Honoring the Life of BKS Iyengar: 1918-2014

ON August 22, 2014

by Ashley Sharp
Have you ever used a block, a blanket or a strap in yoga class? Have you ever modified a pose to find greater depth of your breath, awareness and ease in the pose? You can thank BKS Iyengar for that!

Yoga changed him – and then he changed the world with yoga.

As a child he was sickly with malnutrition, tuberculosis, typhoid and malaria; the doctors predicted he would live only until 20. He credits yoga asana with saving his life and lived to 95 years of age, doing asana until the end.

Iyengar brought yoga to the world – opening yoga centers on 6 continents. He brought yoga to you and I even if we have never set foot in an Iyengar class. In the
70’s Iyengar yoga was virtually the only yoga one could find. Your yoga teacher has probably studied Iyengar yoga. Our teacher’s teachers learned yoga directly from him. Yoga asanas that we think of tradition and basic – he created!

He says in a 1996 interview, “I had to create poses- if Trikonasana can be done like this, why not Parivrtta Trikonansana? If Virabhadrasana I could be done, why not Virabhadrasana III?… If Bakasana, why not Parsva Bakasana?”

When he started teaching in Europe in the 50‘s no one was interested. Classes were hard to get started and they were small and ill attended. It took years for the students to come. In fact yoga did not get popular until the late 60’s and into the 70’s.

His system is rigorous and precise. “If you cannot see your little toe,”
Iyengar asks, “how can you see the Self?” Within the rigor of the Iyengar system, lies a genius method for accommodating the variety of human bodies and the ailments that befall us at times. Tight hamstrings? Use a strap or a chair, or a bolster or a block. Chronic fatigue? Do your standing poses on the floor. High blood pressure? Do forward bends.

Iyengar’s life and passion reminds us that integrity and commitment can shape a life and ultimately shape the world. “Even if God himself comes and tells me, ‘Leave the asanas behind,’ I will say, ‘No! I will not leave them.'”

Ashley Ashley Sharp, E-RYT began teaching yoga at the turn of the century.  She is known for her wit, practicality, and tenderness as an instructor. She grew up dancing, and brings to her classes a lifetime of body-knowledge and wisdom. She has studied yoga asana and philosophy in the United States and in India with Swami Dayananda, Erich Schiffmann, Patricia Sullivan and Sat Santokh Sing.

See Ashley’s class schedule.

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