Sparks of Divinity: BKS Iyengar’s Wisdom

Women practicing Iyengar yoga stretching in Down Dog Pose using blocks and the wall

Have you ever read words that changed your life? Here are some that recently changed mine: “If doubt arises in your discipline, let it come. You do your work and let doubt go about its work. Let’s see which one gives up first.” I found these life-changing words in Sparks of Divinity: The Teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar from 1959 to 1975, a collection of quotes from B.K.S. Iyengar all dating from 1959 to 1975, and reprinted in a new edition by Rodmell Press in 2012. (The title is drawn from one of the quotations: “It is through and with your body that you have to reach realization of being a spark of divinity.”)

I still hear the same negative chatter accompanying any move toward work that’s important to me. But now, instead of arguing, pushing it away, or letting it stop me, I recognize it as the voice of doubt, no matter what the content of the chatter. I can greet it with friendliness like you might greet a neurotic neighbor who drops in just when you need to be getting things done. “Yes,” I say to the voice of doubt, “You go ahead and do your work. I’m busy with mine.”

Sparks of Divinity: A Book of Gems

BKS Iyengar and his book Sparks of DivinityNoëlle Perez-Christiaens, one of B.K.S. Iyengar’s first European students, collected the quotations from classes she took with Iyengar, from letters he wrote to her, and from quotations other Iyengar students had saved. She published the collection in 1976, in a French and English bilingual edition, with the help of two of her students, Georgia and Philippe Leconte.

Rodmell Press publisher, the late Donald Moyer, said that he had approached Noëlle as early as 1993 to do a new English edition. Permission finally came almost 20 years later. The new edition includes Noëlle’s diary from her first visit to India in 1959 and selected excerpts from IyengarUn Hindou Mystique Ivre de Dieu (Iyengar: a Hindu Mystic Drunk on God), the biography of Iyengar that she published in 1976.

There are also photos of a young Iyengar and his family and a dozen stunning photos of Noëlle and Iyengar in asana practice. If you’ve ever wondered about the mysterious woman in the striped bikini in plate 162 in Light On Yoga, wonder no more. That’s Noëlle. Light on Yoga is full of pictures of this vintage, but there, he’s posing, presenting a technically perfect image of the asana. In these pictures, he’s fully involved, helping his student, or performing the pose with her.

Yoga Props including a mat, blocks, strap, and yoga blanket.

Iyengar Yoga: A Work in Progress

Best of all, thanks to Donald’s careful editing, the quotations are now crisp and lively, no longer littered with typos and mistranslated words. The result is what Donald called “vintage Iyengar, at his most creative and his most open.”

“With Sparks of Divinity, you are nearer to the source,” he said. “These insights would be dropped in the middle of a class or come out of a specific situation. He is great at these piercing epigrams.”

Anyone who studies Iyengar yoga knows that the work is always changing and growing, not in its principles but in its application. “Just as a painter progresses, a teacher has to progress too,” Donald said. “A teacher is compelled into new exploration to keep freshness in his work, but that doesn’t negate his older teachings. I think there’s value in going back. Picasso’s blue period, even though it came early, is just as masterful as his later work.”

Sparks of Divinity is Vintage Iyengar

The quotations also show Iyengar’s relationship with Noëlle and how he treated her as a colleague and friend. “In Sparks of Divinity, he’s vulnerable; sometimes he’s a teacher with no students showing up. It’s from the time when he was just Mr. Iyengar and not Guruji,” Donald said. “That’s what he was when I first met him, and that’s the Iyengar that is still most real to me.”

Donald’s favorite Iyengar quote from the book? “Your bodies are in the past; your minds in the future. When you do yoga, they come together in the present.”

Do you have words you live by? Is there a quotation from yoga or anywhere else that changed your life for the better?


Reprinted with permission from Eve Johnson/My Five-Minute Yoga Practice.
Eve Johnson, writer, yoga teacher

Eve Johnson taught Iyengar Yoga for 18 years before being introduced to Spinefulness in 2016. Convinced by the logic, clarity, and effectiveness of Spinefulness alignment, she took the teacher training course and was certified in July 2018. Eve teaches Spineful Yoga over Zoom and offers an online Spinefulness Foundations course. For course information, go to

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