Maha Samadhi for BKS Iyengar


“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body mind and spirit. .”- Guruji BKS Iyengar
BKS Iyengar | 1918 – 2014

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Sri Guruji BKS Iyengar. Guruji Iyengar was a beacon of support, carrying the light of Yoga into every corner of the world. The world will dearly miss this wonderful teacher who has been one of the most influential advocates of Yoga. Our founder and teacher TKV Desikachar, was very close to his maternal uncle and joins us in this moment of sadness.
Sri BKS Iyengar, who turned 96 this year, had been battling some health concerns in the past weeks, and attained the lotus feet of God early this morning on the 20th August 2014. Our heartfelt condolences and support go out to his immediate family, and the family of Yoga he has created.
Sannidhi of Krishnamacharya Yoga, will hold a prayer meeting for him today to honor this great man.

Day Fifteen, Lizzie’s Yoga Challenge: Iyengar Yoga with Alaric

Alaric Newcombe is somewhat of a household name on the Iyengar scene in London; he is a senior teacher whom generally people either love or hate. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t have a strong opinion about him either way, and over the years I have stood equally on both sides of the fence. Luckily, I have more recently grown rather neutral, and have a great deal of respect for him as a teacher even if I don’t always agree with the way he treats students. One thing is for certain, he is an excellent technical teacher for asana alignment from an anatomical perspective, and throws in other gems of wisdom throughout the class for those who are open to listen.

The other thing is that actually, he really does care, both about people he knows and about the yoga he teaches. I’ve only seen Alaric a couple of times since my transplant, but over the years he has been gracious in understanding my medical condition and limiting how long I am in certain poses or which to avoid, and I have somehow managed to remain off his hit list of students to pick on. Hallelujah.

Today’s class at Triyoga Primrose Hill was a well balanced twist class. The first half of the class matched supine twists with inversions followed by standing twists and a shoulderstand sequence, and as usual, there were many demonstrations by both Alaric and students either showing the right, or wrong way to do the asana. Alaric has a wicked sense of humour even if not always PC (when one woman was turning her face rather than her chest when he had specifically asked us to turn the chest he shouted “Do you wear your bra on your face?!?”), which makes the class fun, albeit often at another students’ expense. The bottom line is that one can learn a tremendous amount about the actions the body needs to take to practice asana, and capitalize on all of the positive aspects of his intelligent and very funny personality. As with anyone, the aspects that don’t mesh we can usually learn to leave behind. After a class with Alaric, I almost always feel fabulous, and even more importantly, I always learn something.

Lizzie’s 30 Day Yoga Challenge, Day 28: Attentive Humility

In an act of self-preservation, I followed my destiny and ended up at Alaric’s home studio for a second week in a row, breaking my own rules of the challenge. As I mentioned previously, pranayama has helped me a tremendous amount recently in creating space in my torso for the inflammation in the pancreas and liver; to have the direction and time to understand what structures in the body help to manage the breath and the shape of the diaphragm is very valuable to me personally, and as a teacher. Since Archway is not a convenient location and I happen to get a lot out of the asana practice following the pranayama, today it was my daily practice.

During these weeks of attending many classes, the thing that has captured my attention more than the asana class is the creative framework each individual teacher places around the practice. Today, for example, we explored the idea of ‘attentive humility’. To put this into context, it was discussed that in life, as much as we may try, we will never ultimately control the breath or the mind, yet the two have a profound affect on our overall happiness. Through asana practice, we can approach this management over mind and breath through the body and ultimately gain an understanding of how the breath impacts our thoughts, words and actions. We can liken it to a retraining that requires attentive humility. Rather than exercising a humility that is punitive or serious in tone, however, we can find a kind, gentle and compassionate approach as well. One way of staying mindful in our practice is to notice when we are straining in the pranayama or asana practice. When this happens, it is time to return to a neutralizing posture, lest we send the wrong message to the mind/body, possibly ceasing to practice at all as a result. Practice should be sustainable and applicable to life. It is always good to return to any activity performed regularly to ask ‘why’, whether it is a job, a relationship or a physical pursuit.

On that note, this will be the last post for the Yoga Challenge, 2013. During the next 6 months, every month I will travel to a new studio to attend class with a teacher I’ve not yet met, and update you along the way. But for now, it is time to get back to my self-practice and writing about things more esoteric in nature (or not). I will be posting a summary of the highlights of the month and learnings from this little experiment over the next week, and enjoying the freedom to get back to reading a large stack of yoga and Rolfing related texts that have been long neglected.

See you on the mat!

Lizzie’s Yoga Challenge, Day 21: Pranayama and personal space

Today I headed to Archway for my daily dose of yoga. It had been nearly two years since I attended a class at Alaric’s home studio; for the past three or four months I have been practicing with him weekly at Triyoga Primrose Hill. During the yoga challenge, his classes are the one’s I’ve missed the most as part of my regular weekly practice and this morning I woke up determined to make it for the full three and a half hour practice.

Since I recovering from my short-lived case of acute pancreatitis and brief hospital stint at the beginning of January, pranayama has become a part of daily pain management and strengthening my breath capacity (pancreatitis severely limits this as the diaphragm catches onto the inflamed organ on inhale). I was looking forward to a full hour of led pranayama followed by a two hour practice, and I left feeling better than when I arrived.

A few words about Alaric, from my limited experiences. He is an intelligent, creative and passionate teacher with large facial expressions and a witty, satirical sense of humor. If you are a beginner or a practitioner who doesn’t have experience with Iyengar, start with the general classes at the Iyengar Institute. He doesn’t waste words telling people who don’t have enough experience to leave. For some, this can come off as rude or even egotistical, and some days, it may even be true. In these instances, Alaric doesn’t exude patience or tolerance, but at the end of the day he is well-intentioned and genuine.

The pranayama practice was a deepening experience into understanding jalandhara bandha and actions of the body for seated breath management. As there were only four of us, there was a lot of addressing personal needs and time to move inward to explore what goes on during breath observation.

Asana practice with Alaric is always interesting and instructional, and normally quite physically instensive. My perception is that today was less challenging physically, and  some partner work we did surrounding caring for knees was unclear for me. As a result, the class was not as rich an experience as normal, but I am responsible for this as I have a feeling of inadequacy about asking questions during the course of Alaric’s classes.

This takes me to my biggest criticism of Alaric as a teacher. In the same way that he can come across as impatient, it is not  always easy to engage in a dialogue with him in the context of a yoga class. He is, among other things, a well-studied, talented teacher with incredible resources of asana and anatomical knowledge, yet not always available for questions or clarification.

Despite this, going to someone’s home is always telling, and there is something delightfully relaxed about practicing in a space where the teacher’s dog is in the garden digging up the decking, his three year old traipsing naked in and out of the studio space while muffins are baking in the room next door. At his home studio Alaric is more relaxed than at the other studios where he teaches, and as a result there is more banter and joking between teacher and students, more opportunity for questions than within the context of a normal class, and in general, more sharing of knowledge. I don’t know about you, but I’d trade the stuffiness and pretention that some other London studios offer for the described home practice setting any day of the week.

A one-of-a-kind, world class teacher in London for those practitioners who are capable of fully embracing the role of student.

Lizzie’s Yoga Challenge, Day 20: the lost practice

With the best intentions, I didn’t make it to Zephyr’s class yesterday at the Life Centre Notting Hill (next week!). In between seeing clients, teaching and filing my tax returns, the sands of time slipped through my fingers. When I arrived home, I took a bath and headed off to bed.

Still recovering from a lost voice/throat and chest virus while teaching, seeing clients and doing my best in my self-inflicted yoga challenge took its toll yesterday. Luckily, I woke up this morning ready to resume with a three hour practice at Alaric’s home studio….

%d bloggers like this: