Sweeney Yogini – Regarding Content and Value – A Tribute to BKS Iyengar

Hi All!  Just writing a quick blog entry this morning.  A couple interesting things happened yesterday.  First, someone told me that they don’t read blogs.  I just wanted to let you all know that, in this blog, I will focus on yoga and it will add value to you.  This blog may be mine but it is about you, my clients, as much as it is about me – if not more.

In today’s entry I plan to talk about Mr. B. K. S. Iyengar.  That’s the second interesting thing that happened to me yesterday – I got out Light on Yoga and started to reread it and was reminded of a story I enjoy telling from time to time.   The book’s author, Mr. Iyengar, is possibly our greatest living guru in yoga. My yoga teacher friends say that most people haven’t heard of him.  That should change, because he is an amazing man.  His story is not just about healing from serious health problems using yoga but also about bringing yoga to “family men” – regular people who have families.  His life’s work was not just his amazing gift for teaching but his success in taking yoga from something that only monks do and transforming it into a world wide phenomenon that nearly every small child in America has heard of.  That’s an unbelievable achievement for one lifetime.

All I can say is, “WOW!” Guruji (Mr. Iyengar) is really showing what seniors are capable of if they exercise every day for their entire lives.

He was born in 1918 in India during the worldwide flu pandemic of that time.  He was sickly because of this.  He struggled with malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and malnutrition.  They did not think he would live long.  His father died when he was 9 years old. It must have been quite a difficult childhood.  At age 15 he went to live with a well known yogi (his brother-in-law) Mr. Krishnamacharya.  The practice of asana (yoga poses) steadily healed Mr. Iyengar until he regained his health.  Now he is a stunningly active age 93 – turning 94 December 14th.  WOW! And YES he still does yoga every single day and spends at least 30 minutes a day upside down.

Yoga tones not just your skeletal muscles but your organs. When I was younger I didn’t believe this.  I believed that my organs were somehow separate and independent from my control – completely hidden from me, deep within, almost magical in their workings.  Magical and chemical.  I never thought of them as bags of muscle, never thought of the mechanical aspects of my organs, never considered that they could be worked out, massaged, or healed by things I did with my body from the outside.  And yet they are bags of muscle and, just like you can wash out a pot, your organs can be cleaned by squeezing and by flipping them upside down.   And it makes sense. Many organs are like sponges, squeezing them re-nourishes their oxygen supply by bringing in a rush of fresh blood.  Many organs are highly elastic, the lungs spring to mind, deep breathing exercises the lungs, expanding them, clearing them of toxins and growing more tissue to increase their efficiency in bringing oxygen to your entire body.  These mechanical bags of muscle do have complex chemical processes and those too are impacted by circulation which in turn is effected by body position and posture as well as activity level.  Smooth muscle (of organs) may be different than skeletal muscle, not consciously controlled, but because organs function mechanically we can really do a LOT to improve our organ health from the outside in.

We do this pose in Therapeutic Yoga (with Seniors) nearly every week. We do use an adjustable support under the sacrum to make it gentler.


So, next time I flip you upside down and make you hang out there for 5 minutes; just when you are tempted to ask, “Where am I stretching?” remember that the organs aren’t felt the same way that your muscles are felt but they need a workout too.  Some yoga poses are designed to get at the organs more than anything else.  I’ll say, “This is an organ pose.”  And I hope you will smile and send love to your organs, relax, and enjoy.  Not every yoga pose is as hard as crow or as clear cut as chair.  Give your organs a workout too!  It’s subtle but healthy.



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