BKS Iyengar sadly passed away last month on the 20th August – he was a real yoga champion! As one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world, he introduced many in the West to the practice of yoga and helped to make yoga acceptable and popular. He was the teacher of Yehudi Menuhin, Aldous Huxley and Donna Karan and set up his own teacher training method.
His principles are not favoured by all yoga traditions as the main focus is on asana (posture work) – some feel to the expense of the breath work and more esoteric aspects of yoga. Personally, I like his approach; in the beginning the body really is the key – the access to our whole being. Yoga is a subtle practice but to get to this subtlety we have to learn through the use of the body. As we learn to move, we learn to feel.
Iyengar is said to have been a drill-sergent in his classes – I think this was to get people going on a physical level. This style of yoga appealed to beginners in the West and is what made Iyengar so successful – to work from the outside in, from the gross to the subtle – and he helped people to ‘get it’. In my classes beginner students sometimes remark that “I’m not really feeling anything”, this is perhaps because I take a softer approach, I like to go gently with people – not so much ‘feel the burn’ as ‘wait for the simmer’!
However, I do return to Iyengar’s book ‘Light on Yoga’ time and time again; the accuracy of the asana and stories about the history of the postures truly bring the practice to life for me. It has helped me to teach in a way that people can relate to and understand. Thank you very much for your help, Mr Iyengar – Om Shanti.