How yoga can be used in hard life situations – an interview with B.K.S. Iyengar

Many times in life we have to face difficult situations. Can you tell us how the knowledge received from yoga practice can be used in hard life situations?

B.K.S. Iyengar: “99% of the world moves in emotions. Yoga is a subject which brings emotional stability. Emotional stability is a felt feeling of each individual. The head is a calculative seat, it just calculates, but the experience is in the mind. Mind is the external envelope of the consciousness. So if the envelope is opened, you can see the content. The contents being intelligence and ego. And if the intelligence and the ego which are the most subtle parts of the mind are made to function harmoniously, then life is quite different. Then there is a vibrancy in life.

Yoga helps us to overcome the upheaval of the emotions. It directly caters to the emotions. In yoga we don’t distinguish between the intellectual head and the intelligence of the heart. They both have their place. The intelligence of the heart is linked to emotion, whereas intellect is linked to calculation. When there is emotional fulfillment there is no calculation. But when there is an emotional want, or a sense of dissatisfaction, an emptiness of heart, calculative behaviour begins, selfishness begins. Therefore emotional intelligence and the intellect are interconnected, which is why yoga begins with “citta vrtti nirodhah”. That is Patanjali does not say control your brain, he says discipline your mind. The mind gets attached to the objects of the outside world which are sensual and impermanent. And so it begins to play a dual role. On the one hand it seeks to satisfy the sense organs, organs of action and the organs of perception, and on the other hand it seeks the Self. 

Patanjali has never said that yogāsana is a physical practice. He asks us to look at the effect of the asanas “this mind that plays a dual role becomes single”.

Body is universal, that is to say, whatever may be your culture and whatever may be your country, your body and my body are the same. Whereas, the individuality is linked to the mind. It is this individuality that brings about chemical imbalances and disharmony in the body. The asanas guide a person to not disturb the body. The bio-chemistry is balanced within the body. Since the mind is quiet, the bio-energy is quiet. So disturbances do not take place within, at the organic level. It is the mind that creates obstacles since it brings chemical changes in the organic body through its creation of individuality. Asanas guide in such a way that the organic body is kept quiet. Like water spreads on the floor the intelligence and consciousness spreads all over the body, hence the mind remains quiet. And this is when we can say that there is emotional stability as well as intellectual stability and that both are balanced. There is no oscillation from the heart to the brain and vice-versa. They both work in union. That is why Patanjali says “tato dvandvanābhigātah”, the dual mind becomes a single mind. So those who call the practice of yoga as physical, it shows that they have no background of the philosophy of the yoga sutras.

Problems do come in life. And one has to face them. That is why asanas and pranayamas are the external parts of yoga, but they help us face these difficulties harmoniously, without creating impediments which will impede us from going into the internal body.”

How does meditation come about in Asana?

B.K.S. Iyengar: “There are two types of meditation, bio-energetic quietness and induced psychological quietness, and they’re quite different. If I have to use the modern language, the psychological quietness by the use of words or expression’s for meditation is equivalent to the use of drugs. It is like listening to somebody talk and feeling the quietness through words, but coming out one has fallen back into the same mind patterns. So just like the drug the effect stays only for a few minutes or hours. Whereas in the case of asana and pranayama, the neurological effects and the bio-energetical effects bring the quietness. The energy being made to flow evenly in the body, naturally the mind becomes quiet. Therefore this can be called biological meditation which makes the psychological aspect of us to become quiet. Meditation starts from the biological  mind and not from the psychological end.

So that is why Patanjali says, when you keep the biological body and mind healthy, then you are fit for meditation. What does it mean to be fit? It means the mind has become bright to take the reverse journey in towards the Self, so that someday you are practicing not from the mind, not from the intelligence, but from the Self. That is why Patanjali says you have to first learn to spread the intelligence. That is, when the awareness has completely spread on the known, then automatically the unknown is also there. That is maturity in the practice of asana.”

Source: Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar’s interview, 2014, Pune, Maharashtra, India – © Iyengar Yoga Serbia YouTube Channel