Illuminated in the warm afternoon sun, the man responsible for sharing the light of yoga with probably more human beings than any other, radiantly sat before me. Entering his 95th year, B.K.S. Iyengar welcomed me in for a conversation at Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, his yoga school in Pune, India, named in his late wife's honor.
Guruji, as his students affectionately call him, listened briefly to my explanation for being there, this photographic exploration of yoga, and then launched into an articulate, studious and inspired lesson on yoga. He answered none of my questions and all of them. Quoting freely from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Guruji pointed out relevant passages, which I read aloud as the room slowly filled with students that gathered around me. It was a privilege to hear this brilliant man speak of the subject closest to his heart.
He commented on the Sutras with authority as I looked into his expressive eyes, explaining nuances of meaning. The essence of his message was that yoga is a progressive subject. First we must work with the concrete...and discipline the body and mind, through regular asana practice with awareness. "Asanas are to interpenetrate, not as physical exercise. Have I touched my mind? Have I touched my intelligence? Have I touched my ego? Have I touched my self? This is Sadhana", he told me. "So that is why I go deep, and that is why I enjoy it", he said with an assuring laugh. Then, and only then, will we be fit for the abstract, subtle work of yoga.
As our conversation progressed, he continued, "You know what yoga has given me, I can tell you. At the age of 95, I'm still a fresh mind. It's not a nagging mind. It's not a nagging body. That's enough for me. And, whether emancipation comes from that is immaterial...So I want everybody to have that fresh mind, that fresh way of thinking, freshness in them, moment to moment. And that is life. And to experience that fresh life, the methodology is only yoga."