For those who practice regularly, results become something resembling a platitude. They are ‘hope and change’, ‘enlightenment’, a deep uttanasana…. Results appear every once in a while. To loosely quote Mr. Iyengar, they relate to the powers attained in pada 3 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras; they remind us we are on the right path, but we shouldn’t get to caught up in them.
Yet I teach, and continue to study the art of teaching. And this method has such a practical aesthetic to it; students often seek it out because it can help with injuries and conditions. Here, we teachers are advised to draw a distinction. We are not therapists, but there are guidelines for many issues. It is similar to technique when playing an instrument. The pianist with tendonitis overcomes the pain with proper technique. I frequently see new students light up when they fix technical issues in their poses.
One student has rather severe knee pain. It started with a tennis injury, and led to multiple surgeries. The pain didn’t abate, and pain management has yielded mixed results. In our method, we generally begin with the work of the work of the limbs. She remarked that the ‘lift’ of the knee that we emphasize so persistently gave her tangible relief.
Even a small reduction in pain is a huge victory for one who is suffering. Perhaps, like a siddhi, or power, she must see the result as a reason to redouble her efforts on the path.

Confidence and Caution

My teacher coaxes the most out of us. We are sluggish, angry, distracted… He demands we lift the thighs, tighten the knees, and stretch the side body. Each movement requires effort, and in his presence I work to go further. But in the midst of all this I catch sight of many of the other students in the room. Some are several decades older than myself. Some are working with various conditions. Yet we work in unison, taking the body towards neutral.

BKS Iyengar often tells his students they must walk the line between confidence and caution. Injury creates fear and anxiety. Yoga asks us to challenge our fear, but it also cultivates discriminative awareness. My teacher understands that injured person who comes to his room to study yoga does not want to wallow in pain. They want to feel something else.

In my own classes, I’m so inspired by those who work to regain mobility that may have been lost through injury or other circumstances. Very often these injuries create so much self-inquiry that they are, in a sense, gifts. They send us on this path that defies simple description.