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Do i have to practice at home?

Tapas (zealous effort) and Svadhyaya (self study) are two basic tenets of yoga.  To experience real progress on the path of yoga, pretty soon after starting classes, you should start self practice.  As a beginner, practice only what has been taught and demonstrated in class.

Do i have to practice everyday?  When i practice, should it be for a certain minimum time?

Do not set ambitious goals that you cannot keep to.  But do try to set aside a definite time of the day and a place in your home for the practice.  Even if you are not practicing everyday, and even if your practice sessions are not long, being regular is important.

What should i practice at home?  What sequence should i follow?

Beginners should only practice what has been taught in class.  Unlike many other traditions, the sequence of the asanas in the class will differ from class to class depending on the objective the teacher has set for the class.  Writing down the sequence after a class and practicing it by oneself to reinforces the learnings.  Geetaji’s book ‘Asanas in Action – Preliminary Course’ has indicative asana sequences from the 1st week all the way upto sixth month .  So does Light on Yoga – but these might be too difficult for beginners to follow.  In general, start with standing poses, followed by backbends, twists, forward bends.  End with inversions or other supine positions followed by savasana.  If you dealing with any special conditions, self-practice is the time to really adapt your practice to your specific needs.

What props should i have at home?

“My body is my first prop” 

- B.K.S. Iyengar

To begin with, all you need is the will to practice.  If the floor is slippery, get a sticky mat.  If you need support, make use of what you have at home – walls, ledges, corners, bedsheets. Subsequently, some basic props like yoga bricks and belts can be incorporated into your practice.

Do i have to read/ memorise anything? 

Yoga, as taught by B.K.S. Iyengar, is primarily an experiential practice.  But books can be a great source of inspiration and help in directing one’s thoughts towards the depths of the subject.

To begin with, the invocation to sage Patanjali should be memorized.  You can download it here

As a beginner, what books should i read? What movies/ features should i watch?

Movies/ Documentaries:

Leap of Faith, released on Mr. Iyengar's 90th birthday – A feature length film on the life of B.K.S. Iyengar, depicted his heroic struggle from poverty and failure to prosperity and success.

For some more videos available in the public domain, look here

Books/ text:

Mr. Iyengar was a prolific writer.  Without the privilege of a formal education, he worked very hard at communicating his experiential knowledge into words. In his own words, sometimes it took him years to find the right words.  His books are a perfect accompaniment to the practice of yoga, unfolding secrets magically as the reader's own practice unfolds.  Some books for a largely personal account are:

Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar, 1956

Often called the Bible of yoga, this richly photographed book also has an extensive index of practice sequences and sequences for the treatment of almost all physical ailments at the end of the book.  The first chapter can be read and re-read many times for a concise account of the most important concepts of yoga..  A must-have, all-purpose reference source for all practitioners. 

Light on Life, B.K.S. Iyengar, 2006

Written when he was in his 80's, this book is the compilation of a lifetime of wisdom.  it is experiential knowledge extrapolated to the highest philosophy. The structure of the book follows the different aspects of that path (from Freedom Awaits, through The Physical Body, The Energy Body, The Mental Body, The Intellectual Body, The Divine Body to Living in Freedom) and provides a learning framework for yoga as well as an invaluable discourse on life.  One of his most beautifully worded books, Light on Life also has autobiographical glimpses of Mr. Iyengar's life.

Tree of Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar, 2005

This is a book accessible to all. A compilation of lectures given by Mr. Iyengar, the book relates  philosophical concepts directly and specifically to the practice of yoga.  Like the Tree our lives are made up from many elements – all of which need our care. The book is broken into chapters that  cover our responsibilities to ourselves and to the other people in our lives over the years as we mature from youth to old age.

We love this book so much, we wrote a blog about it here

(partly excerpted from amazon.in)

Sparks of Divinity, The Teachings of B. K. S. Iyengar from 1959 to 1975, Noelle Perez-Christiaens, 1976

First published in a French-English bilingual edition in 1976, the material for this book was gathered and compiled by Noelle Perez-Christiaens from class notes and correspondence during the formative years of Iyengar's international career. The entries cover the period from the late 1950s, when Iyengar was invited by Yehudi Menuhin to teach in Gstaad, Switzerland, to the year following the death of Mr. Iyengar's wife and the opening of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India.

(excerpted from amazon.in)

Asanas in in Action – A Preliminary Course,  Dr. Geeta Iyengar

This is a useful aid for beginners. All asanas taught in the beginners classes are covered with clear and detailed instructions and illustrations.  Also contains an index of practice sequences at the end of the book from week 1 to week 28. 

Yoga a Gem for Women, Dr. Geeta Iyengar

Essential resource for women.  

Yoga Rahasya is a quarterly publication by the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute.  It is a great source for keeping in touch with the latest developments (yes, the practice is still evolving), and also for perspectives from students.

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