Chapter 2 – Iyengar Yoga & Becoming Spiritual.
In 1978 I discovered the Iyengar Institute of Miami, which had recently opened. For the first time, my understanding and background in anatomy, from both my undergraduate and massage therapy studies, was able to connect to my yoga poses. The founder and primary teacher was Sam Dworkis, whose instruction was specific and direct. My body started feeling better and the pose challenges were fun to embrace. The neuromuscular pain in my forearms, shoulders, hips, and low back from hours of massage began to diminish.
The Iyengar method brought alignment to the limbs and extension to the body, a combination that was both anatomically correct and functionally stable. I was happy to be on a new yoga path.
While in Miami I also pursued a deeper understanding of spirituality following the spark of healing potential that had begun with my first yoga teacher, David Carmos.
A Study of Personality
I studied and received a certificate in the Principles of Psychosynthesis from the Holistic Institute of Florida. An Italian psychiatrist, Roberto Assagioli, founded this psychological study. His approach claims each person is a combination of many sub-personalities or characters that make up our inner family. He also described the influence of soul and our spiritual dimension. One technique he taught was to figuratively invite all your sub-personalities to dinner so your heart and soul could negotiate and prioritize their needs in order to modify and adjust behaviors for continued evolution.
Assagioli’s work is somewhat reminiscent of the personality types of the Enneagram, which some of you may be familiar with. Not only did this work help me discover parts of my personality I didn’t know existed; it also helped me meet my beloved husband of 40 years who was a fellow classmate.
Iyengar Yoga and God
In the early days of Iyengar yoga, the language was completely neutral—never a mention of God or Soul or any spiritual buzzwords. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which outlines the purpose and path of yoga, was hidden deep in the experiential teachings of this method.
Many years later, B.K.S. Iyengar himself revealed the reason why the spiritual concepts were hidden in his approach. His method had gained attention inside influential circles in England and Europe for its effectiveness in relieving human suffering. When he was asked to train teachers to teach yoga in the British schools, there was one condition: Could he teach yoga without mentioning God? To promote his mission, Iyengar agreed.
So while I was getting well trained and grounded in my asana practice at the Iyengar Institute, my heart was restless. My spirit was calling me to continue my search; I needed other words and perspectives.
The Mystic Path
I began to study the mystic path of the Sufi Order of the West, following the spiritual teachings of Hazrat Inayat Kahn, a professor of music, a poet, and a philosopher. His teachings emphasized the oneness of God and the underlying harmony of the revelations communicated by the prophets of each great world religion. His Inner School comprised the four stages of contemplative study based on the traditional Sufi disciplines, which are known in English as concentration, contemplation, meditation, and realization.
For your reference, other similar paths include Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the Vedanta path, the path of the Baha’i faith, and the Integral Yoga path of Sri Aurobindo. All these great mystical traditions landed in the west as an antidote to the materialism that separated spirit from life.
Yoga Goes Both Ways
Among yoga “influencers, there is a popular way to talk about and experience the transformative effects of a yoga practice. The idea is that you can discover your true self using yoga by going from the bottom up or the top down. This means that you can start with the physical practice of asana as it will purify and lead you to connect to a study of your mind, or you can start from above in the non-physical, the realm of spirit, to focus the mind, purify the emotions, and transform the heart.
What I learned during Phase 2:
1. I discovered Iyengar yoga was the way out of physical pain.
2. My personality was more complicated than I imagined.
3. I was clearly working from the bottom up and the top down, but the cake was half-baked.
Chapter 3 – Yoga Baby. Coming soon. Read Chapter 1 Here.
In the Spiritual Journey, Lillah