One of my favorite aspects of being part of a lineage are the stories shared by teachers and practitioners who studied with BKS Iyengar for decades. There are always moments in workshops where we gather 'round and listen to a story about Guruji.
For example, here is a repost from Iyengar Yogamandala - South Delhi . .
Abhijata (Iyengar's granddaughter)on a long Sirsasana: “I put my watch in front of me, I took belts and I tied my legs together so staying there would become easier so that was my plan.” Iyengar was nearby, practising with his eyes closed, “so it was easier for me. After about 10 minutes my palms began to sweat. I was itching, in my face, in my back, in places I did not even know existed, all those areas began to itch. But I said : today I have to stay come what may, 12 minutes, 13 minutes then I am sweating, I am shaking. Somehow the clock comes to 17 minutes and then at the 17 th minute I tell myself let me complete another 3 minutes. So the moment the clock struck the 20 th minute I came down and I was in Adho Mukha Virasan. . “By that time Guruji had come up and he said ‘come here, lazy girl what are you doing?’ And I told him very proudly I had an accomplishment, I said ‘today I was not lazy, I have been in sirsasan for 20 minutes’. He said ‘OK what did you do?’, I said ‘Guruji I stayed in sirsasan for 20 minutes’. ‘What did you do?’ . . “I didn’t understand the question at all. I said ‘I was in sirsasan, I stood on my head for 20 minutes’. He said ‘the moment you went on your head you abused the position of sirsasan, what did you do for the 20 minutes’. I was stumped, I did nothing for the 20 minutes, I was waiting for the 20 th minute. And he said ‘what a waste of time’.” . .
What are you going to do with your time?
For the most part, I believe I am using my time "well" in poses where I stay for a minute or so, but I have discovered that this is not the case in inversions. I have worked extensively with timings to build up my stamina to stay. I suppose it has served it's purpose in terms of exercising my will and muscle building. Yes, for the first few minutes I am observing and or adjusting arms, legs, breath, thoughts but then what? At some point am I simply waiting for the pose to end or thinking about what is coming next? Why am I choosing to come down? Because the timer went off or because I can no longer maintain the pose with integrity?
The greatest gift from this practice of paying attention to what I am doing with my time, as opposed to time itself, is that I am holding poses longer! I had a habit of setting the timer for 10 minutes in my inversions because I was pleased with holding for this length of time, which in and of itself makes me laugh! When did I decide 10 minutes was pleasing? Now I have a stopwatch recording the minutes. I often catch my mind wandering back to time out of habit, but use my will to get back to watching how my bones, muscles and breath feel when I am upside down. As Prashant Iyengar says, what is the body-set, breath-set & mind-set of the posture? (See his book: The alpha and the omega of Trikonasana)
"The study of asana is not about mastering posture. It is about using posture to understand & transform yourself."