Yoga Anatomy with a t-shirt
Long before beautifully illustrated Yoga Anatomy books became available, Yoga teachers had to come up with clever ways to relate asanas with anatomical regions. In the 1970’s specially designed t-shirts were popular among yoga instructors. It might not be a bad idea to bring those back, at least for yoga workshops!
… YJ: What qualities would you say are necessary in a good yoga teacher, whether it would be on television or in the classroom before 150 people or five people?
Lilias: … I think another essential quality for a yoga teacher is the desire to share, to share ideas, and methods, and ways that you have learned to communicate something in a posture that is a little bit different — to share your knowledge. So often beginning Hatha teachers feel that they have to hold it to themselves and not give it away to other teachers, because they might be sort of stealing their thunder and as soon as they share it, you’ll know that. Actually, as soon as you share it, you really have it! But it’s that sort of holding your ground that can be verv choking.
… YJ: What was your trip to India like?
Lilias: I went to India, I think it‘s almost five years ago, with a Rama Krishna group led by my friend Swami Pranananda. We were there for three weeks and we visited traditional Rama Krishna maths in Calcutta. Delhi and Madras. In Rishikesh we visited Swami Chidananda at the Sivananda Ashram, and it was just a wonderful experience to be with him in his home. The trip wasn’t at all stressful. There wasn’t too much focus on Hatha Yoga. It was more for meditation and just to be in these places and absorb the atmosphere. It was delightful. I don’t think it’s necessary for students to go to India. India is coming to the United States. But I hope I can go one day to visit Mr. Iyengar in Poona. Yet, it is not necessary since so many of his teachers are here.
YJ: Do you feel it is helpful though for students to go to the country or visit the culture where yoga originated or that it would help their understanding in any way?
Lilia: Honestly?… I don’t think It helped me to understand particularly. I don’t think it deepened… No, I don’t think so. I’ll tell you why I loved India — it was a jewel. It is a country that is a jewel. And I never had those pictures in my mind. I thought it was just poverty, then I went there and saw its beauty … such beauty. The Ganges at sunset, Sivananda’s burial place, Swami Chidananda in his own ashram, things like that were beyond words. … To experience it… Wading in the Ganges… I mean, I will never forget that.
… YJ: As we approach 1980, what do you think the future of yoga will be? For example. do you thlnk it win ever become part of the physical education programs in public schools lllte calisthenlcs and swimming are now?
Lilias: Right now Hatha Yoga is starting to be used in the school system. Children are being taught Hatha Yoga in the Montessori schools. I know of a class for two-and-a-half to 5-year olds at our Cincinnatl Jewish Community Center. It’s also being taught for college credit in different parts of the country. And I hope that someday lt will be introduced into medical schools. Do you just mean Hatha Yoga in the school system?
YJ: Well, that was part of the question. But also, what future do you see for Hatha Yoga in America? Do you think it will really become mainstream?
Lilias: Well, lt’s certainly been a 3000 year fad. I think it’s going to last for a little bit longer. What is fascinating to me is that Hatha Yoga seems to be synthesizing. lt’s growing. It’s not always taught now in the traditional or purist or classicial way that was taught thousands of years ago. It’s synthesizing. We have this method and that method, and can take the best from each and put that into our own practice. What’s right for you may not be for me. I love taking what I can use, putting it through my inner filters and getting it back out in a way that is comfortable for me. It is like we are all weaving a giant colorful mandala of dance, music, song, word, and touch … a mandala that will portray the balanced body, mind and spirit.