Jessie Toporek's Reviews > Light on Yoga

Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar
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's review
Apr 27, 2010

it was amazing
Read from April 25 to 27, 2010

“Light on Yoga” is the perfect resource manual to learn more about alignment, transitions between poses and breathing techniques. There are photos of Iyengar demonstrating nearly every pose, detailed instructions on how to approach them, and comments on their symbolic meaning.

The symbolism is the most interesting part of the book to me. My yoga teachers don’t tend to focus on this aspect of the practice, so it’s nice to pair Iyengar’s analysis with my teachers’ emphasis on physicality. My favorite interpretation so far has been for scorpion pose, in which Iyengar writes,

“The head, which is the seat of knowledge and power is also the seat of pride, anger, hatred, jealousy, intolerance and malice. These emotions are more deadly than the poison which the scoropion carries in its sting. The yogi, by stamping on his head with his feet, attempts to eradicate these self destroying emotions and passions.”


Who knew? I’m positive that I wouldn’t have kept these thoughts in mind had I not read Iyengar’s interpretation, and now that I know I will set my intentions on humility, compassion and kindness when I work on scorpion pose.

The preface is written by Yehudi Menuhin, a Jewish American violin player who began practicing yoga with Iyengar in the 1950’s. I read that Menuhin once conducted an orchestra with his feet while he posed in a head stand for the duration of the concert! There’s a Menuhin quotation on one of my favorite albums, “Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture,” which I find applicable to “Light on Yoga.” Menuhin is quoted,

“Music creates order out of chaos: for rhythm imposes unanimity upon the divergent, melody imposes continuity upon the disjointed, and harmony imposes compatibility upon the incongruous.”

I feel like you could replace “music” with “yoga” (or “kung fu” now that I’ve mentioned Wu Tang) and have the Menuhin quote work just as well. Intense body work creates order out of chaos when we are conscious of our alignment, link our breath to our movement and temporarily quiet the chatter in our minds. There’s a natural rhythm to vinyasa flow sequences, I Chin Ching postures and kung fu forms; sometimes one move sets you up so perfectly for the next that you can intuit the following posture without the teacher having to instruct you. It’s harmonious when we blends back bends with forward folds, strength with flexibility, hard with soft, yin with yang.

I’m glad I found this book so early in my yoga practice so that I can keep the intention of the poses with me as I progress. I recommend it to anyone who wants to enhanse the physical practice with more meaning.
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