Yoga has a way of leading us to a place where we can more clearly hear the question: “Who are you?”
Each pose peels away another layer of ourselves and moves us closer to the answer.
Earlier this week, as I practiced on my mat, I wasn’t even aware that I needed to ask this question, and yet my poses led me to this unexpected place.
And it was in this place that I felt the presence of another person nearby.
There was no one else in the room with me, yet I could hear a voice.
It was the voice of a teacher, but it wasn’t a teacher who I’d ever studied with in class.
The voice contained the strong accent of a foreigner. It sounded like someone from far-away who spoke with a slightly nasal intonation, much the way that I’ve heard people from India speak.
I strained to listen to this voice. It was a patient, compassionate, learned voice, and it had the timbre and tone of a man’s voice.
Not a young man’s voice but the voice of an elderly gentleman.
Although I’d never met this person before, I felt as if I had known him for years.
I couldn’t see him as I went through my poses, but I could sense him beside my mat.
It felt like he was watching me as I practiced. I didn’t feel any judgment or criticism. It felt like he was simply watching, curious, absorbing each pose as if it was the fruit of his labor.
As each of my poses unfolded, taking me deeper into the dance that is yoga, I felt this man’s non-judgmental nature as a gift that he was giving to me.
“Just be who you are,” I heard him say. “Dedicate yourself to your practice. Keep learning.”
His words felt like a warm embrace that created a place where I could let down my guard and simply be myself.
As I finished my practice, I sat on my mat cross-legged, my hands pressed together in front of my heart, and opened my eyes.
That’s when I saw him, an elderly man who looked much the way I imagined Mr. Iyengar might have looked if I had traveled to India while he was still alive to study with him.
This man was the man who had sat beside me, watching my practice, waiting patiently for my next move.
He had studied my poses with a curiosity and attention that I’d never felt before. It seemed as if he was even curious about my next breath.
I closed my eyes and listened closely to my in-breath and my out-breath.
And then I heard this man–perhaps it was the spirit of Mr. Iyengar, who knows?– speak again, his voice so soft that I had to strain to hear him.
Just be who you are.
His words floated in the air between us.
They were like the caress of the wind.
Practice Journal: In what way have the teachings of Mr. Iyengar influenced your practice and your life? And in what way can you show your gratitude for his teachings? Write: 10 min