BKS Iyengar passed away over a week ago now. Since then, I've found it more difficult to write for this blog. Transitions always take some time for me to process and articulate clearly.
It's funny how things evolve. I started working my way through Light On Yoga on a whim, and it ended up changing my whole approach to yoga practice.
Then, from a place of excitement and probably hubris, I decided to create this blog to share my Light On Yoga experience. But now, it has suddenly also become my little tribute and farewell to Guruji.
“Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they're meant to be."
I appreciated Mr. Iyengar for his physical prowess and brilliant asana instruction. But more than that, I admired his faith in the spiritual significance of human life. He was interested in transcendence, but he was practical. Perhaps this is just projection, but it always seemed clear to me that he cared deeply about details in yoga postures because he believed those details (and his level of focused awareness and devotion) were the bridge between humanity and divinity. I like to believe that he didn't need to yammer much about God in the practice hall because he was busy sharing an experience of it.
"One’s spiritual realization lies in none other than how one walks among and interacts with one’s fellow beings."
There's a popular conception that BKS Iyengar was rigid and unforgiving. I get it. He seemed like a pretty crotchety guy. But somehow, his books and videos never felt inflexible to me. Quite the opposite. They were infused with the spirit of rebellion. They gave me a taste of radical creativity. And I'm not just talking about the blocks, straps, chairs, and rope walls; I'm talking about the very philosophy of practice.
When I instruct, students often ask me, "Where should my feet go? What direction should my fingers point? How should I breathe?" When I studied Ashtanga, my teachers had strong and predictable opinions about breath and gaze. When I studied Anusara, my teachers had strong and predictable opinions about physical details. But when I studied Iyengar, I discovered that my feet, fingers, and breath could do pretty much anything, depending upon the effect I was looking for. And that discovery opened up new worlds to explore. Today my relationship towards yogic tradition - which was certainly inspired in part by Mr. Iyengar - is not to uphold or transmit a static set of rules, but to explore and continually rewrite those rules until the page is black... then switch to white ink and keep going.
More than anything else, BKS Iyengar taught me how to create. He represented for me the principles of doing, building, and giving life and form. He got me pondering how to interact with the world - how to continually offer and give - without hiding or compromising core beliefs.
Geeta Iyengar said that some of her father's last words were, "I have shown you all these things, now realize them for yourself."
Does that frighten you? It used to frighten me. Now - with the help of my yoga practice - I'm ready.