B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014) passed away this week. Iyengar had been one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world for many decades, and his books on yoga, such as Light on Yoga and Light on Pranayama are classics. A student of Krishnamacharya, who is considered by many to be the founder of modern yoga, Iyengar did more than almost anyone to popularize yoga in the West. Today, his schools are flourishing around the world and thousands of his former pupils carry on his lineage. Iyengar yoga schools are the most popular in the U.S. and many other countries.
I first heard of Iyengar in the late 1980s. I was living in Washington DC at the time and there was a well-established Iyengar yoga center there. My best friend was taking Iyengar classes and introduced me to the method, which was rigorous and emphasized perfecting each asana and using various props such as blocks and ropes.
I eventually took a number of classes at the Iyengar yoga center, but never really took to the style. It just wasn’t for me. I didn’t like the use of props; it was an innovation, but it was one that seemed to me to stray from yoga’s core teachings. And I felt that the emphasis on the ‘perfection’ of the poses was unnecessary.
But these are minor personal quibbles. B.K.S. Iyengar has been lauded for bringing yoga to a vast numbers of people, and rightfully so. He was a committed, dedicated, and loving teacher to an untold number of aspiring yogis all over the world. Most new students try a number of styles and schools before they find one that really ‘fits’ them, so whether I or anyone else stayed with the Iyengar style is not so important. Once the seed of yoga is planted, it stays with the pupil for the entirety of his life.
B.K.S. Iyengar was a giant of the 20th century and his absence in the world of yoga will be felt for a long time. Hopefully, one of his former students will step up and fill the big shoes that he left behind.