Iyengar and the dawn of modern yoga

OK, so this will, I hope, be the last link to a piece on Iyengar we post. Bobbie told me today — while, I suppose I can “boast” we climbed Runyon Canyon in LA after our regular Ashtanga practice, a thoroughly LA experience that only could be made more so had we definitely seen a celebrity or it had been January, and most of our fellow Ashtangis freezing cold in the inhospitable climes of some place like New Hampshire or Boston — that she has a post percolating about Iyengar.

This post may be in part to pressure her to write it.

Anyway, if you otherwise don’t see it, the New Yorker — and, yes, you’re forgiven if you’re surprised we’re in LA and not NYC — has a remembrance of Iyengar that situates him (and to a lesser extent Pattabhi Jois) within the creation of modern yoga. Here’s the link and a little taste:

When Iyengar was sixteen, in 1934, he was sent to live with his sister and her husband, Krishnamacharya, in Mysore, a green, temperate city not far from Bangalore. He arrived at a time of enormous ferment in the development of modern yoga. Indian nationalists were particularly taken with the global vogue for “physical culture,” in part because British domination was often justified in terms of physical superiority. As the nationalist movement gained steam and Indians turned away from foreign imports— replacing Western clothing with homespun khadi cloth, for example—nationalists found in the old hatha yoga the basis for a physical culture that was distinctly Indian. Krishnamacharya, a brilliant scholar who had sacrificed respectability to pursue the outré path of hatha yoga, was at the forefront of this renaissance. At the invitation of the progressive Maharaja of Mysore, a patron of traditional Indian arts and an avid sportsman, he ran a yoga shala at the palace, where he taught yogic physical culture to royal boys.

The piece calls Iyengar the most influence of Krishnamacharya’s students. I suppose I ought to argue that point, but I don’t think it is arguable. It also neatly sums up how hatha yoga was treated before Krishnamacharya’s effort to revive it or, perhaps we could say, revise it.

For those keeping track at home, if you read the New Yorker piece, check out the way Mark Singleton’s scholarship is couched. Pretty interesting for those in the know.

Oh, and I hope you enjoy your Moon Day.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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