BY ADITHI MATHEWS
There is a grainy, black & white film made in 1976 called ‘The Ultimate Freedom’. The film starts with an introductory monologue which pans close to a man with a youthful face and head full of light hair. His English is laced with an Indian accent, but what undoubtedly stands out is his strong confidence. He says, ‘’You all read the title of the film. The Ultimate Freedom. Ultimate freedom means, complete freedom in body, in the mind and in the self itself. In order to experience this total freedom, Indian sages and saints introduced the subject called Yoga. ‘’ Just few seconds into the brief introduction, you can’t help but be completely spell bound by the passion that is so evident in the speaker – BKS Iyengar, whose life is a testimony about the transformative power of Yoga.
Geeta Iyengar in Pune
Within 12 hours from Guruji’s death at 20th August 3:15 AM Indian Standard Time the last rites and the cremation took place in Pune. We would like to share with you Geetaji’s last words for her father, B.K.S. Iyengar:
“Only his body has ended. One person’s efforts from inside out, changed the acceptance of yoga throughout the world. Nothing was hidden, from the time he began to practice, to his illness and death. Even last night he was telling Abhijata, “I have shown you all these things, now realize them for yourself.” What he has given cannot be encompassed by words. If a disciple is more developed, then that person will understand. What can be said in words, is that he was precious to us.”
Source: Iyengar Yoga Association (US)
Photo: by Coni Hörler
To understand more about Iyengar yoga, this morning we went to the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute again. Our first yoga class was conducted by Sri Prashant S. Iyengar, the son of B.K.S. Iyengar and director of the institute – also an authority in yoga. His style is more philosophical.
The next class was a presentation of B.K.S. Iyengar, but by or through his granddaughter, Abi. While B.K.S. Iyengar was doing his self practice, he guided her with clear instructions. He literally taught the class through her, even while he was standing on his head for quite some time he could see everything happening in the large and fully packed yoga shala. Every pose was first done by Abi in front of him, with long explanations, before she went to the class and repeated what he had just said. Whoever knows Iyengar yoga is aware that one single pose can be repeated quite many times to find perfection.
After the class we went out for lunch with a long-term German student who shared with us her insights about life in the institute.
Coni shot a record number of films, and we were happy to have the second half of the day off to think about what we had just seen.
At 9am sharp we entered the gate of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, and our visit couldn’t start any better as we directly ran into Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar, who was in a great mood.
He let us attend his 2 and half hours of self practice in the main shala. We were emotionally touched by the unity and harmony emanating from him when he sets into his poses. His body, mind and soul are just one. Asana, pranayama and meditation become one – it was so obvious when watching him.
The institute closing over lunch time, we came back at 3pm for a photo shoot and an interview with B.K.S. Iyengar. Every day from 2:30pm onwards he sits in his library reading books and doing his correspondence. For the portrait photo Coni chose a spot near the entrance, drawing the attention of people passing by and stopping to show respect to Guruji. Extremely focused on taking the best shot, Coni didn’t even notice the crowd gathering behind his back: “ah, there were many people on my backside? I did not realize!”.
Afterwards, we went back to the library with Guruji, where we had a coffee while interviewing him for nearly 1 hour. We realized the greatness of his achievements and how unique his approach is, which he developed after he left his guruji Krishnamacharya. His yoga is a quest to the ultimate understanding of the body and emotions down to the cell level. This is why he can utilize his Iyengar yoga style to cure people after heavy injuries, and why he can push people beyond their limits, as he knows where the real limits are.
Before the day found its end, we watched a session conducted by his daughter, Geeta, who has a uniquely wonderful and warmhearted way of teaching Iyengar yoga.