After an inspiring day of private yoga and meditation sessions at the Shreyas Yoga Retreat in Bangalore, India, I was curious to learn more.

In the resort’s shop, I saw The Tree of Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar and thought it might help shed some light on the Indian approach to yoga. The subtitle of the book, “The Classic Guide to Integrating Yoga into Your Daily Life” really caught my attention.

Born in 1914 in what is now called Karnataka, India, Iyengar founded one of the most widely-practiced yoga approaches in the world, which is named for him: Iyengar Yoga.

In the book, he describes how Westerners (myself included) view yoga as more of a physical practice. However, Iyengar Yoga integrates the body, mind, and soul. His metaphor is that yoga is like a tree. One must begin with the trunk and build up to reach the fruits at the top of the tree.

In my private yoga session, my big A-ha moment came from the instructor, who observed that I was not breathing in sync with my yoga poses. I realized that yoga for me was just the physical action of stretching, versus being fully-integrated into to my being. I had become disconnected from my trunk, or foundation. Once I started inhaling and exhaling in line with my movements, yoga became a much more deeply-integrated experience. I felt more energized, taller, and calmer.

This book is a quick read that provided me with a greater understanding of yoga, and how it can help transform your entire life—in addition to simply stretching your muscles. Iyengar’s words started me on a path of wanting to understand the depth of yoga, towards reaching the flowers at the top of the tree. I now think about my own yoga practice as part of my greater quest to live a life that is more soulful: to slow down, to breathe deeply, to pause, and be more present in each moment.

As Iyengar says:

Yoga gives firmness of body, clarity of intelligence, cleanness of heart. That is peace, and by looking at that peace, others will learn. Cultivate that supreme strength of peace, joy and delight. Then others, seeing the joy in you, will say, ‘I want to enjoy too.’

 

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