Tag Archive: iyengar yoga


In another posting, I mentioned a forthcoming series of classes this summer that will follow the 6:15 Wednesday night Turtle Haven class, from 8 to 9 pm. In his book Inner Yoga, Sri Anirvan a great yoga teacher of the last century, says “To create an atmosphere conducive to meditation, a few things are necessary. You must make your lifestyle simple and disciplined, so that there is no unneccessary cause for restlessness or dispersion of the mind. You must develop the habit of remaining satisfied with whatever comes to you, so that your mind remains filled with a radiant gladness. You must keep a watchful eye on what happens in your mind when it comes into contact with external objects, so that this awareness of objects may be transformed into an awareness of self. And always you must cultivate a continuous stream of meditativeness, so the mind never never forgets its chosen object of seeking. To these disciplines, one more may be added— control of speech…..

During these Wednesday night explorations of meditation, we will consider our own personal lives, and our alignment, as well as lack of that, in relation to Sri Anirvan’s ideas of what is necessary in “creating an atmosphere conducive to meditation.”  The subjects for each class will follow the theme presented in the passage above:

July 16: Simplifying Lifestyle and Discipline for Practice

July 23: Contentment with Whatever Comes: Acceptance

July 30: Relationship of External Objects/Perceptions with My Own Inner Self

August 6th: Remembering the the Chosen Object of Seeking: Spiritual Life Woven into Daily Life

August 13th: What is the Control of Speech? How Do I Practice?


In our time together, we will engage in some discussion, supportive of establishing a practice of meditation, as well as engage with breathing practices useful in bringing a deeper state of inwardness. And of course we will practice sitting meditation with various methods!

$45 for all five classes; otherwise, $12 per individual class

Note: Please inquire if your financial situation is such that a reduced tuition is needed; no one turned away for lack of funds!



Spring Quarter begins March 18 and runs through June 6th. For all details click on the above CORRECTED image for a CORRECTED pdf. You can also go to Elizabeth’s google calendar to see the CORRECT complete schedule.

The Usefulness of Contemplation


Thomas Merton on what may be the true usefulness of contemplative activities like yoga, the non-doing of Zen Buddhism or Christian monasticism.

“The monk is not defined by his task, his usefulness. In a certain sense he is supposed to be ‘useless’…He does not live in order to exercise a specific function: his business is life itself…The monk seeks to be free from what William Faulkner called ‘the same frantic steeplechase toward nothing’ which is the essence of ‘worldliness everywhere…Poverty and work are, it is true, essential to the monastic life: but so too is a certain authentic solitude and isolation from the world, a certain protest against the organized and dehumanizing routines of a worldly life built around gains for its own sake.”
from Contemplation in a World of Action

Greetings! Here is a quick reminder that I will teach a backbends for all levels class from 5:30-7:00, followed by an exchange on Yoga Sutra I-33, (Focus on compassion) and a pranayama and meditation circle on Monday evening, March 26th, this next week at 8 Petals Yoga; please let me know if you plan to come. YOU ARE WELCOME TO COME TO EITHER CLASS, OR BOTH. REMEMBER, THESE TWO CLASSES ARE FREE, or MAKE A DONATION, 100% of WHICH WILL BE GIVEN TO MERCYCORPS FOR THEIR GOOD WORK!
I am suggesting $10 to $15 per each of the two classes with proceeds in full to be donated to Mercycorps International.
Hoping this finds you well, Elizabeth

Practice With Zeal

Mostly when I have spoken in classes about the Yoga Sutras teachings on Tapas, or burning effort, I have talked about it as a practice applicable to wherever it is that we need more of SOMETHING; that could be savasana…or restoratives, and not necessarily anything difficult in an obvious sense of physical exertion. Having just finished a five day intensive workshop with John Schumacher here in Bellingham at Yoga Northwest, I am acutely aware of what it means to practice with zeal on a physical level, where I am at my “outer edge”, and am thus contemplating this particular expression of Tapas. I worked hard, and had moments of joy and moments of despair in this time of study, as is generally the case in these very focused and concentrated experiences of yoga for 5 plus hours per day, for days in a row! I have noticed over years of practice, that my sense is that I am continually learning deeper levels of capability to be present with challenge through this kind of work in yoga. I am quite certain this kind of potent work teaches me how to stay more present and steadier in times when I am needing “inner strength” in the everyday challenges of being human. There is also a gift of profound quiet that comes in the asanas that we can hold with ease and grace for longer periods of time—- there is a Tapas in holding dog pose or mountain pose for 5 minutes at a time, but an inner experience that can’t be achieved through doing a pose for shorter intervals.Unless we work with tapas, at least most of us would not be able to hold poses for long without strain and struggle. Tapas has a purifying aspect physically, mentally and emotionally; see for yourself, as you challenge yourself to work more deeply, in the physical challenges of your own practice, working with both self reflection and care, and of course discipline. There is a Tapas just in practicing with intensity with no teacher present, nor a class to help uphold you and carry you energetically— class and community serve us in this “upholding”, but ultimately we must also learn to discover the sources of internal energy that charge our individual selves and make intensive practice possible for the solitary practitioner.

Practicing Iyengar yoga offers us the creative and perhaps potentially daunting task of sorting through WHAT to practice when we practice on our own. The gift is in the possibility of finding a practice that suits our emotional state, physical condition, stage of life and so forth; in at least many other yoga traditions, there is much more set sequencing—this leaves less room for tailoring practice to particular needs of the moment. Having a few basic guidelines for “the natural order” of poses in the Iyengar system will help you find your way, as will relying initially on books, class remembrances and recorded sequences, prior to you being motivated to consider truly formulating your own sequences. As one astute student points out, the teacher is actually teaching students to BE their own teachers! So, if you plan on formulating your sequences, consider your emotional and physical state of the moment, any ongoing chronic conditions you would like to be focussing on regularly, and then also know that if you plan on inversions and will practice classical sirsasana (headstand) you then will also need to practice shoulderstand (sarvangasana), though you could practice the latter singularly. Also, if you practice backbends or forward bends, it is important if not essential to practice the appropriate preparatory poses for the body to yield to the more demanding spinal tasks of these categories of asanas. And then, a bit of counter pose is important as well; so if you have a backbend practice, some neutral spine and forward bending is important when you have finished the backbending, for example. There is also the consideration here that if you are practicing even standing poses, that if you have tight hamstrings, calves or hips you as an individual, may be optimizing your practice with asanas to prepare for the standing poses, though there is no guideline in general suggesting this approach. If you have been in classes over the years, you may likely have an “imprint” that is influencing your sense of the “natural order” of asanas; being awake and aware to the order in class will help you develop a more natural sense of the orders of asanas that will serve you in home practice. So as usual, paying attention, being awake is an important and central element of practice! Ruturning to the simple approach, most important is beginning to practice, and so there is always the handy formula, passed along to me by Felicity Green, of choosing an asana from class that was challenging, and one that was agreeable, and focussing on those for a satisying “seed” of a hopefully expanding garden of possibility.

Make An Offering of Your Practice

There is a practice in yoga of “making an offering”, meaning that instead of simply applying ourselves, and gaining the fruits of our labor for ourselves, we imagine the efforts as a kind of gift or prayer dedicated to something besides ourselves. This might mean that as we begin our practice, and perhaps light a candle, we hold in our hearts and minds a situation or a being where there is suffering, and see our energy and efforts dedicated towards healing in relation to the distress. We can be metaphysical or not in relation to this idea. Perhaps our dedication, and the energy of our intention DOES truly and actually cause some change and bring relief. If we think not, is there still some good that comes from our compassionate thoughts and loving hearts? We might even just practice physically and dedicate our efforts to our own bodies that serve us so many times all day long, performing unsung miracles of beating hearts, breathing, thinking, and intricate physical exertion! If we lift our efforts of practice into the realm of seeing them as an “offering” perhaps we could feel inspired to practice with a different zeal and inner sense of purpose. Try working in this way in your practice, and witness the effects.

Intention in Practice

In considering how to help students practice at home, a strong challenge for many, I will be offering suggestions and support through the summer session; if one establishes a practice, however modest when it is warmer and lighter, it is easier to continue practicing when the season may take us towards less natural inclination to move our bodies! The first step in establishing a home practice, is in clarifying your own intention in practicing; ask yourself why you would like a practice– is it for flexibility? strength? general physical well-being? self-inquiry? deeper relaxation? As you narrow the intention to specifics within that arena of practice, it will become clearer how and what to practice. If you are focussed and INTENTIONAL in your practice, you will have the most obvious and satisfying results.  If you have a sense of clarity of purpose in the foreground, when the inevitable resistance to a specific moment of practice arises, you will be buoyed by your intention. Take a few moments to write your intentions in practicing yoga on a card or piece of paper, and leave it near where you keep props for practice, or someplace where you will remind yourself of your intention.

Summer Session Schedule!

SUMMER YOGA! June 13- Sept 1


Deming    call or email for directions

Tues. 9:45 am    mixed levels

Wed. 5:15  pm     beginning

Wed. 7:00 pm     intermediate

8 Petals Yoga

1317 commercial #203 bellingham

Mon.    5:15 pm   beginning

Mon.    7:00pm   intermediate

Thurs. 12:00pm mixed levels

The summer series is a 10 class session.

Please note: NO CLASSES JULY 4, AUG. 2-4, AND THE WEEK OF AUG. 22nd.

Also note the schedule change for evening Turtle Haven classes.



Ten class session: $130

For 9 classes:$125, for 8:$110, 7:$98, 6:$87, 5:$73

Single drop in fee: $15

Summer pass, come as often as you wish; $195

For a pdf of the summer session flyer go here.

The schedule is also up on Elizabeth’s Google calendar at her website here.

Questions? Email Elizabeth at elizabethkerwinyoga@gmail.com

or call her at 360.303.3892


2-46  Sthira Sukkam Asanam

These Sanskrit words come from the Practice Book (Sadhana Pada) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and remind us to be steady and firm, and nonetheless relaxed as we practice the asanas, or “postures” of yoga; our teacher BKS Iyengar has made many brilliant recommendations about utilizing props, as well as our keen attention, to move towards this challenging practice of making “effortless effort,” and also achieving proper alignment in our asanas and in our bodies.  When we turn to the Sutras that follow 2-46, we seem to enter the deeper  territory of this “alignment”,  and effort with simultaneous relaxation, that has more to do with our inner experience, and the quest intrinsic in yoga of peeling away the surface layers, to find the more revelatory answers to fundamental questions of who we are, in our most essential selves. Take a few moments in your week to either look online (or download a pdf of the sutras here or here) or in a Sutra book you own, to read Sutras 2-47 and 2-48, and the direction they suggest.

Ravi Ravindra’s Sutra book aptly speaks of the French word for posture as “attitude”, which clearly points to the idea of an inner experience relating to our body’s “posture.” Guruji (the affectionate and reverent name for BKS Iyengar to his students) has repeatedly claimed that alignment and enlightenment are one. So the practice of relaxing and finding steadiness in the body, along with alignment, while it may seem like physical instruction, reaches into the emotional and psychological realm of freeing our bodies to free ourselves. This close attention to how we do each asana lifts the practice out of it being simply physical, into the realm of an embodied awareness practice.

Each time I practice with this awareness, I make myself available to a deeper connection with the Infinite (Ravi Ravindra uses this term frequnetly in his spiritual writings) as it lives inside me, though I may name that as Buddha consciousness or Christ consciousness if I have a more specific naming of that which lives beyond or within the personality self. Bringing the whole subject back to my earthly self, in my body, I know that how I carry myself in the asanas and beyond creates an inner effect that I know as my mental and emotional attitude, how I am FEELING, and what sorts of thoughts are arising. We can each explore through our practice and our daily lives what we observe about how we are carrying ourselves physically and what impact we notice internally in relation to what we are noticing. We can also notice an inner experience and see if working with alignment, effort and relaxation in our practice can shift an undesirable state.

(photo credit: fitnessnyc.wordpress.com)