This very moment while you are reading this, billions of people will be getting deep into the precision and correct alignment of a posture through a technique taught by the most popular Indian yoga teacher of modern times- Bellur Krishnamachar Sundaram Iyengar or BKS Iyengar.
Guru Iyengar’s 85 years of studying, practicing, and teaching yoga won him accolades, appreciation, and reverence all over the world. His books like Light on Yoga, Light of Life, and Light on Yoga sutra of Patanjali, are the best reference point for even the most advanced practitioners around the world.
While most yoga schools try to teach you a lot of yogic postures or Asanas, BKS Iyengar style of yoga very slowly and methodically allows you to explore deep into the simplest of asana and practice the same until your alignment is at your individual best.
About The Guru
Born in 1914, in a small city of Bellur in Kolar district of Karnataka state, Guru Iyengar was 11th of 13 children of his parents. His childhood was marred by series of diseases like malaria, malnutrition, tuberculosis. He was thin, weak and simply out of shape to do simplest of chores.
One fine day his brother-in-law asked him to come to Mysore city and get his ailments fixed by the practice of yoga. So to address his health issues and cure his ailments, started a journey that then lasted 85 years across the world and ended with his death in 2014. Guru Iyengar always referred and revered his brother-in-law Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya as his true Guru.
B.K.S Iyengar married Ramamani in 1943 and they had 6 children. After her wife’s death in 1973, Guruji named his Yoga institute in Pune city after her. Guruji’s son Prashant and daughter Geeta are world renowned Yoga teachers too.
BKS Iyengar ‘Guruji’ once mentioned in an interview that at the age of 90, his practice is 3 hours of yoga Asanas and an hour of Pranayama daily.
It is, however, very interesting to note that Guruji never marketed or branded his style of teaching as Iyengar Yoga. He even named his institute on his wife’s name. He was particular about not falling prey to marketing mindset of the west. He always insisted that he teaches yoga that he humbly learned from his Guru and belongs to the lineage of teachers of ancient India.
BKS Iyengar Teaching of Yoga
The basic premise of all the lectures and workshops Guruji did across the world, was exploring the SELF through alignment of breath and body. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra- the aphorism on Yoga, was his preferred reference point. Although he also quoted HATHYOG PRADIPIKA and GHERAND SAMHITA at many orientations but Yog Sutra was always the centre point of discussion. Through his unique way of teaching through demonstration, even the new entrants to get the basics right.
He was a follower of VishishtAdwait, qualified non dualism branch of Vedanta philosophy but he asked his pupils to follow the religion of their choice and culture. He never mixed his own religious sentiments with his teachings of Yoga.
He was trained by T. Krishnamacharya in a Guru-Shishya tradition where a student stays with his teacher, does all the household chores, gets reprimanded for wrongdoings, and taught only when the teacher is happy with his work. It might look like the torture of young student rather training in the highest form of yoga but in reality when a young mind finds a pattern, harmony and dedication in a simplest of lowly work like cleaning the floor or clothes, he becomes ready to use the same intelligence towards his breath and body.
B.K.S Iyengar style of teaching sent shiver down the spine of many pupils who were not used to harsh words and yelling. Elliot Goldberg, a noted yoga historian nicknamed Guruji as “BANG, KICK, SLAP” for B.K.S. Western world never understood that in Eastern traditions of teaching, Grace Of Guru is showered when a student proves he is ready to receive knowledge rather just showing general curiosity or intentions.
Iyengar Concept of G.O.D
Although Mr. Iyengar, officially retired from teaching in 1984, he continued to be active in the world of Yoga, teaching special classes, giving lectures, and writing books. During one of his demonstrations in Sydney, he was teaching a gathering which mostly included Christians. So rather than using words from ancient texts like ATMAN or BRAHMAN to describe the UNIVERSAL SPIRIT he started explaining Pranayama or Yogic Breathing Technique. He explained as the breath enters the body, the life energy is Generated, this breath when used efficiently helps us to Optimize our working and thinking capabilities, exhalation or out breath removes the carbon dioxide from the lungs hence destroying the illness causing negativity. This concept Generation, Optimization and Destruction aka G.O.D is used by teachers all around the world so that without deviating from the true essence of yoga, it could be taught across people from any religious background.
BKS Iyengar Technique of yoga asana
BKS Iyengar always gave emphasis on breath control while doing any yoga asana. He taught all the eight limbs o Patanjali’s Yoga through conscious and aware performance of a posture. His rhetoric was focused on the understanding of body, the flow of breath, the consciousness that pervades and intelligence that prevails.
“ENERGY FLOWS WHERE THE ATTENTION GOES” – a simple quote is prerequisite for starting any Yogic practice in an Iyengar yoga class. For example even if you are flexible enough to do many tough twisting and turning posture , you would still start with the basic asana of standing straight like a steadfast mountain in an Iyengar Yoga session. Standing is a basic thing we do even before walking so mastery over that is essential before going forward or backward.
While performing a forward bend your practice will go on till you are aware of the WEST or PASCHIM part of your body. Starting from toes, calf, hamstring, hip, lower-middle-upper back, neck, and behind the head is all west part of the body that needs to be stretched. So Iyengar Yoga provides you the intelligence that forward bending is not just going down and touching the ground or big toe, its consciousness flowing through the entire back of your body and breath inhalation-exhalation is coordinating medium in that.
If you wish to take formal training in techniques commonly known as IYENGAR YOGA please look for an authentic certified yoga teacher from the institutes. Accredited institutes are the world over and millions are benefitting from teachings of beloved Guru every day.