The Namesake


As B. K. S. Iyengar turns90, he talks candidly about his life and thisthing called Iyengar Yoga.

THE GRAND MASTER of modern yoga, B. K. S. Iyengar was born in Belur, India, on December 14,1918. When he was 14, his brother-in-law, T. Krishnamacharya, intro-duced him to a yoga practice, which improved his tuberculosis.

Iyengar pioneered the use of props to make poses accessible to a wide array of students. He has written a number of books, including Light on Yoga, which many practitioners esteem as the bible of yoga.

Now living in Pune, India, Iyengar still practices every day.

According to you, what is Iyengar Yoga?

I myself do not know[laughs]. People, for convenience’s sake, brand my practice as Iyen-gar Yoga. I just try to get the physical body in line with the mental body, the mental body with the intellectual body,

and the intellectual body with the spiritual body, so they are balanced. Each asana has an optimum line or position. From the head to the foot, from the front to the back, from the right to the left—without deviation, without distortion.

Beyond that, I don’t think I’ve done anything. It’s just pure traditional yoga, from our ancestors, from our gurus, from Patanjali.

What is your practice like now?


Even now, the maximum my body can do, I do. I am 90, and still

I practice. I stay in Sirsasana (Headstand) for half an hour, even without shaking. I’m improving still, progressing still. That is why I am still practicing with such energy. The mortal body has its limitations. Therefore, I will still practice ’til the last breath of my life so that I do not be –come a servant of the mind, but rather the master of the mind. Old age makes a strong man say goodbye. I am breaking the fear complex and living with confidence.

From the perspective of someone turning 90,what do you think is essential for a happy life?


Uniting the energy of the body with the energy of the soul. There is a difference between happiness and delight. Happiness is at the mind level. Delight is beyond the mind. When you see a sunset, you don’t see it from the mind. You see it beyond the mind, from beyond yourself—it’ san experiencing state. My asana is all beyond the frame of mind, not within the frame of mind. That is delight. Happiness is sensual happiness. But delight is spiritual happiness.

You’ve devoted your life to teaching yoga. Why?


That question God has to answer, not me. It was not by choice. It’s by chance I took it. The chance became a choice. I was suffering from various illnesses, and with yoga I started to get better. I thought, “Let me see what yoga will teach me.” It gave me a lot of understanding. I cannot divide myself from my practice; I am the asana, and the asana is me. I have said that I’m retired. I am telling a lie to the public. I’m still teaching at the age of 90. In classes, I adjust students’ bodies with my own power. My life and energy are still growing. Because I’m practicing, age has not struck me at all.

What would you be remembered for?

God gave me something as a gift and I, in my turn, make a gift to my students. I don’t know how much they are able to learn, but my task is to give the best of myself. The message God gave me is this: “do in this way, don’t do in that way”. So it is that God exists through my practice of yoga.

What do you think about how yoga is practiced in the west?

Dear friend, Yoga is an art and so can’t be differentiated. It has been created for man so it is for everybody. The art is God, God is the art. For me it is an essential wisdom. I don’t make difference between west and east, north and south, India and America. The human body is universal. The intelligence is universal. The soul is universal. Yoga and art are universal and therefore destinated to everybody, without distinction of nationality. And it doesn’t matter even if it is practiced in different ways and in different places.

Which message would you send to your students all over the world?

I would like that every human being in the world would be free from illness and that spend his own life in an active way. The waters of a river flow, are not stagnant. Life is power in action like the river itself, whos waters are always fresh. Every moment has a new energy. Yoga allows the flow of the energy. Life is a flowing while the mind is stagnant and so I’d like that the mind becomes flowing as the vital energy is. Yoga helps each man and if all the world would practice yoga there wouldn’t need doctors in the world. Yoga has a curative power and health shouldn’t be seen only by a physical point of view but rather by a divine point of view. Birth and death don’t depend on us, but we only can control life going from our birth to our death. Each person has to wonder: “ how can I use this life between birth and death?” this is the question each man should answer to. Try not to waste your life, but to develop it trough the practice of Yoga.