As I rolled over out of savasana today a reminder popped up on my phone’s screen… ‘anniversary of Guruji’s passing’.
Hard to grasp that it’s been one year already…
Indeed, August 20th marks 12 months since this titian of the yoga world, BKS Iyengar left his body & passed on, deeply affecting us all, even those practitioners who follow a different form from the one he practiced and taught all his life. We grieve yes, but at the same time we are thankful; realising just how fortunate we are to have lived at the same time he did, to have been able to watch & learn from a true master of this vast subject that is yoga.
I met Guruji in 1992 when he visited Australia to teach. Up until this time I had only heard stories about him and watched video’s of his astonishing practice & teaching. Suffice it to say I was a tad nervous about the prospect of actually being in his presence, he seemed so… large.
We’d been told by our American yoga friends that the Iyengar family preferred staying with their students rather than in a hotel; home cooked meals & family life. And so it fell to my family & I to open our humble (and I mean humble) abode to Guruji and his two students; Jawahar Bangara & Birjoo Mehta for the 3 days they would be in Melbourne.
You can imagine how frenetic our preparations were – washing, cleaning, painting, gardening, I tell you that house didn’t know itself once we’d finished with it. Thankfully we were incredibly fortunate to have an Indian Brahmin family offer to cook for Guruji during his stay – wonderful food that we all enjoyed.
And then, he was there..stepping through the front door and exuding a gentleness I didn’t not expect. I was lost for words.
The next few days made an indelible impression upon us all. Peter & I, Jawahar, Birjou and Guruji practiced at our yoga studio before heading off to the yoga convention for the day. These brief early morning practice sessions were amazing. Guruji’s practice consisted of long hold (15 minutes or more with no support!) Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana & Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, gathering energy for the demanding day ahead.
It was in these moments that I experienced how selfless Guruji was – always truly dedicated to helping others. He assisted all of us individually suggesting ways to improve what ever pose we where attempting and offering a myriad of alternatives for our issues. We worked hard, sweated a lot & we laughed a lot too!
While teaching he was a lion, an indefatigable force of personality that inspired us to do & feel things we’d never done before. It’s a rare thing to have someone in your life that can hold up a mirror and challenge you to really look at yourself. He did this and more because he also gave us the tools to enable us to learn about & understand what we saw there. It’s up to us though, to accept what he offers…the path to freedom.
Yet in private he was a delightful & unassuming guest, full of humour with an interest in everything.
On the final morning Guruji came into the kitchen and handed me a small sandalwood Ganesh as a thank you gift. “So you will remember”, he said.”Oh Guruji I will always remember you!” I said, and he just laughed. He laughed because he wasn’t talking about himself at all – he was gently reminding me to remember what is important – the practice.
In our practice we will continue to revere and deeply honour this great man, our Guruji. We remember & treasure the tremendous insights he has shared with us all, and acknowledge the inspirational light he has brought to the yoga world.