If you've ever wondered what it's like to view life after decades of devoted yoga and meditation practice, the book, Light on Life, by BKS Iyengar will give you a glimpse from the proverbial mountain top. I have to admit that I'm on my third reading of this epic work and am just beginning to grasp his profound observances and counsel from a man gifted with discipline, knowledge, and, at least to some degree, enlightenment. During my first pass, I picked up the snippet about every pore having an "eye" and it transformed the way I approached asana. The second time I read it I realized that he wasn't meandering semantically from topic to topic but rather drew on metaphor and profound analogies and examples so frequently that it obscured the meaning for me because the insight of each sentence was so intensely profound that trying to understand it was like skipping a rock over the surface of a lake - I was missing the depth. What I mistook for topical and semantic wandering was actually quite structured and organized, but it is written with such a freedom and detachment that its ethereal nature can be obtuse for even the novitiate of 20 years that I am.
His writing is so emancipated, yet remains deeply rooted in a disciplined approach to every organizational structure of his topic. His metaphors, analogies, comparisons, explanations, prescriptions and directives are each so aptly and uniquely put that it can seem that he is at once floundering and bouncing around. However, it was on the third pass that I realized that each sentence was so artfully crafted and contained so much intense training, experiential knowledge and so many seeds of enlightenment that it took me my 20 years of yoga study, teacher training, and extensive reading background to begin to understand it on an essential level or on any level at all. That being said, I would recommend it to anyone from the beginner to experienced practitioner of yoga, as sometimes it is helpful to at once build background through introduction to a topic as though collecting shells on the beach. You never know what you might find among the sands of passing time.
Light on Life has a logical progression from what yoga is and is not, how it should be practiced, how asana should be approached, and gets into more esoteric subjects such as the koshas or sheaths of existence and the kleshas or afflictions, and much, much more. He has a firm grasp of the yoga sutras, yogic texts, yoga philosophy, and intimate knowledge of the culture of India. However, his approach is universal and generic in his approach. He firmly maintains that while yoga has ties to Hinduism, it can be practiced in addition to any religious system; in fact, yoga transcends religion to be a universal complement to any organized religion, confirming what is laid out in the sutras: "one truth, many paths".
Reading his work is like a gateway to cosmic consciousness itself as you make instant connections between your experiential yoga practice, your secular life as a human being, and your sacred life with your understanding of God as you know him to be through both your belief system and your personal experience of Him. His writing will evolve and inform your practice of yoga as you realize essential concepts such as a multidirectional pull (both vertical and horizontal) in every muscle, limb, fiber, in every asana; the idea that every human must struggle to make a life, run a household, and maintain the discipline (tapas) required to uphold such a material existence; and that God is really cosmic consciousness and exists beyond duality.
I am still just beginning to grasp this insanely perceptive text based on decades of experiential yoga practice. Yet, somehow he makes it accessible, and I like the challenge of trying to uncover the gem of what he is saying about yoga in my own personal practice and understanding of the basic elements of life, yoga, and God. In the meantime, I will continue to practice with every pore an "eye" and an expansive sense of possibility for the involution of my asana practice for my life to bring a freedom and presence of mind to every moment.
Namaste Yogis and Yoginis,