Prashant Iyengar is an enigma. “You are all Gymmies, you do yoga like going to the gym, but yoga is not a gym culture. You do asanas, but you should be doing yoga. If you want to be a good writer, do you study calligraphy? Did Emerson, Thoreau, or Sri Aurobindo have good writing? No, but they did convey transcendent ideas. Do not become good calligraphers. ” I have been studying with him for years now, and he always initiates new students with
a similar refrain. He is not interested in the techniques or intricacies of alignment per say, rather in the rhythm and structure of being and becoming.
“You think that everything is about the mind, and you try and cultivate the mind, a strong will. But students of yoga know that the breath is what we cultivate. The breath can have all the qualities of the mind, it can cognize, strengthen, soften. The breath is a transcendent substance.” (class Nov 9).
This particular class was the second of the month. There are many new students joining classes this month, and many of them have a hard time understanding his accent. I look around the room and see some blank faces, probably wondering if and when we are going to start moving. I see a few bright smiles, and the local students, who have listened to Prashant pontificate, know that they are in the presence of a truly gifted man. In the first class, we began with long timings in Upavistha Konasana, and proceeded to twists, rope Sirsasana, a few standing poses, and either Janusirsasana or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana. The asanas were the means, the container, the vehicle with which we began to weave a deep experience exploring the universe within through the breath.
Prashant recently published a new book, Yogasana, the 18 Maha Kriyas of Yogasana. From that book: “The breath is a great catalyst, converter, transformer and transmitter. It has cosmic and divine origins. Breath is ever fresh, always new-born, because there is a new breath every 4 seconds! It provides a yogic envelope to the entire embodiment.”
I relinquish my habituated desire for an intense sensation, and open my being up to see what can happen. Prashant explains that we are all so invested in doing and doing and doing (he does repeat things like that, to make a point), that we miss the insights of what can happen and what is happening. It takes time, he reassures us, for the body-mind to synchronize with a breath cognition. It takes time to cultivate breath cognition; the vocabulary to recognize and feel being and becoming. I settle into a very special place that I can only call being fully present within myself. I relish Prashant’s classes, the magic he weaves, the map he builds that leads us there, and the insights that come through him from a sincere and authentic practice that is another dimension in Iyengar Yoga.