Viparyaya, malasana and memories

by Karla Sperling.

One of the asanas I find most difficult is malasana.

Until recently I believed that I knew why: extensive past knee injuries prevented me from doing deep knee bends. Then one day, I noticed that I did not have knee pain while doing the asana! Viparyaya means “a mistaken view, which is later observed to be such, after study” (Light on Yoga, Glossary p. 464). Realising that I had formed a mistaken view based on past experience led me to ask a new question in my practice. What caused this mistaken view and what is the real reason for my difficulty? Iyengar (Light on Life pp 143-144) distinguishes between two types of memories: those of the mind and those of the intelligence. Memories of the mind are based on past likes, dislikes and desires. They bypass intelligence and generate turbulent consciousness.

I realized that memories of the mind were directing my experience of malasana. Memories generated by mind were giving me information about knee injuries, various unpleasant surgical procedures, pain, suffering etc. But these memories were unreliable. None of them had anything to do with malasana! Actually, I wasn’t really having an experience of malasana at all. The preoccupation of mind, with thoughts about my knees, was a distraction. Iyengar tells us that memory based on intelligence comes from a different place. When the mind approaches intelligence for guidance, the mind goes against the current of memory, allowing the senses to commence an inner journey, making memory subservient to consciousness (Tree of Yoga p. 63). Here, memory can be relied upon to provide more accurate information.

Applying the concept of viparaya to my practice of malasana is leading me to approach the asana in a different way. The knowledge that it’s not a knee problem hasn’t solved the difficulty. But it’s allowed me to make progress in identifying and overcoming real obstacles.

Newsletter category: