I attended a workshop with Father Joe Perriera, a Sr. Iyengar Teacher from India. He is also a Catholic priest. I never imagined a priest quoting Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. His perspective on yoga and his teachings are very different than my North American teachers. I found the stories of his many years of travel with Mother Teresa and his longtime friendship and teaching with BKS Iyengar inspirational.
One of the stories he told us was when he broke his back working with Mother Teresa. The doctors informed him he would need surgery and permanent metal supports would be inserted to steady his spine. He thanked the doctors and took the scan to BKS Iyengar. Mr. Iyengar looked at the scan and said, “26 asanas” and wrote the asanas right on the scan. Father Joe practiced these 26 asanas everyday for an hour and a half. He hung ropes and placed props outside the rectory. Mother Teresa got many comments from the villagers asking, “What kind of priest hangs from ropes like a bat?”
One of the students in the workshop asked how long it took to heal his back with these asanas. It took 2.5 years. The students gasped. He replied by saying that we North Americans don’t have fidelity in our practice. We want things fixed right away – resulting in a high percentage of shoulder surgeries, knee replacements and back surgeries in our country. The discussion went on, but it was his comment about our need to fix things quickly and our lack of ‘fidelity’ or commitment that struck me. We move so quickly through our lives, we have a need to do everything now, the need to be first in line, the need to rush through the light before it turns red, the need to place the hand on the floor in Triangle pose (Utthita Trikonasana) before our bodies are ready…….We need to learn to be present.