Yoga: reflecting on the past, imagining the future
I am pleased to be invited to speak to you today. I wish to thank the Indian High commissioner for the honour to address the gathering and I am proud to be part of the inaugural international day of Yoga.
I am student of BKS Iyengar- the most influential teacher of this era. I am not a historian but a practitioner so the views I hold reflect my experience through my decades of practice and with my teacher. I have bought a series of Photos which I plan to play in the background today as I speak- these photos are of the Iyengar and the Institute in Pune- India
Iyengar was born in 1918 and from his beginnings in yoga at the age of 14 until his death in 2014 he practiced like no other. His was a very physical practice- demanding and precise and when he stepped onto the world stage in the mid-1960s with his book Light on Yoga he captured the imagination of a changing world and made the subject accessible to a new generation who were beginning to travel and explore the cultures of Asia. What many saw in Iyengar was a man steeped in his subject communicating an experience of Yoga through a practice. His approach was systematic, methodical, and scientific. He was both modern and, in his terms, authentic. I quote …
‘I have no right to brand my method of practice and teaching as “Iyengar Yoga”. It is my pupils that call it “Iyengar Yoga” to distinguish it from the teachings of others. Though I am rational, I am also a man of sentiment and tradition-bound. I trust the statements of others, follow their lines of explanation and experiment with them to gain experience. If my experience tallies with their expressions, I accept their statements. Otherwise I discard them, live by my own experiments and experiences, and make my pupils feel the same as I felt in my experiments. If many agree, then I take it as a proven fact and impart it to others. ………….. The only thing I am doing is to bring out the in-depth, hidden qualities of yoga to the awareness of you all. This has made you to call my way of practice and teaching, “Iyengar Yoga”. This label has caught on and become widely known, but what I do is nevertheless purely authentic traditional yoga. It is wrong to differentiate traditional yoga from Iyengar Yoga. Likewise it is unfair to market yoga as raja yoga, hatha yoga, ……… kundalini yoga, ….. and so on. In fact, there is no distinction between one yoga and another; they all have the same root and the same purpose ’.Iyengar, BKS, Article-With Yogic eyes. 1988. ADYM Vol.2
Iyengar spoke to a generation that were questioning the values of their cultures and looking for new ways of seeing.
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