

(Please do not be overly concerned if you cannot memorize this chant right away. Over time and with practice it will become easier.)

The translation of the invocation above is as follows:

Let us bow before the noblest of sages, Patanjali, who gave yoga for serenity and sanctity of mind, grammar for clarity and purity of speech, and medicine for perfection of health.

Let us prostrate before Patanjali, an incarnation of Adisesa, whose upper body has a human form, whose arms hold a conch and a disc, and who is crowned by a thousand-headed cobra.

Where there is yoga, there is prosperity and bliss with freedom.

The invocation is followed by the practice of asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing) under Rajay’s direction according to the Iyengar tradition. This leads up to a final fifteen minutes of savasna (corpse pose) and meditation before the session closes with, once again, the chanting of the mantram OM.

“An asana is not a posture which you assume mechanically. It involves thought, at the end of which balance is achieved between movement and resistance. When the mind is controlled and still, what remains is the soul. The ocean is the self, the waves are the thoughts. The self is silent-the thoughts make noise.” —BKS Iyengar

BKS Iyengar is one of the foremost teachers of Yoga in the world and has been practicing and teaching for over sixty years. There are Iyengar yoga centres all over the world. He has written many books on yogic practice and its philosophy including “Light on Yoga,” “Light on Pranayama,” “Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”, Yoga, The path to Holistic Health” and more.

BKS Iyengar’s recognition as a yoga teacher is well known in the yoga world but it was a meeting with the violinist Yehudi Menuhin in 1952 which led to BKS Iyengar’s eventual international recognition. It was Yehudi Menuhin who arranged for BKS Iyengar to teach abroad in London, Switzerland, Paris and elsewhere and so meet people from all over the world and from all walks of life.

BKS Iyengar has also developed and refined the integral practise of pranayama (breath awareness) and dhyana (meditation) and continues to further develop his life’s inspiration and teachings through daily practice at his present age of 90. His dedication and love for yoga continue to be the deepest inspiration to his devoted disciples from all over the world.

“Though man demarcates body, mind and soul, it is impossible to pinpoint where the body ends and the mind begins, or where the mind ends and the Self begins. They are interrelated and interwoven by the string of intelligence. Learning can be acquired but wisdom has to be earned.” —BKS Iyengar

Gayatri Mantra

This mantra is considered the most sacred of the Vedas and is chanted for wisdom and illumination.

om bhur bhuvah svah
tat savitur varenyam
bhargo devasya dhimahi
dhiyo yonah prachodayat

Through the coming, going and the balance of life,
The essential nature which illumines existence is the adorable one,
May all perceive through subtle intellect,
The brilliance of enlightenment,

“My ending shoud be your beginning.” —BKS Iyengar

Read Christine Perre’s interview with Prashant Iyengar, the son of BKS Iyengar. In the first part, titled “A Class after a Class” he speaks about different aspect of yoga practise. The second part “Our True Nature” is concerned with philosophical aspects of yoga.

You can read the interview online.

Yoga: An Integrated Science by Prashant Iyengar
(downloadable links to “A Class after a Class” & “Our True Nature”)

Recommended Reading

“Light on Yoga” – BKS Iyengar
“Light on Pranayama” – BKS Iyengar
“Light on Yoga Sutras of Pattanjali” – BKS Iyengar
“Tree of Yoga” – BKS Iyengar
“Light on Life” – BKS Iyengar
“Yoga Wisdom and Practise” – BKS Iyengar
“Core of the Yoga Sutras” – BKS Iyengar
“Yoga: A path to Holistic Health” BKS Iyengar
“Sparks of Divinity” – Noelle Perez Chistiaens
“Alpha & Omega of Trikonasana” – Prashant Iyengar
“Tuesdays with Prashant” – Prashant Iyengar
“Alpha & Omega of Trikonasana” – Prashant Iyengar
“A Class after a Class” – Prashant Iyengar
“Yoga and the New Millenium” – Prashant Iyengar
“Yoga: The Iyengar Way” – Shyam, Silva & Mira Mehta
“Awakening the Spine” – Vanda Scaravelli
“Like a Flower” Sandra Sabatini
“Yoga for Children” – Swati & Rajiv Chanchani
“Iyengar: His Life and Work” – BKS Iyengar

View Iyengar Yoga and related links:

Yoga: An Integrated Science by Prashant Iyengar (download links to “A Class after a Class” & “Our True Nature”)

Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute

International Iyengar Yoga Organisation

Japan Iyengar Yoga Association

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