Hartranft, Iyengar, Discipline & Freedom

Cody just reminded me of the Chip Hartranft version of the Yoga Sutras, which is available for free online.

The causes of suffering are not seeing things as they are, the sense of “I,” attachment, aversion, and clinging to life.


In the meantime, last night I picked up Light on Life to re-read. I always like something inspirational around the new year. It’s a little tradition. Worthwhile, too, since the first reading was fast — I was so delighted with the book that I just kept gulping it down in huge chunks.

What most people want is the same. Most people simply want physical and mental health, understanding and wisdom, and peace and freedom. Often our means of pursuing these basic human needs come apart at the seams, as we are pulled by the different and often competing demands of human life. Yoga, as it was understood by its sages, is designed to satisy all these human needs in a comprehensive, seamless whole. Its goal is nothing less than to attain the integrity of oneness — oneness with ourselves and as a consequence oneness with all that lies beyond ourselves. We become the harmonious microcosm in the universal macrocosm. Oneness, what I often call integration, is the foundation for wholeness, inner peace, and ultimate freedom.

Oooh, ultimate freedom. Made me think of one of my favorite yoga titles: Yoga: Discipline of Freedom. It’s another translation of the sutras, and a good one. But I have always been most attracted to its title.

I love thinking about the idea of freedom as a discipline, and thinking about discipline as a kind of freedom. Certainly I recognize that the zen “just do it” attitude is a kind of freedom in discipline. If you don’t spend your energy debating about whether to do the dishes, and just do the dishes, there is a delicious freedom. And yes, it is often read as a discipline. Kind of like when people say, “You practice every day?! You are SO disciplined!” Yeah, it looks like discipline from the outside, but from the inside, it is a secret doorway to freedom.

The only way to muck it up is to clutter the scene with likes and dislikes.

To a yogi, freedom imples not being battered by the dualities of life, its ups and downs, its pleasures and its suffering. It implies equanimity and ultimately that there is an inner serene core of one’s being that is never out of touch with the unchanging, eternal infinite.


Nice practice this morning. I dragged my mat as far away from the heavily curtained windows as possible, because damn, it is COLD outside. Turned on the heater and blocked in some of the heat with the shoji screen.

Afterwards, 10 minutes lying over the edge of the bed to further stretch what I will be calling, from here on out, the serrati. There is a world of discovery to be done in the front body — my backbends are sketchy, I think, in large part because I think of strength as coming from my back and legs. Now I have to discover the strength (and flexibility) in ribs and sternum, serrati and intercostals. A new wilderness.


5 Responses

  1. If I recall correctly, that wonderful book by the OTHER guruji, whom I also adore, qualifies for your official “PRICK” designation (which I also adore!) He looks so sweet and happy in that picture, but rules are rules….:)

  2. Yes, it’s true. The book cover meets the criteria. While I can easily scrawl “Prick” on Wilber in Sharpie, I can’t quite bring myself to do it with Iyengar.

    Perhaps not needing to kill Buddha is appropriate in this case…

  3. But wasn’t Iyengar himself the Cop’s original inspiration?

    Though looking at Yoga Mala, I see…

  4. I liked that book a lot!

    Tagged you with a “bloggin’ blessing,” BTW!

  5. Apologies for a comment completely out of context. This is a late but hopefully helpful hint for Urdhva Dhanurasana (16 December) since I’ve only just caught up on reading your earlier posts:
    Play with pressing your elbows straighter, eventually trying to straighten the arms fully – this will stretch open the front of your shoulders a lot more, then try pressing into your feet and gradually straightening your legs as much as possible while keeping the hips points lifted. These actions will help stretch the deep internal muscles of the front body that restrict the full expression of the pose.
    Blessings for the new year….

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