Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have given the world Yoga Day, but credit for the international popularity of yoga must go to the asli asanists. Like BKS Iyengar. Guruji’s birth centenary is on December 14, and this Monday thousands of his disciples from 53 countries arrived for a 10-day exposition at a huge stadium in Pune. When it was still Poona-with-an-‘h’, Iyengar began his centre here in 1938, years before ‘Bugwan’ Rajneesh, and a planet away from the Oshow-sha brand. Instead of the godman’s ‘instant nirvana’, Iyengar insisted on decades of sustained self-practice which alone can attain the ideal union of body, mind and soul. His was a dynamic head-to-metatarsals meditation, not just pranayam in padmasana. He fine-tuned ancient yogic wisdom with a minute understanding of his own once-sickly anatomy. The uninitiated scoff at the props he painstakingly developed, but they actually help achieve the perfect asana – and correct physical, neurological and mental conditions, notably Parkinson’s and substance abuse.
Why do i blush as i expound on all this with such authority? Because, shamefully i’m not a true practitioner even though i’ve been attending Iyengar yoga classes since 1994, when a strapping young man with the right yogic look but the distinctly non-yogic name of Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh walked into my office and persuaded me to start. Mea culpa, i’ve miserably failed in the ‘self-practice’ which is as centrally aligned to the Iyengar school as the basic tadasana is to all yoga.
Still, it hasn’t been a dead loss. My inner parts are no longer as uncoordinated as my NGO friends’ attire, and i have come fairly close to correct breathing instead of only metaphorically waiting to exhale. Collateral advantage has been even greater. In Zubin’s classes, i acquired a working relationship with muscles i didn’t know existed, and, more recently, from Birjoo Sir’s analogies i’ve learnt about an eclectic range from Einstein’s relativity to epistemic bubbles.
In practice i may have failed, but, hey, i score in practical application. See, i can achieve a seamless union of asanas and this week’s headlines. Gaumukhasana for the flared-up cow issue, dhanurasana for Ram mandir, and any of yogic backbends for the poses our netas strike for electoral bliss.
Alec Smart said: “December 6 reminds us that mandir triumphs over mundane urgencies.”