Mr Iyengar was a very ordinary man whom achieved extraordinary things in his life time. He changed so many peoples lives (including my own) with this technique we now know as “Iyengar Yoga”. The unique way that it is taught stands out above any other style of yoga with precision, alignment & sequencing. In itself a therapeutic way to address the body , mind & soul of the practitioner through working into the very depth of the muscular, skeletal & organic systems of ourselves.
Our yoga studio has been open in takapuna on the north shore now for well over 18 years ( I’m sure the oldest studio around on the northshore ) serving the general public & it’s quite a story I feel that this man has just recently last Wednesday passed away!!
Below is an interesting and informative article recently published in the NY Times about My Iyengar and his legacy..
What Is So Special About Iyengar Yoga?
August 20, 2014
This week, the international yoga community said goodbye to a beloved teacher, B.K.S. Iyengar, who died at 95. He is credited with bringing yoga to the Western world and making it accessible to every age and walk of life. To learn more about what makes Iyengar yoga so special to those who practice it, I spoke with Carrie Owerko, a teacher at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Greater New York. She was also a student of B.K.S. Iyengar, studying with him in India in February. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.
Q. Why was B.K.S. Iyengar such an important teacher?
B.K.S. Iyengar was really a pioneer. He was one of the people who brought yoga to the West and really made it popular because he made it approachable for anyone. He felt that yoga was for everybody. No matter what the challenges — physical challenges, mental challenges or age — he didn’t see any limitation.
I think one of his main contributions was making yoga accessible, but also the degree of attention he gave to the practices of asana, or postural yoga, and to pranayama, the breathing exercises, was immense. He was also an amazing communicator. He was constantly finding new ways to help his students increase their capacity to be aware of what was going on in their bodies and minds.
Iyengar is a lot of the yoga people experience in the United States. The teacher may not be teaching Iyengar, but that teacher has been influenced by Iyengar yoga in some way.
What is unique about Iyengar yoga?
What distinguishes Iyengar yoga is the very high degree of attention paid to alignment. Props may be used to increase awareness and to make the poses accessible. Sometimes, we hold the poses longer than students might be used to in a flow-style class. There is an emphasis on movement, but then learning how to calmly abide in the body.
The diversity of practice is another distinguishing element. We don’t do one sequence every day. That is the case in other popular types of yoga where there might be a consistent sequence repeated day to day. Even though we do repeat some of the same poses, there is a lot of diversity in the sequencing. In my experience, that helps prevent injury and overuse. His approach is therapeutic in nature. That is a huge aspect to the practice.
Why did Mr. Iyengar use props in his teaching?
Take the yoga block. Everybody knows a yoga block. It’s something you can get at Bed Bath & Beyond. The prototype of the yoga block was actually a rock or cinder block from B.K.S. Iyengar’s garden. When he was teaching students, he would sometimes place students over his knee for a supported back arch if they couldn’t support themselves. The story goes that he asked his daughter to go in the yard and bring this cinder block to help. That was the beginning of the yoga block. He would use whatever was in the environment -— tables, chairs, ropes. The more common props — belts, straps, blocks and chairs, this is the type of equipment that was not really used in the practice of yoga. Now everybody is using them. There are never enough props to go around.
Is there a distinguishing pose or style of pose that is unique to Iyengar yoga?
I don’t know of a pose that we do exclusively in Iyengar that is not done in other styles. But the headstand and shoulder stand are really important poses in our practice. They are not always taught in other styles of yoga. We have alternatives for people who are not able to do them. If someone comes to an Iyengar class, they know there will be some inverted pose that is taught. We don’t require people to do them, but we try to make them accessible and safe. We insist on a yoga blanket to prevent overstretching of the neck area. Iyengar yoga is very cautious and mindful.
When did you last practice with Mr. Iyengar?
In February of this year, I was in India, and B.K.S. Iyengar was in the practice. Even though his daughter and son and now his granddaughter are teaching the majority of the classes now, he would be in the practice hall every single day correcting people and engaging people. Even at 95 years old, he couldn’t help himself. He had to teach. It was his calling.
Do you have any special memories of him?
There were several different times where we had exchanges and encounters. He notices everything. One memory that stands out — I hadn’t been to India for a few years. He saw me and said, “Oh, a little bit thin.” I had only lost like three pounds and thought, “How could he possibly notice that?” We were laughing. My mother doesn’t even do that.
Another time when he was in the United States for his book tour, we had done a demonstration of poses at the City Center in New York to celebrate his book tour. He loved the theatrical, and we did this demonstration and he was very enthusiastic.
I remember when we were at the institute, he looked me in the eye and said, “You have to maintain.’’ To someone who doesn’t practice yoga, that might not mean anything, but we had worked so hard. It pushes you to break into new territory and challenge yourself, and after doing that, you might back off. But that thing about maintaining the practice, that really stuck. Excellence is what he wanted of us. It’s hard to put into words what you feel for someone who has changed your life.