B.K.S. Iyengar has been called ‘The Michelangelo of yoga’ by the BBC. Today he’s in his 90’s, and has been practicing, teaching, and developing his unique style of Yoga for over 70 years. Iyengar was one of the very first yogis from India to bring Yoga technology to Europe and America about a half century ago. It is this style of Yoga that grounds the writer’s approach to her yoga classes and yoga therapy sessions. In his latest book ‘Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom’, Iyengar, with the wisdom of a Master, clearly discusses how you can free yourself from unwanted habits in what he refers to as the imperceptible ‘mounds’ in the mind. Here’s an exerpt from this first class offering.

“If consciousness is like a lake, there are primary waves or fluctuations of consciousness on the surface of the lake. These are easily discernible. An example is that if you are invited to dinner by dear friends and, at the last minute, they ring to cancel, then you’re very disappointed, you’re unhappy, you feel let down, and you deal with that on the surface. You have to calm yourself down, get over your disappointment. This is a challenge, an external challenge as it were, that causes a ripple on the surface.”

“The secondary fluctuations or waves are different. Those are the ones that rise up from the bottom of the lake. The bottom of a lake is covered in sand and so, if in life you experience a sufficient number of disappointments, the ripple on the surface creates a wave that goes down to the bottom, and imperceptibly that ripple creates a little bank in the sand, so there is a little mound of disapointment. As a result you will find yourself frequently disappointed or sad at this mound at the bottom sends off secondary fluctuations or waves.”

“Let us look at another common example. If you constantly find yourself being irritable, annoyed by something – your wife, your children, your parents, or anything at all – a sufficient number of irritable reactions will create, imperceptibly, not in one time only, a little mound of irritability at the bottom of the lake of consciosness, and that will eventually make you what we call an irritable person, an angry person. If you have smoked since you were sixteen, every time you pick up a cigarette in the day you are also brainwashing yourself. “In this situation I pick up a cigarette” mound. That’s why cigarettes are more difficult than almost anything else to give up. Aside from their physical cravings, we create mental cravings because the habit is very repetitive. The habit of smoking puts itself into every situation. The triggers to that situation are so many that many smokers still sometimes want to smoke even years afer they have stopped because the mound is still there . . .”

“The practice of yoga is about reducing the size of the subliminal mounds and setting us free from these and other fluctuations or waves in our consciousness. Everybody aspires to be free. No one wants to be manipulated by unseen forces, but effectively, the banks of samskara* in the dark depths of the unconscious do just that. As stimuli from the conscious surface travel rapidly down through the levels of the lake, the encounter uncharted banks of sediment that cause secondary waves of thought. These in turn stimulate, in a way that is beyond our comprehension or control, behavior that is both reactive an inappropriate. Our reactions are preconditioned and therefore unfree. We cannot break out of the old pattern of behavior, however much we long to. In the end, we may accept the situation and just say, “It’s the way I am,” “Life always lets me down,” “Things just make me so angry,” or “I have an addictive personality.” But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a way out.

In the next post, we’ll look at the nature of Yoga and how it can help us to effectively overcome our negative habits.

* subliminal mound; mental impression