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Exclusive! In his 90s, his energy could put a 9 year old to shame!

By Rujuta Diwekar
Last updated on: August 27, 2014 16:06 IST
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For 87 years of his life, Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar walked the path of fire and taught yoga to people who were not even interested in learning.

He made sure that no one saw him as a man of God, but as a man of discipline.

Nutritionist and yoga practitioner Rujuta Diwekar pays tributes to her Guruji, who passed into the ages last week.

"I teach sensible, not sensual, yoga," roared the 94-year-old yoga guru to a mesmerised crowd of over 1,200 students in Guangzhou, China, in 2011.

If they were not in Trikonasana -- lifting the corners of the waist and extending their arms from their "armpit chest" -- at the time, they would have applauded.

This was the first time that the Trikonasana felt like a proper triangle, the body felt united by being divided in multiple triangles.

It was for the first time they felt an uninterrupted flow of energy from the bone to muscle, from muscle to the skin and from the skin back to the bones.

It was the first time that Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar himself was in that country, stimulating and satiating the Chinese hunger for yoga.

It was amazing to see this yoga artiste overcome the language barrier to teach each one of us when in his 90s, his enthusiasm and energy could put a nine-year-old to shame. It was like he had an eye on each one of us, it was a surreal experience.

Though not even a shadow of the master's greatness, skill, expertise, knowledge and wisdom, I too was invited for the same Sino-India health and yoga summit for a small talk on the food wisdom that yoga offered. That's how I happened to be there.

The reason why I made it at 34 to China to teach or speak about food wisdom is because for 87 years of his life, Guruji had walked the path of fire and taught yoga to people who were not even interested in learning. He was an inspiration.

During an interview earlier this year, he had told me that people in Pune, where he had been sent by his guru T Krishnamachari, were so upset by his endeavours to teach yoga that they resorted to black magic, not just to rid him from Pune, but the country itself of yoga.

I feel part of that black magic worked because Iyengar and his methodology of yoga transcended not just the boundaries of Pune, but the entire country.

The Western interest was kindled by Guruji's approach and stoked constantly with his logical, technical and yet sensitive approach to yoga. It was exactly what the world was waiting for.

Technology of the West, culture of the East. Brain of the West, heart of the East.

He did it by applying physiological and anatomical understanding to an art that was purely orally transmitted. He refined it by using terms that were physiologically correct but easily understood.

He taught yoga not because he was keen to tell you what he knows, but keen to learn how to apply his art to everybody.

Iyengar was put to test multiple times.

He would mostly get students that every doctor or medical science had rejected as a hopeless case; they would not just recover completely but many of them are currently teachers themselves.

The easiest thing would have been to mystify what he does with each one of them, say that this sequence of asanas or the aids -- be it the use of bricks, belts, bolsters, bench, blankets -- that he used to help them overcome their shortcomings, a stiff back/neck/hamstring, broken bones or malignant tumours, etc, came to him in meditation or some such exotic thing.

Instead, he went out of his way to demystify, to explain how it worked physiologically, how certain asanas could make it easier for the ovaries to receive blood supply, or the heart to reduce its diastolic pressure, for example.

He made sure that no one saw him as a man of God, but as a man of discipline.

It is because of his work that people today are interested in the Eastern sciences.

It is because people, after their long exposure to Iyengar's work, know that it is not some rope trick humbug, it is real science. That is exactly what a yoga guru does, paves the way for an uninterrupted flow of intelligence to reach the next generation, even if the present generation doesn't possess adequate skills to transmit or understand it in totality.

Like the sage Patanjali, the founding father of yoga, Iyengar possessed not just intuitive understanding of Ayurveda and workings of the body, but also the gift of using words in a powerful and imaginative manner.

Like Patanjali's skill over grammar, Iyengar developed an almost new vocabulary that made it easy for students across the globe to understand exactly how their bodies are meant to move, to experience and perform a certain asana in its purest form.

Extending from the "arm pit chest" or moving the "dorsal spine" in, gets even a lay person with no background of physiology, anatomy etc, to understand the working of the human body.

It allows them to understand and employ the voluntary muscles to bring about the required changes or improvements in the involuntary -- be it the kidney, liver, spleen, heart or lungs.

He was called names like 'hard', 'angry', 'hot-tempered'; he was anything but.

He was loving, kind, compassionate like none other, he wanted yoga to reach everyone; he envisioned the world reaping the benefits of this beautiful, ancient art, which is also a practical science.

Young or old, man or woman, rich or poor, he wanted yoga to spread deep into the heart of every person who came to learn. He was tough on lethargy and indiscipline, never on his students, and it takes an artist to walk that thin line.

He never distracted his students through promises of meditative states, better spiritual evolution than others, etc, but only promised them more work in the asana. And there is a huge audience for honesty -- over 40 million students across the globe are willing to practise asanas in its pure form.

If this has been achieved, it is one man's work -- Guruji B K S Iyengar, who always said and maintained that the school of yoga is very different from the business of yoga.

Main Image, Kind Courtesy: Rujuta Diwekar.
Other Images, Kind Courtesy: Iyengar Yoga Centre, Yogakshema.

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