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B.K.S. Iyengar Brought Life to Yoga

Guest Author - Terri Johansen

Indian yoga guru B.K.S. Iyengar died August 20, 2014 at the age of 95. He helped popularize yoga around the world as a teacher and author of 14 books on the subject. This is not another obituary but a simple look at his life with Yoga.

He came from poor beginnings born the 11th child of his family. His mother contracted the flu just before his birth and he was born sickly. He would continue to be sickly during his childhood contracting such diseases as malaria, typhoid, and tuberculosis. Because of constant sickness he was unable to go to school on a regular basis.

When he was a teenager he was taken under the wing of his brother-in-law, renowned yoga guru, Krishnamacharya. Everything that Iyengar knew about yoga began from this man. However, Krishnamacharya was a strict perfectionist, demanding exactness in each pose, even harsh at times. As his time with Krishnamacharya passed he began to be captivated by yoga and slowly his health got better.

In 1965 Iyengar’s book “Light on Yoga” was published and from there people all over the world began a love affair with yoga. Iyengar did not consider yoga as merely poses (asanas). He made his purpose known in the first sentence of the book:

“The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning to bind, join, attach, and yoke, to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply. It also means union or communion. It is the true union of our will with the will of God…

In the early 1960’s unique Indian interests began to make their way to American and Iyengar yoga was part of this. One of the reasons he became so popular was because “his yoga offered an opportunity to grow in spirit and to gain satisfaction in life by applying the deceptively simple techniques he had learned through years of dedicated study”. During this same period his book began to sell widely in the USA.

Some of the things that make Iyengar style of yoga popular are:

• His extreme attention to alignment and his enforcement of it with his students. Iyengar yoga classes can be very rigorous. He was known to have said “alignment is important not only because it prevents injury and corrects imbalances, but because it creates continuity in the body, a flow that allows the mind to be at ease, the true definition of yoga”.

• Yoga that is practiced today will probably be influenced by some small piece of Iyengar yoga. His teachings, especially of alignment are incorporated into most types of Hatha Yoga.

• Iyengar introduced props for use in yoga. He felt that the props allowed all students to practice postures (asana) effectively, easily, with steadiness providing the body the support it needs to let the mind relax completely. Some of the most common props are sticky mats, blankets, bolsters, and straps. Teachers are trained to use props in the development of the student’s ability and gradually completion of the asana without props.

During my research I came across a “Communal Dedication to the Memory of B.K.S. Iyengar. This short practice consists of:

• Mountain Pose – 3 minutes
• Standing Forward Bend
• Downward Facing Dog
• Triangle Pose on each side
• Downward Facing Dog
• Standing Forward Bend
• Mountain Pose – 3 minutes
• Sit quietly for 5 minutes

“The practitioner perceives that there is no difference between life and death, that they are simply two side of the same coin. He understands that the current of self, the life-force, active while he is alive, merges with the universe when he leaves his body at death…In realizing oneness of life and death, there is an end to ignorance in the aspirant and he lives forever in the flow of tranquility.”

~~B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 11:9.

• The Guardian, August 2014
• www.kofibusia.com
• Journey Pages, the Hugger Mugger Blog
• Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar

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Content copyright © 2015 by Terri Johansen. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Terri Johansen. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Korie Beth Brown for details.


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