I am into champagne

Let’s (not) talk about tax.

Let’s talk about yoga stuff.

As part of her assessment for yoga teacher training your correspondent has had to read B K S Iyengar’s Light on Life and write 500 words on something that ‘spoke to me’. As 500 words is blog length and we have now all handed in our essays I thought I’d post it as a bit of ‘light’ relief after all the tax stuff. 

Think of it – dear readers – as the blog equivalent of alternate nostril breathing which is supposed to balance out the hemispheres of your brain. Although that exercise after a couple of rounds doesn’t so much balance out your left brained correspondent as make her want to run screaming from the room.  So like all yoga; work with your comfort levels and rest or stop when you need to. Listen to your body.

But first a bit of background. Yoga is not actually what non-yogis think it is. Non-yogis think of it in terms of contortionist poses – that they are like far too stiff or inflexible to do. And this isn’t helped by the whole instayogi thing. Beautiful fit young people doing postures average people can’t do on beaches or tropical islands that average people can’t afford to go to. 

There are 8 limbs of yoga: the postures or asanas are but one of them. And that not to under rate them. As an ex runner I would say: come for the flexibility; stay for the brain calming and inner peace.

I had hoped to work in the ideas of Marianne Elliott social activist and yoga teacher. In particular her framework for progressive social change which I have paraphrased (and adjusted slightly) as involving:

  • The official rules laws and structures we live by;
  • How we treat each other; and 
  • How we treat ourselves.

And it is in the latter that yoga is referenced. But the essay I have to write is very short and I didn’t start soon enough to do a decent job with both Marianne’s and Iyengar’s ideas. For people who are interested in this combination I would suggest reading direct from Marianne’s work and skipping the rest of this post.

And yes this will be the last non-tax post for a while. Yes it is a tax blog and I will return to tax stuff in a couple of weeks after my teacher training is over.


“We have been asked to read Iyengar’s Light on Life and write about what spoke to us. It is fair to say that yoga has changed my life. But not in a way that is particularly obvious from the outside.

My family has REALLY BAD GENES meaning living as long as I would like may not be possible. So I have organised my life to ‘do something different’ when I turned 50. That ‘something different’ broadly is working for progressive social change.

So this was in my head reading Light of Life. To be fair while I struggled with the book; there were a few things that really did resonate with me:

Role of asana

Iyengar says that asana is the physical process that relaxes the mind which in turn allows pranayama – breathing – to unlock the prana – energy – blockages in the body. Which in turn calms and focuses the mind.(Page 14)

This is absolutely my experience. In the time leading up to my fiftieth birthday I had many competing ideas and emotions. Normally would rush to decisions that may or may not be the right ones for me and those around me. 

Now it was my physical yoga practice that I kept coming back to. It might have sorted out my posture but more importantly it kept my mind clear and proceeding with calmness and focus.

I am a little nervous though of his concept of right pain as a tool for growth (page 49). As what I had thought to be ‘right pain’ in chaturanga has lead to a shoulder I am still trying to fix a year later.

Asteya and Aparigahaha

Non-stealing and non-covetousness like non-violence ahimsa, are tenets that are blindingly obvious ones for any philosophy. Iyengar, however, takes them further than I have seen before.

Non-stealing includes not taking more than you need. When combined with non-covetousness this means that taking more than you need could mean deprivation for others. And to Iyengar wealth being tied up in a few hands is also theft or covetousness.

To be faithful to these yamas wealth – as energy – must circulate otherwise ‘it will stagnate and poison us’. ‘Energy needs to flow or its source withers.’ (Page 245) This particularly resonated with me given according to Oxfam 8 men have as much wealth as half the world

What I am increasingly seeing in New Zealand – through our out-of-whack property market – is wealth being captured through those that own property from those that don’t.  And so by capturing all the wealth we are poisoning our children’s potential to live the lives we have lead.

But here’s the thing. Those who have the most won’t let that happen to their children. So opportunity and material comfort will only be available to the children of families that already have it. The exact social ill that families such as mine were escaping 100 years ago by coming to New Zealand.

So although Iyengar’s primary message was of one of inner freedom – embedded in that was the other eternal truth – that the personal is political.”


3 responses

  1. A frightening legacy.


  2. Peter Frawley

    As you’d expect I’m not into the cross-legged stuff, but I did appreciate your penultimate para at least! Cheers


  3. Paul Jamieson

    “The exact social ill that families such as mine were escaping 100 years ago by coming to New Zealand.”

    Nice, I like this statement.


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