A few days ago when I got home from school, I wasn’t ready for the news my mother was going to give me- on August 21, Bellur Krishnamachar Sundaraja ‘BKS’ Iyengar- the founder, the Guruji of Iyengar Yoga passed away. I have been practicing Iyengar yoga for the last ten years, and I have grown up under the yoga Guruji developed and promoted over the years.
I remember the days like they were yesterday- the kid’s classes at the yoga studio where my yoga teacher, Khun Lek, would tell us about Guruji’s extraordinary yoga abilities, his outlooks on life. At that time, Guruji was but a distant figure in my mind, I respected him immensely, but I did not feel directly connected to him. But over the years, my vision of Guruji became clearer… on the day I turned 13 and entered my first advanced-adult yoga class, to the morning of my first class teaching, rather than learning at the Iyengar Yoga Studio kid’s class, to the afternoon I finished writing my book on yoga, ‘Yoga for Me, Yoga for You’, to my first PYP after school yoga class in school, to working with the Krama Yoga foundation for less fortunate children in Phnom Penh, Cambodia… All of these events have shaped much of who I am today. And I am not the only one who has been so profoundly affected- Guruji’s teachings on Iyengar Yoga have touched all corners of the globe.
Born into a poor family, as a child Guruji suffered from malaria, typhoid and tuberculosis. Then, he was invited by his brother in law, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, also called the father of modern yoga, to his Yoga Shala (‘shala’ means house in Sanskrit). There, Guruji began to refine the system by using hatha yoga to create a style of yoga accessible to all ages by all people. Guruji transformed the art of yoga into more than just a physical activity- into a path of self discovery and mindfulness. He would often say that once the body, senses, mind, intelligence and consciousness are conquered, one has ethical and mental health. Today, Iyengar Yoga isn’t simply about doing an array of physical poses and being flexible. Rather, it is a way of living that is open to everyone, regardless of their physical or mental abilities.
The passing away of Guruji is a very sad occasion, but I don’t feel like he has really left. His legacy still lives on, in the hundreds of yoga centers all around the world, in the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, and in the hearts of the millions of students that practice Iyengar Yoga today.