After five years, I can still easily remember the beginning of my yoga journey.Â I didn’t know anything about the discipline itself, but my girlfriend had just started practising some hatha yoga. She was getting more and more involved so I knew she wanted to have a book, a reference that could help her with her home practice. It is important to mention that she didn’t Â know what Iyengar yoga was at the time, and she had never heard about Mr Iyengar.
Despite this, one day we were looking for a yoga text in a bookstore in the centre of Rome, Italy (that’s where we both come from) and she picked up a book full of pictures and detailed instructions: “I really like this one, and the man in the pictures is inspiring…”
So I bought her the book for Christmas, not even imagining that I had in my hands the most important yoga text of the last century, with its simple yet captivating title ‘Light on Yoga’.
It was only two years after, when we moved to Sydney, that she found out that the man in those pictures was well known and a few studios around were teaching his style. She was looking for a school near our house in Chippendale and, someone could say by coincidence (but I like to think it was destiny), she found the one where we are still attending today and with the teacher we are still working with. There were no references to Iyengar in the name of the school, and that is the reason why she was so surprised when she walked in and she saw those beautiful pictures hanging on the walls, representing the same man and some of the same poses from her book. That was the beginning of our yoga journey.
She insisted so much that after a couple of months I had to experience yoga myself, and from that first class that I still remember I was hooked. That was three years ago now, and I was twenty-four at the time. I have to say that I’ve always practised some kind of sports, being more inclined towards martial arts like judo, and hard kickboxing workouts later on, so my idea of health, well-being and self knowledge was always related to the intensity of the training, the sweat, and pushing my own limits. These are concepts that nowadays I can find and apply in my own yoga practice, just in a totally different way.
I was astonished when I started to find out how many different types of energies we have in our own bodies, having always been aware only of the physical one. But this discipline, this practice of yoga which demanded such a great effort but at the same time gave so much back, was opening a new world to me. My body slowly started to change, and my perceptions along with it. While on the one hand I was experiencing how the inner layers of my muscles were getting stronger and more elastic (the opposite of what my previous types of training were giving me, a strong outer layer but no inner strength), on the other I started to realise how much awareness of my whole body I was able to perceive, of its limits and possibilities.
Little by little it was clear to me that many things were constantly going on inside my body, on different levels, things that I was totally unaware of, and yet they influenced my way of being in the world.
That was my first personal step towards the understanding of yoga: that in the first place, I needed to be aware, aware of everything that was part of me. And, like many others may have experienced, that awareness of myself began with realising the stiffness in my own body and in my own mind.
‘In yoga, the weakest point is the source of action’: This is a quote of Mr Iyengar which has kept me (and still keeps me) holding on during hard times. Eventually I started to develop a home practice and to follow it daily: sometimes something good came out, other times I just felt frustrated. Due to the inspiration I received from my teacher, I always kept going, steadily practising every day. It was also looking and listening carefully to my teacher,Â and reading Mr Iyengar’s books, that I started to experience a feeling of total trust in what I was doing, a faith that I never had before, something so strong that eventually led me to change my habits without great efforts but rather spontaneously. I went vegetarian first (and vegan later on), I stopped drinking, eating at night, and most important of all, I was able to stop smoking marijuana, which for me was always a hard thing to do. All this was possible because I switched from egocentric and irresponsible conduct to an attitude of caring more about my own body and self, other people as well as animals and the planet.
The world of martial arts was my discipline when I was younger, and in many ways it was similar to yoga: it required great effort, constant dailyÂ practice and it changed my ways of perceiving the world.Â However always being in a situation in which I had to face someone else, I didn’t have the space and the opportunity to go deep within myself, like I have in my yoga practice.
Then, after the initial period of self confidence due to the results I was observing, I came to realise how much fear I had to go further, towards uncomfortable zones, and fear to embark on something which is endless in its nature, a process that is life long. Eventually, with humbleness, I started to understand how the yoga practice is not about a constant process of improvement, but rather a precious tool that we have to discover the nature of ourselves and the universe, and I am still in the process of understanding this.
What is most important is that the practice of yoga gives me the courage and the joy to accept the fact that life is constantly changing, and as we go along in the current of change, yet there is a part of us that we can choose to use to follow the right path in every moment. Yoga made me understand that it is possible to be focused and let go within every situation, and that very oftenÂ life is a balance between these two aspects.
I consider myself very lucky to live in a time and context where yoga is accessible for everyone, almost everywhere, and I am aware that this is possible largely because of the work that Mr Iyengar did during his life, and also because of all the dedicated teachers who continue to spread his knowledge over the world, making remarkableÂ changes in people’s lives. To all those people, I say thank you for making it possible.
Lorenzo SacchiniÂ is a teacher at Central Yoga School