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December 2018 - Celebration and Loss

Dear Yoga Friends,

By now you have likely heard the news of Gita Iyengar's passing, significantly just two days after her father B.K.S. Iyengar's 100th birthday. In the past days she was fully engaged in the centennial teachings and celebrations in Pune, seeing this through with her characteristic insight and leadership. The Iyengar yoga community, the Iyengar family, and those close to the Iyengars all mourn this huge loss. The extent of Gita Iyengar's impact on Iyengar yoga cannot be measured. Teachers worldwide who have studied with her have woven her teaching into their teachings, resulting in a much richer fabric of Iyengar yoga. Although her death comes as a shock, it has created an important opportunity to express gratitude for what we have received from the Iyengars, and to renew our commitments to our personal sadhana.

It is fitting that December is the birth month of both B.K.S. Iyengar and Gita Iyengar. Like the solstice holidays, our celebration of the Iyengar's contributions and their influence on our personal lives brings light during darker days. The "Light on" books authored by B.K.S. Iyengar derive their titles from the oldest surviving treatise on hatha yoga, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The sanskrit word pradipika means light, or to illuminate.

The article 100 years of B.K.S. Iyengar by Sanjukta Sharma provides an Indian journalist's interesting perspective of B.K.S. Iyengar and his contributions. This article came out a couple days ago on B.K.S. Iyengar's centennial birthday, and a couple days prior to Gita Iyengar's passing. These first and last paragraphs stood out for me:

The Iyengar Yoga community in India isn't exactly populist. It values rigor and purity over ubiquitous brand presence. It is a brand in the most non-brand way. That's exactly how founder B.K.S. Iyengar spread it. Commerce and marketing are unnecessary—even harmful—words in this staunch, demanding community of yogis known to correct body alignments in ways that have far-reaching effects on the mind and soul.

His work, taken together, is a compelling argument about the need to achieve a higher form of selfhood and equipoise. He taught his students not to disengage from the world, but engage with it in new ways, without the ego. A perfect asana is bereft of ego, he said. In these times of divisiveness, and frenetic, unfocused activity or citta-vrtti, B.K.S. Iyengar is a radically sane voice for union and peace. And for Iyengar Yoga to thrive, and for more Indians to benefit from it, simply worshipping the prescient guru isn't enough.

In addition to their other wonderful purposes, our solstice holiday lights can honor B.K.S. Iyengar and Gita Iyengar and remind us and inspire us to persevere.

Namaste & Happy Holidays,



Chad Balch