This past August, one of the most influential yoga teachers of our time, B.K.S. Iyengar passed away at the age of 95. Although I never studied with Guruji personally, my teacher was a certified teacher in his lineage, and had studied with him in India and on his trips to the US. His work has strongly informed and guided me, as it has for millions around the world.
Mr. Iyengar began studying yoga at the age of 15 with his brother-in-law, T. Krishnamacharya, and always credited yoga with helping him heal from the effects of an influenza outbreak when he was born, as well as the malaria, typhoid fever, malnutrition, and tuberculosis that he contracted in his youth. B.K.S. utilized yoga to strengthen his body, through this developed a style of yoga that emphasizes the alignment of each person’s individual body along with breath work (pranayama). In working with people with all different body types and health conditions, Mr. Iyengar used different props (blankets, blocks, weights, benches, ropes, walls, chairs, and anything else that was handy) to help his students in doing the postures (asanas) in the way that best supported them. Many of the props we use today were of his invention. The use of these props is a hallmark of Iyengar Yoga, making the postures accessible to all students. Based on his research and experiences, Mr. Iyengar codified sequences of poses to use therapeutically for numerous conditions, with a particular emphasis on the nervous system.
B.K.S. Iyengar wrote a total of 14 books on yoga, with the first one in 1965, titled Light on Yoga. Light on Yoga has been called the Bible of yoga – with 600 photos and details on how to perform over 200 postures, it was the source book of yoga enthusiasts around the world. This book gave an explanation on what yoga was, based on Iyengar’s foundation in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Iyengar yoga today is one that continues to emphasize the precision of alignment, balance of strength and flexibility for each individual. His alignment principles are used in many other schools of yoga, and anytime you hear a teacher talking about alignment or lines of energy, these principles are rooted in Iyengar’s work.
In 2005, Iyengar published his last book, Light on Life. This book contains the wisdom of his life long practice of yoga. The depth of his work is reflected in the richness of this tome: “You do not need to seek freedom in a different land, for it exists with your own body, heart, mind, and soul.”
Thank you, Mr. Iyengar. I am on this path in large part because you shined your light on it.