BKS Iyengar is considered to be the father of modern yoga,, as it stands in the world today. He was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2004. During his long life, he received many awards, including the Padma Shri (1991), the Padma Bhushan (2002) and the Padma Vibhushan in 2014. More importantly to his family and students he was “Guruji” the bringer of light.
It is difficult to hold a lens on this man or to convey his contribution to the field of Yoga because to elevate any one aspect is, in a way, to diminish another aspect. Those of us who came into close contact with him will hold memories formed through individual experiences and significant insights but this does little to illuminate the man and his contribution.
Over a practice lifetime from the age of 14 to his death at 95 he practiced. He practiced like few could imagine. He practiced more intensely, for more hours each day and for more years than anyone. And what this delivered was a river of knowledge and a pathway to follow – the path of practice. Practice in this context is not a practice conducted to improve performance alone but practice to gain knowledge from one’s own experience.
He shone Light on Yoga from his earliest publication of the book of the same name, now with sales of millions and millions and having never been out of print since its first publication in 1966. This same book is known worldwide as the Bible of Yoga, and not only by his students, but by millions of others learning the science, art and philosophy of yoga.
Yoga as science
His approach was systematic and methodical. He would practice upon himself to refine his understanding. This delivered refinements to the presentation in the asanas and led to the precise detailed instructions that characterise the teaching of Iyengar Yoga today. His own practice experience was applied to his students which delivered feedback on his techniques and methodology. He trialled and incorporated the results as his understanding grew. As any scientist seeks to ascertain results in a cause and effect paradigm he was rigorous and uncompromising. He was truly a scientist Iyengar’s science in yoga has produced many exceptional and original inventions that are used to shape the experience. We know them as yoga props. He created the props from the experience that was gained from hours of practice and from watching and responding to his students. A practice imbued with philosophy. His method of svadhyaya – self-study, was not only the long hours he devoted to practice itself; but from his reference back to his holy scriptures Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and Svatmarama’s Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
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