Lesson 3: Online Education in the tradition of Yogacharya BKS Iyengar – Sri Prashant Iyengar.
Learn Posture Then Yoga
1. We have been indoctrinated that yoga is a practical subject. We go overboard thinking it must be an activity to be performed or done.
2. There are two [modes of learning] —
- 1) do, to learn; and
- 2) learn, then do.
It is important to know something first about yoga before doing it.
Posture differs from asana. Posture both commences and culminates with biomechanics. Where does yoga come in? First, we must learn proper posture. Through such posture we learn yoga.
3. In Virasana… you turn the feet out, turn the calf muscles inside out, turn the thigh muscles from the outside in, keep the sacrum concave, lift the spine, and open the chest.
The arm positions vary — Paschima Namaskarasana, Parvatasana, Gomukhasana, Garudasana. The musculo-skeletal actions are all biomechanics — elevate the pelvis and diaphragm, lift the chest, roll the shoulders back, shoulder blades in, and dorsal in.
4. Posture is like a starter [motor] in your vehicle. Once started, you don’t continue to dabble with the starter. Once “started” in posture, [aim] for an asana condition.
Paradigms of Practice in Virasana +4.30
1. Understand the implications of body, mind, and breath awareness. There are different paradigms in Virasana. You can do a hip / buttock / sacro-iliac Virasana. You can [view] Virasana from those paradigms, launching from the sacro-iliac region — the sacrum, coccyx, hips, buttocks, anal mouth, and the abdominal region — from the pelvic floor to the navel.
2. A paradigm [can be done] from the shoulder blades — a “shoulder blade” Virasana. How do you modify the dynamics, [converting] from the [viewpoint of] the buttocks to the shoulder blades? Then the abdomen and chest? There are [multiple ways to look at it].
3. Just as you drive a car, there are different [ways] to “drive” yoga asana through different paradigms. An asana differs from a posture. A posture addresses…, the musculo-skeletal physical body.
4. You can do Virasana as a repetitive exercise — a musculo-skeletal exercise with Paschima Namaskarasana, Parvatasana, Gomukhasana, and Garudasana arms. Each will activate the body differently, and that’s how it will become a physical culture.
5. Now also use a profound breath in addition to musculo-skeletal movement. Apply a profound inhalation, a profound exhalation, a voluminous inhalation, a voluminous exhalation, a sharper inhalation, etc., in your musculo-skeletal body…, sometimes [adding] a post-inhalation retention and uddiyana kriya to make your [actions] more profound.
6. So, also, apply your mind — your will, volition, and resoluteness — to contribute to your musculo-skeletal body….
7. Find out how the breath can contribute, and the mind can contribute. If you do this much, and in this way, it will, again, [promote] physical culture. You are using body, mind, and breath for the benefit of the physical body.
Breath-Set Addressal in Virasana +9.00±
1. Yoga asana needs to go beyond — and not just get stuck in — physical culture. Find out the different perspectives in yoga asana. Although you may be used to doing Parvatasana in Virasana… for the musculo-skeletal body, the body matter, use that [same] position to start addressing your breath.
Make the breath a beneficiary rather than the benefactor [of the body], [the role it played] in the earlier phase. How can you use a deeper, voluntary breath to benefit the breath with the Virasana chest, Virasana back, Virasana spine, Virasana abdomen, Virasana pelvis, Virasana hips, Virasana perineum? The breath should be a significant beneficiary.
2. You can simultaneously do asana [to benefit] your mind. Objectify your mind. Understand your state of mind.
Just as we become camera-conscious [during a photo shoot] when we perform a photogenic pose, imagine that there is an instrument that will monitor your breath. How do you activate the breath? How do you benefit the breath, as a beneficiary, through Parvatasana in Virasana? Another pose will benefit the breath differently. Don’t only use the breath, but also apply the breath. This is implied in asana.
Mind-Set Addressal in Virasana +10.55
1. Similarly, the mind set. Imagine that there is an encephalogram monitoring your brain waves — the alpha, beta, and gamma waves. You can both use the brain, and benefit the brain as well, by yoga asana. That doesn’t happen much in posture.
These are the body, mind, and breath addressals.
Doer, Doing, & Done by in Virasana +11.50
1. Today, let me introduce a new dimension…. I am doer, doing, and am done by Virasana.
When you say, “I am doing Virasana,” understand… the syntax. If the syntax changes when you say, “I am the doer of Virasana,” what are the effects? Are you a doer at one point in time, and doing at another point in time?
2. “I am doing Virasana,” has [three] meanings:
- 1) You are the subjective doer who is executing the Virasana. It includes your will, subjective entity, volition, intent, perception, and sensation.
- 2) You are the instrument doing, or executing, Virasana. What are the dynamics of the instrumental role? What are the dynamics of the subjective role?
- 3) I am being done when Virasana is being done on me. The subjective entity is sculpted, carved, and cultured by [Virasana]…. Done is a [predicate adjective], not the past tense of the verb to do. Virasana is an instrument — and an object — that benefits me. The subjective entity is the beneficiary.
3. Now, if you are the subjective entity — I am the doer — you are the doer when you identify your self with the body.
Then, if you identify your self with your breathing, it [implies] you are breathing, you are the breath entity. This alters what we consider.
Thirdly, if you identify your self with your own mind — I am the mind — what do I consider?
These are nuances of yoga asana, not the nuances of posture because you [only] identify your self with the body in a posture. For example, if you were to say, “I am straight,” it is actually the body that is straight. If you were to say, “I am firm,” it is actually the body that is firm. Understand the gravity of the corporeal influence.
4. But, when you identify your self with the breath, it will [generate] a different [consideration]…. How do the considerations change? As a student of yoga you must be able to identify not only with the body, but [also] with the mind and the breath.
Thus, I am the doer of Virasana, is the antithesis of yoga. The practitioner is supposed to be the beneficiary — sculpted and carved [by yoga]. However, if you were the doer, then you would have become involved in the activity of it, and never could become the witness.
You are supposed to be a witness in yoga. [That’s why] I told you the other day to keep watching these interactions of body, mind, and breath. Then you will be on the track of witnessing phenomena in asana. It’s very important that you not be a doer in the fabric of asana. You are not even doing, or done. You are a witness.
5. When you are a doer, doing, or done, it [reflects] a materialistic culture. If you are a witness of the interaction of body, mind, and breath phenomena, you are closer to the core aspect of yoga.
6. I want to help you overcome certain misunderstandings — when you don’t distinguish between posture and asana. [When you understand the difference], you will know the dynamics of asana.
Yama and Niyama are Ethico-Religious Principles +19.10
1. I will touch on the misconception about yama and niyama in the next session [April 19]. Yama and niyama are considered moral and ethical practices, but in Patanjali’s scheme, they are not moral and ethical practices. They are ethico-religious principles.
 yoga is a practical subject… an activity to be performed or done: I believe that Prashant is emphasizing that yoga as a discipline that is practiced. He will come back to this theme at the end, questioning who the doer is. Although it may also be true that yoga is practical, in the sense of providing usefulness, such as in a therapeutic context, that does not seem to be his point.
 Once “started” in posture, [aim] for an asana condition: This analogy highlights that, although we may first learn through physical posture, it differs from, and is not the end point of, multifaceted yoga asana.
 Each will activate the body differently, and that’s how it will become a physical culture: In his 7-4-09 class, Prashant used “gym culture” as a synonym for “physical culture” — the cultivation of bodily exercises to improve physical health.
 The subjective entity is sculpted, carved, and cultured by [Virasana]: Objectifying the doer, the subjective entity, will be discussed in Lesson 5, starting with What is Meditation?
 The subjective entity is the beneficiary: Here the subjective entity explicitly refers to the “small-s” self — which also receives sensory input — as opposed to “the capital-S’ Self as purusha. When the self receives the action, it then may be perceived as an object, which reveals purusha to be the true Self and Seer. This is a step in grasping that purusha witnesses the self. Guruji often would extol yoga as subjective. This referred to purusha as the subject. It did not imply that yoga were merely arbitrary, opinionated, or counterfactual.
 told you the other day to keep watching these interactions of body, mind, and breath: See Lesson 2: April 10, 2020: Yoga Depends on Interaction of Body, Mind, & Breath
 When you are a doer, doing, or done, it [reflects] a materialistic culture: When the self is the beneficiary, it reinforces the primacy of the corporeal self as an aspect of prakrti, as opposed to purusha. See Doer, Doing, & Done by in Virasana: “when Virasana is being done on me… subjective entity is sculpted, carved, and cultured by [Virasana]…. Virasana is an instrument… that benefits me.” As the antonym of spiritual, material refers to prakrti.
 If you are a witness of the interaction of body, mind, and breath phenomena, you are closer to the core aspect of yoga: Witness implies that purusha is the true Seer that observes the “small-s” self, as stated in a prior footnote. The point of yoga is to reveal that purusha and then liberate it from the influence of prakrti.
 Yama and niyama… are not moral and ethical practices. They are ethico-religious principles: Prashant will make the following points in his April 19 lecture, and then reiterate them at the outset of his April 23, 26, and 29 lectures. 1) yama and niyama are not a “first step” in ashtanga yoga. They are integrated into each aspect of ashtanga yoga. 2) yama and niyama are not relative social norms (such as “I am more truthful than he”). 3) Patanjali did not need to cite yama and niyama for yogis because even non-yogis are expected to observe them. 4) yama and niyama are spiritual vows that sustain our dharma. 5) ethico-religious principles include tattva jnana (knowledge of principles) and dharma (duty that combines right and good).