Today is unique.
I feel very sad, very blessed. I feel uncertainty as well as a new clarity of purpose. I am understanding that when you are in a state of shock, you are unsure of how to feel exactly.
Today, my teacher, Guruji BKS Iyengar’s beautiful soul has left this Earth and is traveling to another destination. I cannot quite grasp the reality just yet and today has been intermittent sadness mixed with fond remembrances of him. I am thankful that he is free of pain. I pray for him. I am blessed to have spent so much time with him.
If you don’t mind, I would like to share just a few things I have learned from this great man.
GURUJI BKS IYENGAR. I met him in January 2012 (remember how excited I was in this post?!) and he immediately swept me under his healing wings.
Everyday I would rush to his institute, ten minutes before 9am, so that I could greet him as he sat on the bench downstairs, eagerly swinging his feet as he waited to go for his practice. He would break out into a smile and bend his head and reply in his grovely voice, “Namaskar!”
The air of excitement peppered with twinges of fear and respect that swept around the practice hall as we practiced alongside of him made each asana all the more powerful. Seeing him majestically practice Savasana – with heavy weights on his body, completely still, in what looked like such ultimate relaxation, was breath-taking. I pray he is in that state of peace now.
Guruji healed me. When I came to his institute, I was proud, arrogant, full of ego about what I knew of yoga, and what asanas I could already achieve with the ease of my flexible body. Yet, underneath this facade, I was meek, emotional, and unwell. Sure, I could do so much yoga, but I had no explanation as to why I was suffering in health.
Can you imagine the anger and shame I felt after the first class, when I was pointed out as the “bad egg”? I had never been yelled at or hit before in my yoga practice. I wanted to never go back there again. But curiosity got the best of me. So I returned, placing my mat inconspicuously in the back corner of the room. What exactly did this teacher want me to learn?
Swiftly, clearly, and quite easily, Guruji broke me apart. He slandered all of the things I used to believe in, the things that were wreaking havoc on my body and mind. He proved me wrong. Humbled me and brought me way down to ground-level or perhaps below that even. Then, once I was ready to listen, he taught me the correct way.
He brought life back into to my life, light to my life. He taught me things that you wouldn’t expect to learn from a teacher of yoga.
Like how to balance, not only on the yoga mat, but on my yoga mat of life. He said that nothing should be done in extremes. No fasting. No over-indulgence. No laziness and no over-working. Balance and sattvic, or pure, qualities of living were key to achieving a peaceful body and calm state of mind.
Or how important it is to be a LION. He instilled the importance of courage in our practice and life. He said that all teachers must have an element of anger. He taught me that anger, guilt, fear, and shame, are poison if kept within the body. Sometimes they could be useful in order to teach a lesson, but just as long as they did not enter within the body. Once I mustered the courage to speak a few words to him, to thank him for teaching me. He laughed and smiled and said, “God bless you child!” I will never forget that day.
On how to communicate, not to people with words, but with asanas to my body. “The body is our child” and “the body never lies”. Listen to your body. I had forgotten the voice of my body and he taught me how to hear it again. He taught me how to rest. He taught me how a woman should practice.
To find strength and stability. He wanted me to understand that “Doing for the sake of doing” was not going to lead me anywhere. Instead of simply bending, could I find the strength and stability and intense movement in each posture? Suddenly, each asana had life! Suddenly, there was intense power in simply standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose)! He taught me that the practice can never become boring. There is always something to work on.
How to move away from ego. Once he kicked the lady right in front of me who was struggling to touch her toes. He said that she was working from ego. He asked fiercely, “Where are you reaching FROM?? NOT where are you reaching TO! That is the real question.” I was really frightened after this lesson. His point was made.
To always be a student. He said, “The moment you think of yourself as a great teacher or an evolved soul, you become ignorant.” At age 96, he told us he was still learning new things. This path of yoga lasts for a lifetime.
He was the best teacher I have ever had, truly a living example of his teachings. He lived humbly, simply, waking each day to serve Lord Patanjali through the practice of yoga.
Today as I wished my last goodbyes to Guruji, I felt quite emotional. I wondered why am I here in India at this time? Why have I been so blessed to be guided by such a powerful, generous soul? Then I realized that perhaps I’ve been placed her for a very specific reason – to serve Guruji with my entire capacity and carry his teachings forward.
May you rest in peace Guruji Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar. Thank you for everything, for changing my life, and for paving the pathway of yoga for all.
With the utmost love and respect,
- Beautiful Disaster
- today’s story.