by Jane Hirshfield

More and more I have come to admire resilience.

Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam

returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous

tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,

it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.

But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,

mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth.

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana at the Centenary Celebration in honor of Guruji Srī B. K. S. Iyengar  

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana at the Centenary Celebration in honor of Guruji Srī B. K. S. Iyengar  

This month in January,  Manouso taught this backbend, Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, in an advanced class that was freeing for the neck and shoulders. It has been probably fifteen or sixteen since he’s taught me that pose. These backbends did not come easily for me. I can remember what it was like not to be able to sit in that front hip or move my chest to allow my shoulders. A big part of what my teacher has taught me is NOT to be dependent on him, and about the kind of persistent effort it takes to make progress through a  relentless approach to the preparatory work, repeating and repeating the actions, building the layers that allow a complex pose to evolve safely, looking and realigning, relaxing the extra effort. Class taught me how to practice.... Taking in a set of understandings from an experienced practitioner, a teacher, is quite a bit like being parented.  He can show a set of actions and positions to help improve a situation, like advising a child to put on a coat when it’s cold outside. The teacher has to show detachment over the resistance of the students. As a parent, tooth brushing is not optional for my children. It’s a job to remind them and make sure they do it while they are little. Ultimately we go out on our own and are responsible for our actions, how hard we are willing to work to care of our end of things, or make a change. A student sent me this recently:

Dr. Shinichi Suzuki: “Knowledge plus one thousand times equals ability."


The teacher attends to the class, the student learns to be attentive:

“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity...

Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love.

Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.” —Simone Weil


The Postures Reveal

A day off from class, a day to play with understandings...

This trip, the first class with my teacher, after the chant, words and silence for Geetaji,

the first pose was Adho Mukha Virasana,

like Geetaji was teaching only days ago,  a lifetime.

In that “simple” pose he showed two weaknesses/ tendencies...

Now the work is looking exploring and strengthening controlling expanding spreading and gripping to find the balance. What arises in a “simple pose” is also everywhere. The postures reveal.

Studying Light on Yoga to see what’s missing from my practice: what’s not coming, why?

all entry ways in.

The questions get us interested involved attentive  until presence is everywhere

“...in a class, although you are undoubtedly “doing” and, hopefully, learning you are subordinate to the teacher. The directing intelligence comes from him, and you follow to the best of your ability. At home, on the other hand, it is your own intelligence that is the master, and the progress that you make is yours and will be maintained. In addition, the will that you employ is yours. It is not derived from the power, the charisma, the strength, or the fieriness of the teacher. It comes from you, and its effect profound. This is not yoga by the body for the body, but yoga by the body for the mind, for the intelligence. There is a great difference between just practicing and sadhana. Sadhana is the way of accomplishing something. That something is—by effective performance and correct execution—the achievement of the real. What is real must be true and so lead us toward purity and emancipation. This is yoga sadhana and not the mechanical repetition merely of yoga practice or yogabhyasa. The end of yoga sadhana is wisdom.” —BKS Iyengar

_ “When all the knots that strangle the heart are loosened, the mortal becomes immortal, here in this very life.

As the skin of a snake is sloughed onto an anthill, so does the mortal body fall; but the Self, freed from the body, merges in Brahman, infinite life, eternal light.” —The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 4:7

Chakorasana “pose of a bird who feeds on moonbeams”

Eka Pada Sirsasana “one leg head pose”

Skandasana “pose of god of war”

Adho Mukha Svanasana “downward facing dog pose” 

“Keep your focus.”

“Keep your focus.”


My dear teacher’s advice once when I strayed into fretting over the actions and behavior of others.

“Keep your focus.”

Our practice is to deal with our own stuff, physical, mental/emotional, intellectual. Over and over again witnessing what arises, what we aren’t seeing, our tendencies to hash into the same thoughts and behavior, cortisol squeezing down those paths like rain water flowing through the grooves of well-worn tire tracks.

In class over and over as a student I’m pulled out of that rut and into the now of yoga with his strength of will driving me to watch, do, let go, to overcome the drift of attention into  habits of avoidance and attachment that are like old familiar clothes that have long lost their appeal but happen to be there close at hand and ready to wear.

Sometimes the universe gives us great mountains of concerns to fear and fret over, relationships to grieve, wrong paths and mistakes to regret. “Keep your focus.” Yoga is the stilling of our own consciousness. Ultimately we can’t do it for anyone else. Those pains can provoke me to get  past the patterns of laziness and fear to sweep the floor in my practice all the more fiercely and intensely fearlessly until even the bare floor shines with the sincere effort. “Do your own work. Then step back” the Bhagavad Gita advises and my teacher models again and again.

Infinite Gratitude to my Dear Teacher,  who teaches me ways to travel from darkness to light, 

Manouso Manos, on his birthday.


 “Diamonds are hard and clear. It is their property of clarity that gives us the clue. Clarity is also the great defining characteristic of wisdom. We are seeking to cultivate wisdom, to transform mental dexterity or cleverness, which all people possess in some degree, into the penetrating clear light of wisdom. In order to achieve this, we have to toil in the mines, to separate dross, which is false, from what is precious because it is true.” —Yogācārya Srī B.K.S. Iyengar 

Know your Body: Anatomy & Physiology Class Series at the Iyengar Yoga Center of Grand Rapids

Anatomy & Physiology series continues this winter and will begin at the start in the fall.


#6 Anatomy of the Pelvis: January 19, 2019

#7: Nervous System #1—Brain & Skull: March 23, 2019

#8: Nervous System #2—Peripheral Nerves & Vertebral Column: April 6, 2019

with Chelsea Tiernan, Ph.d. in Neuroscience, and instructor at GVSU in anatomy and physiology, and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher, Iyengar Yoga Practitioner since 2004. All interested students/teachers from any tradition and background are welcomed.

Happy New Year

“By persistent and sustained practice, anyone and everyone can make the yoga journey and reach the goal of illumination and freedom.

Many of you may worry that you are unable to meet the challenges that lie ahead. I want to assure you that you can. I am a man who started from nowhere; I was heavily disadvantaged in many ways. After much time and effort, I began to reach somewhere. I literally emerged from darkness to light, from mortal sickness to health, from crude ignorance to immersion in the ocean of knowledge by one means alone, namely by zealous persistence in the art and science of yoga practice (sadhana). What held good for me will hold good for you too....

You have the beginning already shown to you, and no one knows in what wholeness and felicity you may end. If you take up any noble line and stick to it, you can reach the ultimate. Be inspired but not proud. Do not aim low; you will miss the mark. Aim high; you will be on the threshold of bliss.” Yogācārya Srī B. K. S. Iyengar, Light on Life, preface.



_ “You must do the āsana with your soul. How can you do an āsana with your soul? We can only do it with the organ of the body that is closest to the soul— the heart. So a virtuous āsana is done from the heart and not from the head. Then you are not just doing it but you are in it. Many people try to think their way into an āsana, but you must instead feel your way into it through love and devotion.  In this way you will work from your heart, not your brain, to create harmony. The serenity in the body is the sign of spiritual tranquility. As long as you do not feel the serenity in the body, in each and every joint there is no chance for emancipation. You are in bondage. So while you are sweating and aching, let your heart be light and let it fill your body with gladness. You are not only becoming free, but you are also being free. What is not to be glad about? The pain is temporary. The freedom is permanent.” Yogācārya Srī B. K. S. Iyengar, Light on Life, p. 63.

With deep gratitude for the efforts of our lineage, wishing you all a Happy New Year. May you find freedom and unalloyed bliss in the vessel of your being. 



Proceed on the Path

 Geeta Iyengar



December 7, 1944 - December 16, 2018

"Friends, this is what I want to give, a small message to you. Let us practice with that reverence, let us practice having faith in yoga, and let us practice with the method that Guruji has given. It's scientific and spiritual. We don't know how long it takes, but once you are firm about it, it will definitely take you to that destination. Have this in your mind, and please practice accordingly. We have to clear our path of obstacles, objective or subjective. Let us proceed on that path which is more auspicious, clearer.

So with this, I just want to express that we will be practicing until our last breath. Have that firmness in your mind."

Geetaji; Yatra, IYNAUS convention, 2007

Dr Geeta S Iyengar 7.12.1944 - 16.12.2018

Dr Geeta S Iyengar 7.12.1944 - 16.12.2018

Dr Geeta S Iyengar 7.12.1944 - 16.12.2018

Dear Iyengar Yoga community, 

We have received the following obituary for Geetaji, written by Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh.

In her father’s light, not shadow!


Dr Geeta S. Iyengar, daughter of Yogacharya B K S Iyengar, and the seniormost teacher in the Iyengar community passed away today morning. She had completed 74 years on December 7.
Sister to her five siblings but a mother figure to the whole community of Iyengar yoga practitioners which now spans 59 countries across the world, Geetaji lived a simple life which embodied all the principles of being a yogini.
She chose to lead a life of brahmacharya (celibacy) and devoted her life to yogic pursuits.
As the director of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI), Pune, together with her father B K S Iyengar and her brother Prashant, she was instrumental in moulding and teaching generations of yoga aspirants from their Yoga-shala in Shivajinagar, Pune. Last year, the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award for the best Yoga Institute in India was awarded to RIMYI. This, in a way, acknowledged her six-decades-long years of commitment to teaching yoga and mentoring generations of yoga teachers which has resulted in the Iyengar yoga certificate becoming the gold standard in the field.

The eldest child of Ramamani and Yoga guru B K S Iyengar, Geetaji was born near Tumkur, her maternal place but did her schooling in Pune, where her father had settled down as a yoga teacher.
She was inspired to take up yoga early and never looked back. An early attack of nephritis at age 9 had left her with only half a kidney and ever since, she became a keen student of yoga.
Decades later, when asked at a Q & A, whether she felt she was in her father’s shadow, she had wittily said, “I consider myself fortunate to be in my father’s light, not his shadow.”

In 2012, Geetaji conducted a mega class in Portland, Oregon, US, which has become a benchmark for the congruence between Yoga, medicine and Ayurveda. In this convention, she gave the principles of how to hone the art of observation and application of yogasanas in the treatment and alleviation of various diseases. She repeatedly stressed how yogasanas have transformative power and this comes with the alignment of the outer, inner and innermost bodies (sthula, sukshma and karana shariras) with the bahya, antar-anga and antar-atma sadhanas .

When people talk of alignment, they only point to external points of reference like arms and legs and muscles and joints. But here was someone who showed us how to align a life to the teachings of a Guru, how to align a life to the learnings of an art, how to align a life to the responsibilities of a practitioner (sadhaka), a teacher and a pillar of the yoga community.
Though a teacher in her own right, she always remained a shishya to her father and the subject of yoga till the end. Even at the recently concluded centenary celebrations of Yogacharya B K S Iyengar, where more than 1,200 students from 53 countries participated in a ten-day yogasana and pranayama session, she taught tirelessly for six hours a day exhorting students to experience the intelligence in their bodies first-hand and not depend on second-hand experiences. This insistence on self-learning and self-awareness in the body, mind, consciousness and breath became her defining ethic.
She authored the classic, ‘Yoga – A Gem For Women’ which is now translated into several languages. Her continuous exploration resulted in the volumes, Preliminary Course and Intermediate Course which became a beginner-level learner’s text guides to her father’s definitive Light On Yoga.
Her six-decades-long commitment to the subject of yoga has been something which will now inspire generations of practitioners.

For Geetaji


When he was 7 years old, my son made this watercolor and ink drawing of Sage Patañjali, composer of the Yoga Sutras, a treatise on Ayurveda and Sanskrit Grammar. I almost sent it to Geetaji. He painted it green because I had told him once that it was her favorite color (big topic of conversation with 5 and 7 year old children), which I knew from trying to find a gift for her in Pune to say thank you and goodbye. Honestly, trying to buy an appropriate gift was a futile task, and my poor efforts made me feel ashamed. I also wrote her a letter and I hope I was forgiven for the meager gift.

There is nothing that can be bought that would sufficiently convey the depth of gratitude collectively felt for this woman’s efforts and devotion in the vast field of yoga. There is no adequate expression for what has been bequeathed.

What a magnificent life and gift she gave to the end

Devoted to yoga and to passing it on

There is gladness for her for her liberation

For us we have loss and we have a responsibility that grows heavier

There is yoga — all it’s glowing possibility and potential. That light doesn’t touch us until there is someone to teach us.

It takes a devoted sincere student, a human being, to realize it, explore it, open the subject up and out to everybody  and work tirelessly endlessly to help others and pass it on. To sacrifice oneself for yoga. To be willing to die for yoga.

She asked us to read her father’s books. That would make her happy. They have been a great comfort to her. In reading them and in practice we will continue to discover the way forward and the way in

They are asking us to go deeper to go further. No more shallow spreading of yoga. Find the light in depths. Go beyond death. Don’t be attached to what is transient. Seek beyond what dies to find the deathless state.

In deep gratitude for Guruji and Geetaji

Who are not gone

Who are with us still

All my love