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Yoga Cards from Light on Yoga

Within the folds of this note, handwritten by Geeta S. Iyengar, the daughter of BKS Iyengar, lies the story behind the creation of Dipika Yoga Cards.

Dipika Yoga Cards
Dipika Yoga Cards

My choice to practice Iyengar Yoga stemmed from the wish to wean myself off dependence on therapists. A long period of hospitalization, the loss of my independence and a complete reliance on doctors, physios and all manner of therapists, led to a desire to turn inwards and observe. In those inner realms I sought freedom to choose peace, contentment and release from pain.

In the most difficult moments, I didn’t have the ability to carry out even basic daily tasks. In those days of terrible pain, unable to control any of what went on around me and overwhelmed by despair, there still surged forth a forceful will to live. Lacking any bodily function, I understood that the secret to freedom is in the mind. Thanks to those physical limitations and the curiosity of the depths of my soul, I found the strength to control the experience of pain and external suffering.

My bedridden time was my invitation to go within. I tried to overcome my suffering by external means, with the stimulation of TV programmes or the company of those also recovering in the hospital. I would hang all my hopes on the therapists and experts, something that gave an uneasy sensation of loss of control. At my lowest ebb I learned how to rest a long time in constant, curious observation. I grew to understand that there is no quick answer. It cannot be given to you by someone else or bought with money. It is best to be prepared for a long hike and enjoy the steady pace.

I remember my first Iyengar Yoga class. I joined the group of young and old alike, some of yoga practice. It was common to see a senior student hold an impressive pose for a long time them using props for support, some not. I gravitated towards the seniors, away from the vigorous,fit youngsters. Yet everyone seemed united in the atmosphere of shared, harmonious with apparently little effort. My first impression was not of strength and youth having the advantage over maturity. In fact,it was the opposite. I found comfort in the calm faces and peaceful practice of the senior and experienced students. Their poise inspired faith.

So began my desire to learn about Iyengar Yoga. I wanted to be like them.To enjoy the process, to have a regular practice. To be patient, painstakingly evaluating each tiny change and personal development over a lifelong journey.

I arrived at RIMYI in Pune with the support of my teacher who inspired me with confidence, Usha Devi. I knew what a great honour she was giving me. Senior teachers had told me that not everyone can join the classes. You need years of experience in practicing the Iyengar method and a written recommendation from a senior Iyengar Yoga teacher.

I remember Gita Iyengar sitting on the stage instructing teachers from all over the world who came especially to receive her guidance. We sat around the practice hall observing her classes and noting her instructions. Gita was concerned and a little angry that teachers did not recognise the names of poses: a basic requirement for following the class. She emphasized repeatedly that we must learn the names from Light On Yoga, written by BKS Iyengar, her father. This highest authority on yoga, the first to include all the yoga poses, has often been referred to as the yoga “bible”.

Black and white photographs of the poses in Light On Yoga, performed by BKS Iyengar are displayed in the RIMYI. They are also bought by teachers to adorn studios all over the world. These visual resources serve as inspiration and instructive guidance from the founder of the Iyengar method. While leafing through the large A4 copies in the RIMYI shop, I wondered why they were not available in handy sized versions for quick reference during self practice. For myself I wanted a pocket sized reference that I could peruse endlessly, like a mini dictionary for tourists. I envisaged a colourful index that I could easily use to find pose details in Light on Yoga.

One pose out of 200 poses
One pose out of 200 poses

The meeting with Gita S. Iyengar in her room was a kind of miracle, like a sign of what was to follow, the project that would come to life thanks to her. It was a life changing meeting, a crucial point in my path as a student which would continue to become one as a teacher. In her room, beside her bed, I felt her presence and real desire to help, to give me the practice tools that would aid my healing.

My humble and sincere desire to learn from her the Iyengar method enabled me to have a heartfelt conversation with her. I sought her blessing for the creation of yoga pose cards based on the pictures in her father’s best selling book Light on Yoga. To create a means by which all could access his knowledge. To illustrate the important mission of Gita to spread the Iyengar teaching.

That day I left her room with a note in her handwriting. It was a restorative sequence that she personally prescribed me. I knew that day was incredibly important. I envisaged returning to show her the finished product: yoga pose cards for self practice available to all as an Iyengar Yoga resource.

To my great sadness Gita did not see the published work. Gita S. Iyengar left her body on December 16th 2018, two days after the centenary celebrations of her father’s birth.

It is thanks to Gita S. Iyengar that these yoga pose cards came into being. The Dipika Yoga Cards are currently available for purchase worldwide. They include all the 200 yoga poses from Light on Yoga, plus 10 special cards in memory of Gita. These 10 cards are based on the iconic photographs of Gita practicing in her youth. They appear in her best selling book Yoga a Gem for Women.

It is my sincerest wish that these yoga pose cards I created will help yoga practitioners the world over and fulfill the desire of Gita S. Iyengar to honour the name and legacy of her father, BKS Iyengar.


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