In Mr Iyengar's words: “When I practise I am a philosopher, when I teach I am a scientist, when I demonstrate I am an artist.” The late BKS Iyengar is recognised as one of the world's leading authorities on hatha yoga and is highly respected for his entirely holistic approach and his insistence on technical accuracy. The 2014 edition of BKS Iyengar Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health celebrates his life and is the most visual, practical, and comprehensive look at this ancient science, the Iyengar way. To commemorate International Yoga Day, here's a first-hand account of DK's interaction with the man, the Guru, the philosopher while we were shooting for the book in 2014.
We huddled under an umbrella and splish-sploshed our way to the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune. It had been raining nonstop, for over a week. But our team of three was not distracted. Rain would not play spoilsport. After all, it isn't often that we get to meet a living legend.
At 94 going on 95, BKS Iyengar can seem really intimidating. He is one of the world's foremost yoga teachers and an inspiration to many. But beneath those fierce eyebrows is a gentle, charming man, a teacher who believes in yoga and its power to bring change in people across the world.
We meet him briefly on Monday evening. It is Guru Purnima, a holy day when students in India felicitate their teacher. He acknowledges us with a smile. But it isn't our day. Instead, the huge hall, usually the site of intense yoga practice every day, is packed with Mr Iyengar's students. They have come to Pune from different parts of the country, and the world. They wait in line patiently, for their chance to meet Guruji, as they lovingly call him. It will be our turn tomorrow.
Tuesday is just as rainy. The huge hall at the Institute is quiet, as students practice yoga. We spot Mr Iyengar in a corner. Yes, we can take pictures of him, an instructor tells us. Guruji is at work, pushing his body into yoga poses that make us gulp! He seems almost ageless. But Mr Iyengar is mindful of the camera. He shakes his head, as Aditya tries to take a shot. No, not this way, he tells Aditya. The angle is wrong and the pose will look incorrect, he says. He slips into a headstand and holds the pose, waiting patiently as Aditya takes photographs the ‘right’ way. He does this for over an hour, unmindful of the audience he suddenly has. His students clap and cheer, but Mr Iyengar is focused. He seems to be in a different world, where nothing can come between him and his art.
That's how he is. Intense, passionate, and focused. But with a sneaky sense of humor that leaves us chuckling, often. We finally get our interview on our last day in Pune. He patiently answers our questions. His students sit in a row listening to him speak. He teases them, and us, reminisces about his past, the challenges life threw at him, and how he overcame each and every one of them. His sheer strength is obvious and inspiring, as is his optimism and his faith in yoga and its philosophy.
Here's a glimpse of what the book BKS Iyengar Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health has to offer to its readers.