The Many Forms of the Divine

In just two days, my time here will be over and I will be headed home. It has been an incredible month in so many ways. I have remained free of illness and injury. I have had lovely roommates and a wonderfully supportive place to stay. I have received fantastic guidance in the classes and done my best to apply those lessons in the practices. It is hard to sum up what has been learned or gained, since the effects of this immersion will continue to unfold for a long time to come.

I was thinking about how my practice needs to become more intense when I get home. I have gained strength, mobility, confidence and self-awareness during this month. Certain poses are coming better. Understanding of what it means to practice and how to engage with the material has deepened. I do not want to lose what I have gained! But how do I keep this all going once I return the duties of home life?

My thought is that I will have to be more disciplined with my time and that I will have to start working harder. What does it mean to work hard? When we “work hard” over time, difficult things may become easier. And when we “take it easy” we may find that challenging things are less difficult. Patanjali tells us that practitioners can be mild, moderate or intense. If the practitioner is intense, then the goal of yoga is near. Abhi explained that we misunderstand intensity to be “working hard” and “buckets of sweat.” Real intensity, she said, means working with greater and greater sensitivity. While in one way that is actually more challenging, it also seems more doable and productive than just gearing up to exert myself more and more.

Last weekend, I had a most enjoyable afternoon touring some of the temples of Pune. We visited a centuries old Shiva temple and cave carved out of solid rock. The OM I chanted within the cave resonated for several seconds after I stopped producing a sound, and it was goosebump inducing! We took in the energy and beauty of temples to Kali, Hanuman and Ganesh. We ended the afternoon at a Krishna festival, as it was Krishna’s birthday. Multicolored lights and huge animated displays created a colorful and festive atmosphere.

In the Indian culture, the Divine is depicted in many forms. Each deity has a different function, energy and areas of life over which they preside. The myriad forms of the Ultimate allow practitioners to work with the form that suits them or the form that is suited to their need at the time.

The subject of Iyengar Yoga also manifests in many forms, all leading us toward the goal of Self Realization. Abhi spoke to us about this shortly after our arrival. She said that our view of Iyengar Yoga might be limited to those particular aspects that we are attracted to, but that we might be missing the true breadth and depth of the subject.

Here are some of the ways I have been taught Iyengar Yoga during the month here at RIMYI!

  • Quick movement, jumping, exertion
  • Long, slow holding of poses
  • Many detailed instructions
  • One or two instructions that run through the entire class
  • Anatomical precision and explanation
  • Little or no instruction – silence
  • Metaphor and analogy
  • Graphic imagery of various geometric patterns on or within the body
  • Long rests in between exertions
  • Little or no rest
  • Comparative study – try things different ways and notice the different effects
  • Many props
  • No props
  • Leading with the body or the breath or the mind
  • Various configurations of body, breath and mind
  • Holding a pose for a set amount of time
  • Coming in and out of a pose as needed
  • Repeating the same pose many times, the same way or in different ways
  • Doing many different poses with no repetition
  • Activity: press, dig, hit, tuck, extend, reach, cut, lift, broaden
  • Receptivity: soften, recede, let go, release, relax

So all of that is Iyengar Yoga. This method supports us in our quest to become more open minded and versatile as we take the inward journey through the kosas. With all these approaches and more at our disposal, we have the tools we need to continue our growth through all the circumstances that life delivers to us.

I find that my appreciation for B.K.S. Iyengar, Geeta Iyengar, Prashant Iyengar, Sunita Iyengar, Abhi Iyengar, all the institute teachers and my teachers at home, just continues to grow and grow. I hope that I can take what they have given me and put it into practice, not only for my own sake, but also so I can become more helpful to others.

Thank you so much for being part of the yoga community. I will be happy to be back home soon!

In love and light,

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5 Responses to The Many Forms of the Divine

  1. Jan Nelson says:

    I am eager to experience the insights you’ve gained over the past month. Travel safely, friend!

  2. Julie Tamarkin says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful overview, Karen! It is inspiring and helpful. I wish you safe travels home and success in your efforts! I send you my love and gratitude always. 🙂

  3. Karen, your words are so inspiring. Thank you! Have a safe and uneventful trip home. I look forward to reconnecting with you once you have rested from your journey. Much love, Leslie

  4. I appreciate hearing from each of you! It is hard to believe that tomorrow I will be on a plane and on my way home. Leslie, I want to especially thank you again for your incredible work with the Yoga Sutras recordings. They were my companions on many mornings here, and have facilitated my learning in many ways! It is so much more than correct pronunciation! By going slowly word by word, I have the chance to look at the meaning of the word while listening to its sound. I find the concepts are being implanted in my brain in a new way. I have also reflected on what you said about chanting for the enjoyment of the resonance of the sound, and that has been wonderful. You are a special gift to our yoga community and I appreciate you!

  5. Alice Barfoot says:

    Karen, have a safe trip home. Your words from India have been very important to me as I have brought your words into my home yoga practice. Thanks to your inspiration, I have gotten stronger and am really enjoying myself every morning in my extended practice. Thank you so much and I look forward to seeing you in person next week.

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