Biographical noteBellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar was born in 1918 in the town of Bellur, Karnataka, India. He came from a poor family and had a dozen siblings. His father died when he was nine years old. As a child, he underwent several serious diseases, including malaria, typhoid, and pneumonia. These illnesses and malnutrition caused him to become frail and physically weak. At the age of 16, under the influence of his older half-brother, he was introduced to yoga. After practicing for 40 years, he opened Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune. Soon he became one of the most respected and renowned yoga masters in the world. Today, a man of over ninety years of age, he still practices asanas and pranayama for a few hours each day. In 1943, Iyengar married Ramamani. They raised six children: Geeta, Vanita, Prashant, Sunita, Suchita, and Savita. Some of his eminent pupils include Rajendra Prasad - President of India, Mohammad Hatta - Vice President of Indonesia, Pope Paul VI, Yehudi Menuhin, Krishnamurti and Elizabeth Queen of Belgium, amongst others. His most famous book, “Light of Yoga”, was published in 1966 and has been translated into 18 languages.
Subjective Viewpoint: The Brush, the Canvas, and the Painter
- The Chair of Evil Some consider their bodies to be a kind of chair. A chair sometimes requires an upholstery hammer; it’s also a burden which pulls us away from the spiritual. In the extreme Manichean interpretation, the body is the emanation of evil. Iyengar is exactly the opposite.
- Cultured People With silent indifference, I listen to opinions of “cultured” or artsy people saying “sports are stupid”. Which brings to mind an unknown 18-year-old man, who won an ancient Greek Olympic boxing competition, and went down in history as Pythagoras. Or I can ponder Iyengar.
- Westerners When “Westerners” look in the direction of India, all too often they seek a guru, completely forgetting that “there”, like “here”, mathematicians, writers and athletes also exist.
- The Mirror A person’s attitude towards his own body mirrors his attitude to life.
- The Brush, the Canvas, and the Painter Salman Rushdie, another distinguished man born in the Indus valley, in one of his excellent essays, argues that writing is the simplest of arts. It only requires a pen and paper. And what can a dancer, an artist or a yogi say in response? Yoga can also be a form of art. Just like moving to a musical rhythm or painting abstract art (in contrast to writing a novel), it doesn’t require analytical thinking or discourse, not even a libretto of other voices. Body creates its own body. You’re the brush, the canvas, and the painter.
- Beetle Gatherers Iyengar has dedicated his life to simple things: bending, twisting and flexing. He proposes a certain order and a certain way of tensing and relaxing muscles. That’s all. I believe that humanity, every now and then, reinterprets and retells its own history. In one of those future histories, there’s no mention of Napoleon; instead a chapter is dedicated to Iyengar, extols the names of peasants who cultivated their own fields and records beetle gatherers. A carpenter has already been mentioned.
- Gender Kyokushin To mark this occasion of this “delight”, I wish to express my thanks to Adam Bielewicz. I learned Iyengar yoga basics at his school in the distant north, in Warsaw. I’d also like to thank Ula – without her unexpected gift, a pass to yoga classes, I would have become a dusty intellectual stool. A few years later, when Ula traded yoga for gender studies, and I switched yoga for karate kyokushin, the yogic harmony was obstructed. After a few weeks I had a cracked rib, and Ula – I don’t know if she broke something.
- Incense Popes don’t enjoy the best of both worlds. Nasty journalists investigate and expose every last detail in their curriculums. Explain yourself later, poor man, if you’ve been a traitor or perchance denounced someone. It’s different with yogis. People don’t get upset with teachers; they become nervous when being preached at or indoctrinated, especial about ethics. Delving into the biographies and teachings of people I admire, the more controversy I find, the more they become engaged in politics and orchestrating other people’s lives according to their own vision of what constitutes fair society organization. In the case of a yogi, who went shopping, bathed children, and sometimes lit incense in a temple, there’s nothing to expose, even Wikipedia’s subsection for “controversy” remains empty. It turns out that you can be a good person, enjoy health at the age of ninety, and also attain well-deserved universal respect and admiration
- The Devil in Nowy Sacz Apparently, in Nowy Sacz, a priest warns against yoga, saying it’s an invention of the devil. This warning warrants a dose of healthy laughter. The cosmic balance between joy and perversion has been maintained.
- A Tree is Nourished by the Roots In the foreword to “Light of Yoga”, Yehudi Menuhin writes about “liberation and unlocking opportunities that we have condemned to death”. “A tree is nourished by the roots. This knowledge is dangerous for those who are at odds with themselves and prefer to manipulate people instead of taking care of repairing their own being”. Is there any alternative to yoga? “A vision of lost perverted people who criticize the order of things; a phantom of crippled autocrats blaming the just, disappointed in their expectations for the conquest of power – the tragic spectacle of people who burden others with their own imbalance and frustration.” He adds that there is no place for anyone grandiose in yoga. “By its very nature it’s a living act.”
Iyengar - quotes & fragments
Penetration of our mind is our goal, but in the beginning to set things in motion, there is no substitute for sweat.
Intellectuals tend to be arrogant. Intelligence, like money, is a good servant but a bad master. When practicing pranayama, the yogi makes himself humble and without pride in his intellectual attainments.
Sparks of divinity
It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.