In every community — whether fitness, literature, food or sports — a figurehead and esteemed leader emerges. Among those who practice yoga, one such person is Sri BNS Iyengar, hailing from India, the country in which yoga originated in ancient days.
“I had no intention of becoming a teacher,” lyengar said with a smile.
Even so, he caught the eye of renowned yogis at the age of 13, and the young guru was taken under their wings to begin his study.
By 1951, he began teaching classes of his own after graduation and completion of his certification through Mysore University. In 1984, Iyengar started his own school, Mysore Krishanamachar Yoga Research Institute.
“I [have been] practicing for 60 years,” he said during a recent interview in Norman.
And for the first time in his 86 years, Iyengar is now in the United States to offer an intensive, month-long educational workshop.
The yoga community here is growing, and studios have opened up to accommodate the interest. To land such a big-name teacher is rare, and that is largely credited to Andrew Eppler, yoga teacher and owner of Ashtanga Yoga Studio.
“We’ve been working on this for nearly two years,” said Eppler (now in his 40s), who has practiced yoga for 27 years. He has studied with Iyengar for 18 years.
“Our yoga community here in Oklahoma is evolving,” Eppler said. “Sri Iyengar is the most senior of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga in the world. It’s an incredible honor to have him teach, and his perspective and methods will help our yoga community flourish.”
Globally and locally, Iyengar agrees that “the whole world is attracted.”
While here, Iyengar will hold workshops on asanas (yoga exercises), mudra (used to direct energy within the body), pranayama (breath retention) and yogic philosophies.
“Asana is first. Strengthen your vessel (body),” said Iyengar. “It can lead to salvation.”
The workshops are open to yogis of all levels, as well as those who might have interest in a spiritual experience or want to learn about new philosophies.
“We guide [students] to make their paths, which is the best part,” said Kanchen Mala, Iyengar’s assistant. “The searching of the heart is endless. It’s like a study of oceans. This lifetime is not enough.”
Yoga can be inspiring for some, while others might view it as a passing fad or “easy” workout.
It has a nearly untraceable lineage, back to the first human forms, and recent studies show a regular practice will create strength on a physical and mental level, as well as potentially reverse negative gene expressions.
For Iyengar, the most integral components to a successful yoga practice have nothing to do with a gym, and he wouldn’t say anything about yoga being easy.
“Sacrifice and dedication are the basis of a strong practice,” he said.