BKS Iyengar: ‘I can remain thoughtfully thoughtless’

BKS Iyengar, “the lion of Pune” and the man arguably most responsible for popularizing yoga in the West, passed away earlier today, as we noted in our last post.

Here’s a roundup of coverage and obituaries:

The New York Times, which is worth skimming through to get the mainstream take on Iyengar’s life:

B.K.S. Iyengar, who helped introduce the practice of yoga to a Western world awakening to the notion of an inner life, died on Wednesday in the southern Indian city of Pune. He was 95.

The cause was heart failure, said Abhijata Sridhar-Iyengar, his granddaughter.

India’s Prime Minister Narenda Modi, on Twitter:

I am deeply saddened to know about Yogacharya BKS Iyengar’s demise & offer my condolences to his followers all over the world.

The USA Today:

Iyengar started practicing yoga, an Indian tradition that dates back 2,000 years, after a series of childhood illnesses left him weak. He started teaching in the 1930s and opened his institute in Pune in the 1970s.

It was the acquaintance in 1952 with an international celebrity, which turned into a life-long friendship, and his writings that helped that bring Iyengar’s practice of concentration and carefully arranged postures to a global audience.

And you can find more: The Hindu, the BBC, Times of India, Al Jazeera, the LA Times and the Guardian.

Here is part of a post from the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles (the same is posted at the national association):

In this time of immense sadness it is perhaps comforting for us to contemplate the joy of his great existence. We do ask that respect for his family be observed and that you not try to contact the family. We know that it would be Guruji’s wish for us to continue in our practice of the art of yoga.

Over the next day the IYNAUS Board will connect with Senior Teachers to ensure that news of his passing is appropriately acknowledged in newspapers and other forms of media. We will also continue to provide our membership with updates such as the link to the most recent article from the Times of India, as well as communication from the family with regards to our expressions of condolences and gratitude.

And then a last thing to pass on: A 2002 story in the New York Times:

The young Iyengar would hardly have been voted most likely to become a world-famous yogi. He was born poor in Karnataka during the global influenza epidemic, which afflicted his mother. His childhood was plagued by illness after illness: malaria, typhoid, influenza, tuberculosis.

His education finished at 16 or 17 when he failed his matriculation exam in English by three points. What did it matter? Doctors predicted he would not live past 20 anyway.

Yoga, he observed wryly, “has given me a bonus of 65 years.”

He began practicing at 16, under the tutelage of his brother-in-law, T. Krishnamacharya, a strict taskmaster who trained a generation of teachers in the last century. The training was tough. Mr. Iyengar had spent so much time in bed that his body had no elasticity. It took six years to get his health back.

Partly from fear of becoming a “parasite” again, partly from curiosity to see where yoga would lead him, he devoted himself to practice. He found, he said, “emotional stability, intellectual clarity, spiritual delight.”

If the internal rewards were rich, the external ones came slowly. He was so poor that he sometimes sustained himself on little but rice and water, walking from village to village to demonstrate his feats of flexibility and strength for a few coins.

“I had tenacity,” he said. “That is a fact.”

He trained his wife, Ramamani, brought to him via an arranged marriage, to be his teacher so that he could master the poses. “My only friend was my wife, my only sharer, my partner, my guide, my philosopher,” he said.


Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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