It’s hard to believe almost one year has passed since Guruji left this earth. I remember the afternoon vividly. Guruji had been hospitalized and there were many keeping vigil. I was frantically checking the news feeds for news all day in between working.
Then there was a message on HS Arun’s Facebook page: “It was great to have Guruji in our institute. It’s hard to believe that he is no more with us.” At that point I called my mentoring teacher. He had just gotten off the phone from a friend in India confirming the news.
Soon afterwards, news spread like wildfire, first on the yoga blogs, then the Facebook feeds, then the mainstream news. News of his death even out trended Nikki Minaj’ latest publicity stunt. There were many beautiful tribute posts. Notably, detailed accounts came from Luci Yamamoto’s Yoga Spy blog. She was at RIMYI at the time of his death.
Kofi Busia wrote healing words as well:
I have to say, however, that I find it difficult to be sad. Of course I would like to see him again. But I also know that I only ever need to look for him in the place that he taught me to look for him. I can see him again there any time I want. After all, he was a great teacher because he taught constantly that that which is not here should always be a part of what is, otherwise we will never be content.
Today I had a student new to Iyengar Yoga. He was amazed (like all of us) of all the postures Guruji could do in the plates surrounding our studio. He said he enjoyed the class, enjoys the style and plans to be a regular student. There is always doubt that once a leader passes if his legacy will hold. But because of Guruji’s integrity and uncompromising standards in not only his teaching, but in how his teachers are taught, I am confident his legacy of Iyengar Yoga will endure the test of time.
As all of you have heard, Guruji has been hospitalized and has been put on kidney dialysis. The Iyengar family is requesting privacy at this time. For updates on his health, go to iynaus.org. In addition to prayers and thoughts, an excellent way to show concern and support for Guruji at this time is to maintain your yoga practice and even attend classes at an Iyengar studio near you. As much as people want to write him letters and emails, it is best to allow the Iyengar family to tend to him unfettered by communique.
Our community needs to come together now for support and sadana. Some good news is that some of this year’s candidates have already gotten certified. Congratulations to those who have! I can imagine this news has made the process that much harder for both the candidates and assessors.
As for Guruji, may you recover and get the rest you need. And may your family members get the support and space they need to take care of you and themselves during this time.
BKS Iyengar was awarded the Padma Vibhushan Award at a presidential ceremony over the weekend. He was recognized for his work in yoga. This is India’s second highest civilian award. Other award recipients have included Zubin Metha who conducted the Three Tenors in the famous Dodger’s Stadium performance, and writer Ruskin Bond. BKS Iyengar remains a foremost name in yoga. He took yoga from obscurity and made it accessible to thousands worldwide. At 95 years old, Iyengar continues to practice yoga three hours daily. There are certified Iyengar teachers in over 80 countries worldwide including Yemen, Iran, and Israel’s West bank…areas where yoga is very needed. BKS Iyengar is also a candidate for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
BKS Iyengar, one of the last true yogis, turns 95 today. His legacy on yoga is beyond tremendous. He took yoga from his own country when it was akin to doing something that your grandfather did, like playing lawn croquet, and making it into a worldwide phenomenon. He began when he was 17 after a childhood of malaria and TB and used the discipline to cure himself from guidance from his brother in law, the Brhamin Krishnamacharya.
After many years of being poor, he continued steadfastly in his practice. It wasn’t until he was in his 50s until his practice started bearing financial fruits.
He published the foremost text of yoga – Light On Yoga, which continues to be relevant and thought provoking.
There are Iyengar studios in 57 countries throughout the world. To become certified in this style continues to be the most rigorous and disciplined.
When he turned 60, he was in two consecutive moped accidents rendered him unable to use his arms. He used yoga to heal them and now has complete range of motion in both arms.
In 2004, he was Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.
At 95, he continues to practice 3 hours per day!
For those and many other reasons, today is an auspicious day. Happy birthday Guruji!
Here is a video of Iyengar during an intense practice…especially toward the end:
Do you drive a car or work at a desk? Yes of course! Then chances are, your shoulders get a pretty good daily run through the ringer. A few days ago in one of Mary Obendorfer’s workshop classes we worked intensely on shoulders. She gave us another “homework” assignment to put our hands on the inside of a kitchen sink, stand on our toe mounds with heels in air and roll shoulders back.
You can’t see in this photo, but I’m on my tip toes (toe mounds more specifically). But you can clearly see there is a deep groove in my upper spine. That is my shoulders saying “aaaaahhhh.” For beginners, it is better to do a few 20 second repetitions to “break up the stiffness.” Eventually you hold longer.
If you don’t have much time for yoga with your busy schedule (usually involving sitting at a desk and driving a car), you can easily access this pose several times throughout the day.
Prashant Iyengar, Guruji’s son, says that because we are so busy we do not have time to reflect on our practice. He says that if you only have time for an hour of practice daily, do 25 minutes of very thoughtful and intelligent practice, and use the rest of the time to reflect. Since I know an hour is an eternity for many people, try to pair this down to even 10 minutes of practice. This is one of the tools for that type of practice.