B.K.S. Iyengar, the great yogic master who pioneered a system of yoga and is credited for helping bring yoga to the world, died Wednesday morning, August 20, in Pune, India.
Editor’s Note: “I, Vrinda” is a new, occasional first-person series on TheBhaktiBeat.com in which I, Vrinda (aka Brenda Patoine) say what I’m thinking, whether you want to hear it or not. Call it op-ed, editorialism, commentary — hell, call it whatever you want. Vrinda is opinionated but open, largely unfiltered, at times irreverent, and sometimes downright sassy (don’t say I didn’t warn you). She — I mean, I — may offer two cents or more on subjects from the ironies of the yoga world to the injustices of the corporatocracy, the ins and outs of the bhakti community or the ups and downs of internet dating. Vrinda wants everyone to just wake the f**k up (I warned you). For more on Vrinda, including why that’s her — I mean, my — name in this case, click here on this link…but you’ll have to wait until I get that piece written.
I, Vrinda, find it a bit ironic that B.K.S Iyengar is being hailed in the popular press for sparking the “global yoga craze” when he himself embodied a yoga governed by principles that the multi-billion dollar yoga industry has largely forgotten. According to Iyengar’s website, Iyengar yoga is rooted in the teachings of Patanjali, who defined yoga as a “method to silence the vibrations of the chitta,” chitta being the consciousness of mind, ego and intellect. Could that be much further away, philosophically, than today’s “yoga craze,” where yoga is one more offering at the gym and the yoga marketers and publishers seems to be defining yoga more as a hip fitness fad sure to get you a really great butt than a way to achieve union of the Individual Self with the Universal Self?
Iyengar started doing yoga as a child suffering from crippling respiratory conditions, studying under his brother-in-law Krishnamacharya, who was legendary in his strictness, and going on to develop his own original system of yoga perhaps best known for its precision of alignment — with liberal use of props and straps to aid the practitioner in achieving that precision alignment. His medical applications of yoga are widely respected, and despite the global spread of Iyengar yoga (with now centers in 72 countries), he never strayed far from his Patanjaliac roots.
It makes one wonder what Guruji, as Iyengar was known to his followers, might think of the headlines proclaiming him as the man behind yoga’s popularization. His niece was quoted in the New York Times’ obituary detailing his death saying that even up to a few weeks ago, he said: “I’m satisfied with what I’ve done.”
In an interview last year with Livemint.com, Iyengar steered clear of condemning the commercialization of the 5,000-year-old practice, saying it was probably a good thing that yoga has proliferated:
“Who knows, we may be reading it wrong. It all depends on what state of mind the practitioner is in when he is doing yoga. Without knowing that, I can’t say this yoga or that is bad. I think overall the majority of people who are practicing it as a subject are following the right line. For the aberration, don’t blame yoga or the whole community of yogis,” he says.
Spoken like a true yogi.
Pranams to B.K.S. Iyengar. A great yogi before everyone was a yogi.
What do you think B.K.S. Iyengar would think of the current incarnation of yoga as a fitness fad for the wealthy?
Brenda, Thank you for this awesome post.
I am in agreement and really enjoy your inspiration for every one to “Wake the f**k Up”. Your perspectives are refreshing and we need to hear them! Just last week, Nubia shared a beautiful perspective along the lines of Patanjali’s teachings…that as the vibrations of the “chitta,” are silenced, we hear the vibrations that are ever present, generated by the creative force of the Universe, The maha shakti, jagadambe, jagadeesha, living us, thinking us, …”union of the Individual Self with the Universal Self?” Yes, feels that way to me… and though after decades of whole life integrated Yoga practice, I still have plenty of Chitta Chatter, the sweetness of union is home sweet home. Maybe now Iyengar can impact mass consiousness even more broadly…and with voices, like yours, more of us can wake up to the wholeness of this vast way of life. In Gratitude, G