Last night, instead of a yoga asana class, teachers and students sat and spoke about the rich teachings BKS Iyengar left behind when he died on August 20th at 95 years of age. Fourteen books; studios in 72 countries; thousands of teachers; millions of students.
Marlene was a life-long student of the man she refers to reverently and affectionately as Guruji. She and others told stories of the times they met and were taught by this great master. Very gruff and reprimanding when students did not grasp the poses, it wasn’t uncommon for him to yell, or to make strong physical adjustments, sometimes even pounding and slapping limbs into place.
Almost 30 years ago now, I first went into Yoga Centre Toronto. At that time the teachers were emulating BKS’s teaching style, to the point I thought it was Angry Yoga, not Iyengar Yoga. Early students continued with him in spite of harsh beginnings, and over decades the master and his teachers softened their methods and systematized the approach. Gita, his daughter, had much to do with this evolution.
I attended Yoga Centre Toronto in the early 80s and lasted a few months, returning to Iyengar yoga a few decades later, with Tina's classes in '99. I've been practising regularly ever since, and I can't imagine my life without yoga. It has affected me profoundly, and millions of others around the world. Iyengar was not the only teacher of yoga, but certainly one of the most respected. He had very humble beginnings, born into a poor family, sickly through his childhood and youth. He overcame these obstacles and more. Time Magazine named Iyengar one of the most influential individuals of the 20th century.
Matt, one of the student teachers who was in the class, shared some audio recordings of Iyengar’s voice as a young man and as an older man, chanting the invocation to Putanjali. The older voice was fuller, stronger, had more timbre and dimension. It reminded me of certain photos of Iyengar doing poses as a young man and then as an older man; as an older man he had gone more deeply into the pose.
Truly an inspiration, a great soul.