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B.K.S. Iyengar

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B.K.S. IyengarOnce hailed by Yehudi Menuhin as his best violin teacher and once challenged by the Queen of Belgium who at eighty-four told him, "If you can't teach me to stand on my head, you can leave" (he met the challenge), B.K.S. Iyengar is considered to be the foremost authority on and teacher of Hatha Yoga in the world. From every corner of this globe, students flock to study with him in Poona, India, where his 'Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute' is located. Ramamani was his beloved wife. He is the author of two of the best and most practical manuals of Yoga, Light on Yoga and Light on Pranayama. Iyengar has been teaching yoga for more than fifty years, introducing the health benefits and the poise of soul of this Indian philosophy to millions of people.

He is often referred to as both the lion and the lamb. He is at once a severe task master in class (whose precision and pedagogical techniques have caused people to refer to him as the Martha Graham of Yoga), and a charming humorous and playful personality outside of class. He is the father of five daughters and one son and at 64 still had an energy and magnetism which few men could match. Above all, he is totally and unconditionally himself at all times - probably one of the main reasons he is so loved by those who know him.

For Iyengar a student must know how to do the simplest posture with the greatest amount of awareness and intelligence before he or she can execute complicated asanas. One sometimes got the impression that he literally had eyes in the back of his head. He noticed every mistake. In a split second, his eyes moved everywhere. The Iyengar technique lies in the interpretation of how to execute the asanas. With Iyengar's flair for precision, a sense of perfection in each movement, an undaunted awareness of every cell and muscle of the body as you flow through the postures, and a meticulousness in observation which he instils in each and every teacher, there has necessarily developed a certain approach which distinguishes itself from others. He encourages his students how to observe, not so much what to observe.

In 1965 he was in Gstaad, Switzerland, and received a phone call from the 92-year-old queen of Belgium. She had just suffered a stroke. He flew to her and within a few days taught her to regain some movements so that she could once again hold a fork in her right hand. Then, as he was about to leave, she held up her right cheek to him saying. "Kiss me." He did. She held up her other cheek too. As Iyengar kissed her, tears rolled down the cheeks of the Queen. She had taken very much to heart her parting with her Indian guru. A short time after, she died.

Books, published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd

  • Light on Yoga (Yoga Dipika)
  • Light on Pranayama (Pranayama Dipika)

CD-ROM, Iyengar Yoga for All

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Last modified: April 06, 2011