File photo of renowned Yoga teacher and Padma Bhushan awardee B K S Iyengar who passed away in Pune early Wednesday morning following illness. PTI
Having been trained in the Sivananda school of Yoga, it was initially difficult for me to accept BKS Iyengar’s framework of Yoga. My first contact with his school of thought came when I met one of the teachers who was directly trained by him. Using various accessories to help attain correct body postures was still not accepted in the traditional framework then. However, the techniques used were extremely logical and helpful for a new practitioner.
That was when I picked up his book Light on Yoga (literally meaning Yoga Deepika) which was my introduction to the man who had taken yoga across the seas and to faraway continents. While there would be lot of material available on his writings and his life, what most people wouldn’t talk of was the mental journey of the man who contributed significantly towards making Yoga a way of life rather than a mere religious affair (as it was perceived by most non-Hindus during British India). To quote from his book Light on Life:
“I set off in yoga 70 years ago when ridicule, rejection and outright condemnation were the lot of a seeker through yoga even in its native land of India,” he wrote. “Indeed, if I had become a sadhu, a mendicant holy man, wandering the great trunk roads of British India, begging bowl in hand, I would have met with less derision and won more respect.”
He then writes of having shared the light of Yoga with the world ahead of his last foreign trip to China in 2011 for a Yoga Summit. He told the Times of India:
“Yoga is an Indian heritage, not a Hindu property. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra which forms the basis of the system addresses all Humanity…. Patanjali calls Yoga – sarva bhauma – a Universal Culture.”
This was his contribution to the world in general and Yoga in particular. It was this perspective that made him great ambassador of Indian traditions. He could make the octogenarian Belgium’s Queen Elisabeth do a headstand and also have Sachin Tendulkar and Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor among his disciples. However, what started his journey was a meeting with Yehudi Menuhin.
In 1938, he had created his first Yoga instruction video which showed how much he kept pace with time. Yoga didn’t close his mind to scientific thought. Rather, it helped him keep pace with the times and still stay rooted. Yoga for him was not a few postures meant to attain better health. It was a way of life for him.
If Yoga is considered as Raja Yoga – the royal path of Yoga, then Iyengar surely was an emperor. Only an emperor can say – Live happily, die majestically.
He died in a majestic manner after having conquered the world with love and joy through the means of Yoga. Even Communist China was bowled over by him. They went to the extent of releasing a postage stamp dedicated to BKS Iyengar.