Archive for August, 2014

In honor of B.K.S. Iyengar–Yoga photos from 1976

August 26, 2014
Updated 2 seconds ago · Taken at Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI)

Obituary B.K.S. Iyengar, December 14, 1918–August 19, 20141451438_557937824334001_1218713336513292048_n

10606042_557938071000643_8301832556128267614_nFrancinaThese photographs were given to me by a friend, Francis McCann, who came to Ojai many years ago to attend the annual talks by the renowned philosopher and spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti was also one of Iyengar’s early students. Shortly after my friend passed away, I received a message saying that she wanted me to have these photographs.

10639684_557938164333967_9205590222223664134_nFrancina2Photo4Over the years I’ve discovered many interesting connections between Iyengar, Krishnamurti, and Ojai, where I’ve lived since 1957. Vanda Scaravelli’s daughter attended Happy Valley School, the Ojai 994476_10152707603254703_3010795279446099754_n327587_10150522163364703_1781816245_oschool that Krishnamurti founded with Aldous Huxley and others. The Krishnamurti Talks were held in the Oak Grove adjacent to the school. Many of Iyengar’s early students–Ramanand Patel, Larry Hattlet, and others–attended the K Talks in Ojai, and they would sometimes spontaneously come to my Ojai Yoga Center and teach my classes. (Hundreds of people sat on the ground during these outdoor K talks, and I could 10620594_557938251000625_4796661570750476985_noften guess who the yoga teachers were by how straight they sat!)

I have an original edition of Light on Yoga, signed by B.K.S. Iyengar in Gstaad, Switzerland, dated “20 August 1966,” that I “borrowed” while attending the Krishnamurti Talks in Saanen, Switzerland in the summer of 1968. Iyengar was teaching in Saanen and Gstaad during the month-long series of Krishnamurti talks, attended by more than a thousand people from all over the world.

10626598_10152707616174703_4103257516029297398_n(1)During that summer in Saanen, I heard Iyengar’s students talking about yoga, but I was a 19-year-old single mom with a nursing baby, and going to yoga classes was out of my reach. I studied the photographs in the back of that stolen copy of Light on Yoga for many years. Only later did it dawn on me that I, too, was destined to become a yoga teacher . . .

Photo7RIMYI (Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute), Pune, 10308717_10152708917004703_4409452416345866967_nIndiaPhoto1

Several of my  teachers at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco are in this photograph, including Judith Hanson Lasater, Melinda Perlee, and Toni Montez.

Several of my teachers at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco are in this photograph, including Judith Hanson Lasater, Melinda Perlee, and Toni Montez.


Savasana–the Death Pose

August 20, 2014

August 8, 2014

If someone asked me about the defining moment of my training to be a yoga teacher, I would probably say it was those moments spent observing people during the dying process—both at home and in various end-of-life care settings.

So far this morning, my yoga practice has mainly been to lie still in Savasana, the Corpse Pose. “Shava” or “Sava” means corpse. In the book Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language, author Swami Sivananda Radha cut to the chase and called Savasana the death pose. She said that, if we don’t want to be a living corpse, then the purpose of life has to be established: “If you want to be an active participant in your life and not a parasite, then the dynamic interdependence between life and death has to be recognized, and the two have to meet in directed and concentrated interaction.”


I don’t usually do Savasana first thing in the morning, but I woke up feeling tired and out of sorts. My usual quick cure for feeling overwhelmed is to hang upside down in my wall ropes, lie back over my extra-high backbender, or relax on a bolster in the Goddess Pose (Supported Bound Angle Pose). Or take a walk with my dogs. Or go back to bed! But this morning the peace and quiet of Savasana called me. I did just enough Downward Facing Dog Pose, gentle twists, and leg stretches to get the kinks out of my body so that I could lie still without fidgeting.

In Savasana, the body lies perfectly aligned on the floor, face-up and completely relaxed. The mind is alert and aware, observing the river of the breath and consciously feeling the bones—the skeletal frame of the body—lying heavy on the floor and the muscles letting go. The eyes are closed, sinking in their sockets; the gaze is inward; the tongue and jaw are loose; the arms rest at the sides of the body, palms up; the extended legs lie slightly apart. The body remains as motionless as a corpse.

Savasana gives us the experience of symbolic death—death to everything we identify with—and allows us to satisfy, while still alive, the deep need to be reborn fresh and new.

In the deeper levels of Savasana, we feel the body as a shell—the temple of the spirit, or whatever words resonate to that effect—as we experience the pleasant feeling of letting go. As the mind follows the peaceful flow of the breath, its usual busy activity slowly subsides. The senses gradually withdraw and become still. Our earthly concerns are, at least for the moment, put to rest.

As B.K.S. Iyengar states, “The best sign of a good Savasana is a feeling of deep peace and pure bliss. Savasana is a watchful surrendering of the ego. Forgetting oneself, one discovers oneself.”

To this I humbly add: Another sign of a good Savasana is that one feels one’s sense of humor returning.

And that is why I practiced Savasana so early this morning. 8170003

* * *
A note about the photo:
A bolster or folded cotton blanket under the legs, a ten-pound sandbag (or other weight) across the pelvis, and an eye pillow to quiet the movement of the eyes help the body to relax.

Photo Credit: Ruth Miller

This photo is from my book, Yoga and the Wisdom of Menopause. The model is my longtime student, Catherine Meek.
— in Ojai, CA

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