Iyengar, Beethoven, and Davies Symphony Hall

An Evolving Poly- Eco- Yoga Humanifesto, from Pegasus at the Balance

Twelfth Deep Breath

Yogis of the world unite and take your yoga off the mat and into the wider world!!

First, take that deep breath, and realize that we’ve been through this Humanifesto eleven times. So why not take 11 more? The inspiration for that theme of 20 deep breaths a day to change the world comes from one of many disgraced yoga masters, Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Since his name comes up first, I’d like to delay one more day a discussion of Geeta, Prashant (and Sunita) and do some reminiscing. Also, I’d like to report on a peak experience I had the other night.

I was at home unpacking from the San Diego convention when I noticed that the San Francisco Symphony was about to play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Yes, the one that contains the chorus singing “Ode to Joy.” Here are the first words to the chorus in the fourth movement:
O friends, not these tones!
But let’s strike up more agreeable ones,
And more joyful.
Joy, beautiful spark of Divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Heavenly one, thy sanctuary!
Thy magic binds again
What custom strictly divided;
All people become brothers,
Where thy gentle wing abides.
The anthem has become the anthem of the European Union. Leonard Bernstein conducted the NY philharmonic playing this 9th symphony when the Berlin wall fell and replaced the word “freude/joy” with “freiheit/freedom”.

The joy of the convention was still with me, body, mind and soul, so I could not help moving to the music of each movement. It occurred to me that two senior teachers had made harmonizing recommendations: One, that ecstasy has always been a path to the divine (as well as discipline), and two, that dance and movement once a week is a fine way to practice yoga as an alternative to “conducted/scripted” practice.

As I danced to that sublime music, (the kettledrums and woodwinds as well as the chorus were particularly inspiring), I remembered what had taken me on this long journey through yoga—finding “Light on Yoga” in l968, finding the Carruthers in Vancouver in the 70’s, meeting George Purvis in Dallas in the 80’s, attending the first International Convention in San Francisco (spearheaded by Manouso Manos) in. 1984, and every convention since (as well as some in Mexico). The l984 convention concluded with a stellar yoga demonstration by B.K..S. Iyengar in Davies Symphony hall—the very hall where the San Francisco Symphony was now playing the Beethoven I was listening to! Another full circle was clear as I realized that it was in San Diego that Ramanand Patel had had the quickness to find a hat and pass it around the audience as the proposal to form a national Iyengar association was enthusiastically approved and funded. Patricia Walden called my name to help the initial board with its first governing documents. I danced that long, varied journey that luckily included visits to the Iyengar Institute in Pune, starting Austin Iyengar Yoga in Texas, and teaching in many places beyond Texas. Ecstasy is actually a mild word for what I was feeling after gathering for the first time in four years with the Iyengar Yoga tribe.

Yes, we have had our rough patches, yes, we will still have rough patches, and yes, we can improve. Yet we have this priceless gift and tool in yoga that will reliably take us forward. I am grateful.

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