Tag Archive: BKS Iyengar

Sadhaka: the yoga of BKS Iyengar

Elizabeth continues to marvel at this fim clip from the forthcoming film on BKS Iyengar entitled Sadhaka, and more information has come through that she wants to share on the blog. If you have not viewed the film yet, take some time to do so…. it is only 22 minutes long!



Click here for the Sadhaka press release






Film about Mr. Iyengar

Below is a link to a film was shown twice at the Convention, introduced by its maker, Lindsay Clennel. It may help you to understand the expanse of BKS Iyengar and his work and influence. The young woman in headstand and a full backbend being assisted with multiple props, is BKS Iyengar’s beloved grandaughter, Abijata who taught at the Convention three years ago— she is a beautiful, clear, powerful and nonetheless humble teacher in her own right. Let me know your thoughts and reflections in watching this film. If it moves you, there is a campaign to raise the remaining funds needed to complete the film.


Elizabeth has recently discussed the question of how one’s practice changes as one ages. The same question was addressed recently in a Q&A in the NY Times, which included the following exchange referencing Mr. Iyengar.

Q. For fit people without specific health issues in middle age who already practice yoga, it would be nice to have knowledge about and access to a series of poses appropriate for this age group, which can be arranged into routines of various difficulties to form the core of a yoga class. Also targeting areas, like the lower back, with specific poses for this age group would be helpful. We can then take this knowledge to and practice it with our local yoga community. Thanks. — David, Maine

Q. Which yoga styles are best if you’re starting at age 50? — LOL, Ithaca

Q. I am 61. Very inflexible, have a history of low back and neck pain that are currently minor. I get regular exercise at a gym and I hike in the mountains several times a week. What is the best way to get introduced to yoga? — Burrito’s, Westbrook, Maine

A. Besides these readers, Big Bird from NYC and SH and Pinotman from Chicago wrote in wanting to know the best place and the best way to begin or resume yoga when you are over 50. The absolute best way is to find out what your liabilities are, and this is an individual matter, requiring a medical visit or summary. The next step is an appointment with an experienced and smart yoga teacher, one on one. Group classes are an artifact of urban economics: the teacher cannot afford to live in the city in which she teaches any other way. But chronic conditions are cumulative, by definition: when you’re older you need the individual attention that yoga has traditionally offered.

I believe the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar are the most anatomically sophisticated and therapeutically oriented, but there are many other good types of yoga. You’ll need a resourceful and sensitive person to get you started, and to introduce you to an appropriate yoga practice that you can do every day. Then, after a month or two or three, you should go back to that person for a reassessment and suggestions about how to progress to the next step. Yoga, practiced consistently, does good things to your temperament and perceptions.

To read the whole article, go here.


Thoughts about Bellur



Now on vacation in India, in South Goa, I continue to have limited Internet, available only for the occasional email from my phone. Stirring within has been the desire to convey something of my experience of yoga in international community in Bellur, birthplace of Guruji Iyengar.  Ordinarily I have referred to the Yoga Master of my lineage as BKS Iyengar; but when I had the experience in Colorado in 2005 of direct teaching from this master of yoga, what surprised me most were the tidal emotions of love and gratitude that seemed atmospheric as we witnessed and experienced his radiance and knew the bhakti element of our form, which had sometimes in my  “second generation experience,” been eclipsed by precision and brilliant methodology, the heart obscured by the technique. But in that moment, the experience of my “first generation teachers” all of whom studied for many years arduously and with devotion, in repeated immersions in India with the master himself, became in essence SOMETHING more of my own, and the love and devotion now palpable to me, reflected itself in an authentically uttered “Guruji,” a more clearly reverential and devotional naming of Mr. Iyengar.


In Bellur I touch this experience again in my heart, and remember in my body, and in my soul, the naming that suits the true inner feeling of blessedness to have been given this path towards liberation that carries me most deeply and persistently in my spiritual pursuits. I overflow with gratitude to make pilgrimage to this birth place of the master Guruji, and to see the flowering of a village from abject poverty into a thriving village graced with a small hospital, water facilities, a high school and college, a temple for Patanjali, as well as restored heritage temples for Vedic Celestials, Hanuman, Shiva, and Vishnu.  Just four years ago, I visited Bellur for Guruji’s 90th birthday celebration, and the transformation of his birth village continues with alacrity, now turning towards completion of a yoga school on the campus above the little village where the temples exist. BKS Iyengar and family, as well as his students, have generated the resources for this transformed village. Some of you may have seen the images I posted of the village children chanting the Invocation to Patanjali, and the asana demonstration with which we were graced as part of our visit.


Teachers for the 2013 Bellur Retreat were “first generation Senior teachers” Patricia Walden, an American teacher from Boston,  and Rita Keller, a German teacher from Cologne, for asana and pranayama.  Paul Sherbow from New York, and Georgie Grutter, originally from Germany taught the philosophy section of the retreat, while Jarvis Chen from Massachusetts assisted in the asana classes. We arrived as an international sangha at our retreat site on December 31st, ushering in the new year with a puja (sacred ceremony) at the Patanjali shrine.

It felt truly auspicious to step into the new year at this place, with sacred ritual and chanting, gathered together with people from all over the world.


Our daily schedule included a 7 am pranayama class, followed by tea and a light breakfast, and then chanting of the 108 names of Patanjali , the Invocation, Aum for lengths of time, the Gayatri Mantra, and other less familiar chants as part of puja; asana class followed, for 1 hour to 3 depending on special events, and then an afternoon lunch and tea, followed by philosophy class; then asana class once again, usually with inversions. asana, pranayama and philosophy classes were taught by the various teachers, but in sync with one another, and with a weaving among them, which added to their excellence. Again in the evening we chanted and had puja, followed by dinner and the return to our rooms. Lodging on the campus where I stayed was sparse; I was housed with two German women, our three cots in one room with a shared bathroom. We thoroughly enjoyed one another, and I had the chance to practice the small bit of German I know! Our days were brimful of practice, with truly hardly a moment of leisure. Our meals were delicious South Indian cuisine, and thoroughly enjoyed, from curry to curd to mango pickles!

In the daily immersion in all aspects of integrated practice, I experienced a fulfillment entirely unique in my 25 years of Iyengar yoga practice. Hindu priests led the puja, and the sense of inclusion in sacred rite that is difficult to know in visiting temples on one’s own in India, lent a feeling of acceptance to me as a Western practitioner; the priests in Bellur of course know the international nature of Guruji’s following, and have no apparent ambivalence about sharing the rituals with Westerners. The manager of the retreat, whom we called Mr. Govinda Sir, also knows English well, and was able to help us to understand the rituals  in which we partook. Just as one example, at the culmination of the puja ceremony, there is a passing before each person present, of a tray with a lit fire for purification. Each person sweeps his or her hand near the fire and brings its warmth and light into him or herself.  Then one receives water into one’s hands that has been infused with tulsi plant and cardamom, and drinks for internal purifying. And lastly a red powder is offered to each person to place a tika mark on the forehead. What has seemed an Indian cultural “marking” little understood held new meaning as Mr. Govinda described it as a signifier to oneself of the intention around meditation of concentrating one’s attention inwardly, with single pointed focus, or dharana from the eight limbs of yoga.


I am uncertain how this deeper experience of my own tradition will translate into my own practice and teaching at home, though I imagine it filtering through like a time release capsule, slowly more fully understood and integrated. 




Before these children, who attend the high school built by the Iyengar family, along with international yoga student donations, did their yoga presentation, they chanted the Invocation to Patanjali. It is the same chant as we do before every class, though the melody and rhythm they use is somewhat different. Elizabeth made a very sweet video of the children doing the chant. To see it and hear what must be perfect pronunciation, go here.

Asana Demonstration by Children in Bellur

On the last day of the retreat in Bellur, the students attending the high school built by the Iyengar family, along with international yoga student donations, performed classical dance and demonstrated beautiful asanas in an artistic group display. Here is a small sample! I am presently in Goa with scant Internet, hoping to find eventually a spot for sharing more.




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BKS Iyengar Breathing

Click the image below to see the youtube video of Mr. Iyengar breathing that Elizabeth mentioned in class. It’s impressive.

Our own Kelly – student in various classes with Elizabeth and also assistant and apprentice – is in India on her own yogic journey, possibly even to meet Mr. Iyengar! Kelly is writing a blog about her travels that you can find here or by clicking on the picture of Kelly to the left. So far it doesn’t look like she has set up a way to subscribe to the blog, but when she does, we’ll let you know that too.

UPDATE: Kelly left a comment saying “You can subscribe to my (kelly’s)post by going to my blog, scroll down to the bottom of the post and click subscribe. Today, i was accepted into upstairs class at Ramamani Memorial Yoga Institute for daily classes!! Not an easy task, thank u to all supporters!”

Also: a schedule reminder: SUMMER QUARTER BEGINS ON MONDAY!!

In the Words of Mr. Iyengar

Mr. Iyengar In Motion

In celebration of Elizabeth’s completion of her sesshin, or meditation retreat, on Whidbey Island, and her return to teaching tomorrow, here is a link to a little Iyengar inspiration. This

is a youtube posting of silent black and white footage of Mr. Iyengar doing his earlier, more flowing style of yoga in 1938. It is mind-blowing and beautiful to watch.