Happy Birthday to B.K.S. Iyengar, the world’s most influential living yoga teacher, who turns 95 years young today!
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Iyengar in 2008 during a research for my masters thesis while traveling around India. Meeting in his library, I was surprised to find him jovial, kind and accommodating, as Iyengar has a bit of reputation for being fierce.
The interview was about the changing role of yoga teachers in the past 100 years, specifically about the commercialization of yoga.
Speaking about when he first started teaching to a western audience in the 1950s and 1960s, Iyengar charged 10 pence for a classes in London, and when the cost of living went up in the 1980s he increased his fees from 10 pence to one pound.
Today classes at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune (named after his late wife) cost 150 rupees (roughly $4 Canadian).
Iyengar did not mention how he could have patented and sold all the props he developed.
He could have franchised Iyengar yoga and with licensing fees like Bikram Yoga. This would have made him all kinds of rich: stupid, crazy, fleet of Rolls-Royce rich (like Bikram). But he didn’t; he does not teach for money.
“I wanted each and every one to know what it (yoga) contains, what nectar it gives in the elixir of life, so I simply started teaching and said ‘please enjoy,’” Iyengar explained.
When I asked him why he doesn’t attempt to use his influence to minimize the encroachment of commercial interests in yoga traditions, Iyengar responded that:
“Give more than you receive. That is the principle I tell all my students. I don’t want them to be like me. Struggling to make a living. I don’t want that life. Why should my people be so downtrodden? I say charge for your classes. Enjoy life. But be honest! Give more than what you take.”
Below is one of my favorite interviews with Mr. Iyengar. His humor, ease, intensity and illumination all shine through so clearly.
May we have many more years of similar interviews from this modern yoga master!
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Assistant Editor: Jes Wright / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo Credit: Colin Hall