Today, my yoga teacher died. That might be an odd thing to say about a man I never met, but B.K.S. Iyengar is and always will be my teacher.
I came to Iyengar yoga the way you come to anything that eventually changes you – sideways and blindfolded, stumbling through the dark trying to find something solid to hold on to.
My body was in pain, I was struggling with depression, and I felt both too real and too fake to maneuver college friendships and love.
Once a year while visiting my Aunt, I’d join her yoga class in a church community room off Bonita Beach Rd. We’d lay on blankets and support ourselves with blocks then all go out for multigrain pancakes afterwards. It was my kind of morning.
Fast forward four years to the back room of a Gold’s Gym in an obscure corner of Washington D.C.
“What style of yoga is this? It’s what I did in Florida!”
“Iyengar,” the teacher whispered. I didn’t know then she wasn’t an official Iyengar Yoga teacher and couldn’t say she taught it. She told me about a studio in town and I started the following week.
Six years later, I explained in class this morning that you never lose the first style you learn.
Little did I know we’d lose it’s founder a few hours later…
It’s the little things that make a style stick with you and get passed from teacher to teacher. I’ll probably always make you lie on a blanket in savasana, double-check your feet are parallel and give more alignment cues than you can follow.
My former teacher, John Schumacher, uses the barrage of cues as a way to help you grow – you take in what you can and, over time, your capacity to learn and adjust expands.
It may annoy you in class, but it’s a good motto to live by – throw everything at ‘em and let them decide what sticks.
In his book Light on Life, Iyengar says, “By persistent and sustained practice, anyone and everyone can make the yoga journey and reach the goal of illumination and freedom.”
He points to all the gifted yoga teachers nowadays ready to serve as role models and guides along the path.
I point to you.
The course of my life changed thanks to two underpaid women sharing their love of yoga in less than ideal spaces. Maybe your life has been redirected after reading someone’s book or hearing an inspiring talk.
You never know what words someone else needs to hear – which ones will turn their ship down wind towards the life they’re meant to live.
So keep creating. Keep sharing. Keep gifting us with your crazy, nonsensical, magical gifts.
You just might change someone’s life.
And if that feels like too much pressure, I’ll end with the words of a man who changed the lives of thousands and thousands of people just by showing up on his mat every day:
“You do not need to seek freedom in some distant land, for it exists within your own body, heart, mind, and soul. Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you must choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it.”
– B.K.S. Iyengar, December 14, 1918 – August 20, 2014.