‘B.K.S. Iyengar broke the myth that yoga is for the elite’

Tributes to the legendary Guru poured in from diverse quarters

August 21, 2014 03:21 am | Updated November 16, 2021 05:42 pm IST - CHENNAI:

Known to be an innovator in teaching and practising of yoga without diluting the tradition, tributes to the legendary Guru, B K S Iyengar, poured in from diverse quarters – from prison managers to common yoga practitioners – as the news of his death reached here on Wednesday.

If yoga is now taught in schools, colleges and even in prisons, it is partly due to the popular legitimacy that great teachers like Iyengar won for it globally as a mode of keeping the body and mind fit.

In Tamil Nadu, yoga has been introduced in medical colleges and prisons, too. Former Director-General of Police (DGP) R. Nataraj who headed the department, and Additional DGP (Prisons) J.K. Tripathy say yoga and meditation wrought considerable change in the minds of prisoners and has helped to rescue first-time offenders from a life of crime.

Mr. Nataraj recalled that at one time 67 per cent of the prisoners were on the wrong side of the law. The department introduced psychological and psychiatric counselling. But, yoga and meditation transformed the behaviour pattern among inmates.

Iyengar’s response was immediate and spontaneous when he was approached for the purpose. He was instrumental in taking yoga to the prison inmates, who were otherwise ostracised by society. Yoga helped many prisoners to look inward, realise themselves and overcome the feeling of revenge, said Mr. Nataraj adding that “Iyengar broke the myth that yoga is for the elite.”

The yoga Guru deputed his assistants in good numbers to various prisons in the State. Their efforts benefited several thousand prison inmates over a period of time, he said.

“Iyengar carried forward the ancient knowledge and spread it world over,” says R. Andiappan of Asana Andiappan College of Yoga and Research Centre. “He focused on difficult ‘asanas’ that won him a following across the world. My teacher Bangalore Sundaram, who was his relative, did not practice such tough ‘asanas.’ But his followers in the West took him more seriously and set up centres.”

S. Gayathri, who received a diploma four years ago from BKS Iyengar after graduating from the ‘Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram,’ was impressed with his agility. “He walked up the four flights of stairs to the auditorium but we took the lift. Despite such exertion, his breathing was not laboured. He could talk even as he walked to the venue.” She remembers that in his convocation address he told the new practitioners not to pursue students: “Do not go after students. When you do yoga perfectly you will get students.”

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