Light on Life by B.K.S. Iyengar

Iyengar's Last Book

Light on Life by B.K.S. Iyengar
Light on Life by B.K.S. Iyengar. Courtesy of Amazon.com

B.K.S. Iyengar (1918 -2014) was a yoga master and pioneer who has rightly been credited with having a pivotal role in popularizing yoga in the west with his teaching method and books. His eponymous style, Iyengar Yoga, is now one of the most popular types of yoga worldwide and has influenced a generation of teachers and students with its emphasis on the importance of alignment and innovative use of props.

His seminal book Light on Yoga, first published in 1966, describes and illustrates hundreds of yoga poses and many breathing techniques. The photographs and instructions in Light on Yoga have become the gold standard for contemporary yoga asana practice.

Light on Life

Iyengar’s last book is titled Light on Life (Rodale 2005). In it, Iyengar intended to shed the same light on the spiritual and mental aspects of yoga as he did on the physical aspects in Light on Yoga so many years ago. Light on Life promises to deliver the wealth of spiritual wisdom that Iyengar has distilled over his lifetime of practicing and teaching yoga. The two works function as bookends to a extraordinary life, and it's clear that Iyengar saw them this way. 

Through telling his own story, Iyengar illustrates a well-worn path upon which yoga is begun as a physical practice but ends up being much more. However, this does not mean that he sees the perfection of postures as unnecessary or inferior to the development of a spiritual practice.

Rather, bodily ease that the asanas offer the key that allow one to enter higher states of awareness. 

Beginning with a deep look into the value and importance of asana, Iyengar then moves on to bring the same level of attention to pranayama, consciousness, and the ultimate state: bliss. The wisdom of Patanjali, discussion of each of the eight limbs of yoga, the koshas, and meditation run throughout the book, resulting in a structure that feels less like a line from point A to point B and more like a net of interwoven strands.

The weaving is loose in the beginning but tightens up as the book progresses.

Written in an appealing conversational tone, sitting down with this book evokes the feeling of coming to the feet of a yoga master to receive his wisdom. It also has the same wandering style and tangents you would expect from such an experience, but these in no way distract from the pleasure of receiving access to Iyengar’s lifetime of wisdom accumulated through experience..

Light on Life enters the canon of essential yoga reading for anyone who is interested in the evolution of a contemporary yoga practice through the eyes of one of its most influential teachers. 

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