How odd to interrupt this blog break with an obit... There I was, minding my own business, answering the phone and typing emails, when I got a notice in my inbox that BKS Iyengar has died.
It's not much of a surprise. In truth, I've wondered for a while when I'd hear this news. The man was 95. It's also not much of a surprise that he lived practically all of those years (after a terribly sickly childhood) as hardy as an oak tree. Guruji was tough.
I came to understand this toughness first-hand, early in my yoga days, when I was in my late teens and I attended a three-day retreat at which he taught. Lord, that event was a trip. And not exactly a fun one. I remember falling out of sirsasana (headstand) in the middle of the room and being yelled at for my idiocy. He wasn't what I'd call a gentle master.
But I digress...
As a person who has been immersed in the Iyengar method for most of her life. As a person who's taught it and done it and thought about it and read about it and meditated on it for a quarter of a century (egad), you can believe me when I tell you that the man was a genius who changed the world. Of course, don't take it from me, take it from his New York Times obituary (a good read that might nonetheless have misidentified the cause of death - I'm hearing from every other source that it was renal, not heart, failure).
In his 80-year career, through his work, he transformed the minds and bodies of millions of yoga-doers. Practically everything you know from your yoga class down the block/at the studio/in the gym owes a good debt to the Iyengar method, regardless of whether your teacher recognizes it. Every time you've felt your sacrum soften to the touch of a bolster or
blanket, every time your standing pose practice has been enlivened (or
made possible) by a block and strap, you can thank Mr. Iyengar.
He was a phenomenal technician, an innovator, a doctor, a soulful artist whose muse was the skeleton. He was also very sharp, playful and a big-time egotist. Let's just say, he owned the room. And the room was yoga.
So, fellow yoga friends, tonight when you do your practice, may I recommend you turn your consciousness to a man who, directly or otherwise, has likely influenced your perspective, devised your restorative therapy, supported you through major illness or contributed to the physical confidence that guides you like a shining star. You've gotta love a guy who suggested that you need to able to find your big toe before bringing God into the equation.