“It took me whole decades to appreciate the depth and true value of yoga. Sacred texts supported my discoveries, but it was not they that signposted the way. What I learned through yoga ——– I FOUND OUT THROUGH YOGA.
BELLUR KRISHNAMACHAR SUNDARARAJA IYENGAR a. k. a. BKS IYENGAR (1918 – 2014), the grand old man of YOGA, who could do 3–minute head-stands, well into his nineties, began life as a sickly child : he suffered from malaria, typhoid and tuberculosis till well into his teens. He once told an interviewer, “I was like a parasite. I would play one day and spend the next seven in bed. I asked myself if such a life was worth living”. He was born into a poor rural family in Bellur, Karnataka. His brother-in-law, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, also called the FATHER OF MODERN YOGA, invite him to his YOGA SHALA at the Mysore Palace. The Yoga Shala was exclusively for royals and outsiders were not allowed. Iyengar, later, recalled that the royals, being a martial people, jumped from asana to asana. “Martial people do not want philosophy; they want vanity and have a martial mind-set”. Such a physical form of yoga could be done by a person till the age of, say, 40. After that it was impossible to keep up. So he changed the system. Iyengar began refining the system, rediscovering the lost art of HATHA YOGA to recreate postures FOR EVERY AGE. Once the body, senses, mind, intelligence and consciousness are conquered, ONE HAS ETHICAL & MENTAL HEALTH. Having transcended these, one gets DIVINE HEALTH, with health being an ABSENCE OF DISEASE. The Divine Life is then within.
A three and a half hour meeting with violin maestro —Yehudi Menuhin in 1952, was pivotal in introducing the Western world to Iyengar. While Menuhin credited Iyengar with transforming his playing, talking to Menuhin helped Iyengar re-assess his past. “I came from dire poverty, I learnt philosophy from Menuhin”, the ‘KING OF ASANAS’ one said. Soon, Iyengar was holding yoga lessons in European and American cities. Through the Western Prism, India, once again, saw the light of yoga. The Guru, with a trademark shock of white hair, has an Oxford Dictionary entry against his name as well as an entry into Time magazine’s list of 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE. His book, LIGHT ON YOGA, published in 1966, is considered a YOGA BIBLE.
He emphasised ALIGNMENT in Yoga. Iyengar Yoga has minimal movement. The goal is to strive for PERFECT BODY ALIGNMENT———- The VITRUVIAN MAN, as Patanjali saw it. The standing pose —- TADASANA —- was Iyengar’s favourite, for its emphasis on ALIGNMENT. His instructions were micro-managed to achieve this. Even SURYA NAMASKAR, used as an aerobic warm-up by others, was a slow series of movements, each of which had to be JUST SO, before you could move on.
THE METHOD BEHIND THE MAGIC : ——IYENGAR (n) —- Defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “a type of hatha yoga”, named after the man who devised the method. He systematised 200 classic yoga poses and 14 types of pranayama. Many techniques, were devised after a scooter accident dislocated his spine. He explored use of props —– he used around 50 —- to help the disabled practise yoga. Props include everyday items : wooden blocks, chairs, ropes.—This is what he said : “I live life in the present. I reflect, and I do this specially when I’m holding my asanas, and that’s what keeps me refreshed. The computer age has changed our lives, but it will also cause the body to degenerate faster — from inside. Yoga can stop this decay and bring balance back to our lives. Farewell, dear Guru.