Thursday, August 21, 2014

In gratitude to B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014)

The news of the death of B.K.S. Iyengar yesterday just reached me.

In 1979, when I was 29 years old, I began taking yoga classes taught in the tradition of B.K.S. Iyengar by Ingela Abbott who had taken classes from him in India.  He was her first yoga teacher.  For many years I took classes from her and then took classes from other teachers she trained to teach in the yoga school she opened in 1987.  Gradually, I developed my own home yoga practice that has continued to this day.  I have taken classes in other yoga traditions in past years, but Iyengar yoga is my foundation.  I have heard teachers in other yoga traditions say that they can easily tell which students have learned the yoga poses in the Iyengar tradition.

My first exposure to yoga -- a positive experience -- had been a single yoga class in the San Francisco Bay area in 1970.  As I recall, that class was taught in the tradition of  Swami Kriyananda -- Ananda Yoga.   My vague goal in the early years of my interest in yoga was to get out of my head and back into the rest of my body.  Unfortunately, I also had eating disorders at that time and most of my focus began to be on trying to lose weight and achieve what I perceived as a "perfect" yoga body.

Yoga taught me about humility and gratitude.  No matter how hard I have practiced, there have always been poses that I cannot do well.  I simply do the best I can and enjoy what I can do.  In the photo below, taken in 2012, I was holding a pose that I believed I could not do at all and suddenly realized I could do when I was 57 years old.  B.K.S. Iyengar said that yoga is for everyone.  I look forward to some form of yoga practice for the rest of my life.  I will never be too old for a yoga practice.  At the end of each yoga session, we practice the corpse pose, and I think of George Harrison singing The Art of Dying.  Yoga on my deathbed.

I was introduced to yoga in the Iyengar tradition at a low point in my life.  In the years after starting yoga classes, I returned to college and finished my degree in English Literature and Art, left a marriage that wasn't good for either of us, created 200 paintings, and began my recovery from eating disorders and alcoholism.  Yoga has played a major part in my healing, teaching me to respect and honor myself and live in relative peace with myself and the world around me.

How can you know God if you don't know your big toe?
(B.K.S. Iyengar)

Yoga is not a religion.  Mr. Iyengar describes it as an "art and a science." That is its great appeal to me.

Thank you, Mr. Iyengar.


Tara said...

He certainly has helped people live better lives. A good legacy.

I've tried yoga at various times in my life but never stuck with it. My knee injury many years ago stopped my practice, even though my teacher was gentle and cool with me 'sitting out' poses that my leg could not do.

I've had very good teachers, who focused on well-being as opposed to perfection, and that, after all, is the whole point.

Lovely photo of you in your pose.

Anonymous said...

I have always fantasized about trying yoga, but I am not disciplined enough and don't like to join things, so I never have. Maybe meditation is mind yoga. Although, I don't meditate either. Maybe I do mind yoga by doing nothing.

I love the photo of you. I wish I had discipline.

am said...

Thank you, Tara and robin andrea. I used to hate the way I looked. Yoga helped me with that, too (-: