Today Is His Birthday

B.K.S. Iyengar was born on December 14th. Today he turns 95.For those who aren't familiar with this yoga master, his 1966 book Light on Yoga was the first rigorous tome on the practice of yoga asana. Many scholars say it's publication launched the modern Hatha yoga movement that we know and (mostly) love today.

As Rodney Yee told me: "Did Einstein affect the entire world of physics? Without question.Iyengar is the Einstein of yoga in our century and he will continue to influence yogis for hundreds of years to come."

Perhaps Iyengar's biggest impact has been on therapeutic yoga. Scores of research exploring the  benefits of yoga for those with with HIV, cancer, arthritis, back pain, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and more has been published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals. The inimitable Iyengar teacher Scott Hobbs, who opened the first Iyengar Yoga Institute in Los Angeles, said, "Iyengar's strength is that he's a genius when it comes to understanding the human body and he learned most of that experimenting on himself."

In his book Light on Life Iyengar recalls this self-exploration explaining that he was a sickly child plagued by typhoid, malaria, tuberculosis and didn't overcome these maladies until he went to study yoga with his brother-in-law Krishnamacharya."My poor health was matched, as it often is when one is sick, by my poor mood," he wrote.

I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Iyengar (also known as Guruji) for the Los Angeles Times in 2005. During this visit, his mood was not poor; acolytes literally kissed his feet and he seemed happy to impart his teachings. Yet, like the stern nature of Iyengar yoga, Guruji was not a gentle.He was powerful physically, intellectually and sharp-tongued, too.I also found him to be thoughtful and frank. He was a great interview - focused, clear - and the one nugget I remember most was his idea about the nature of good health and personal accountability:

"Health is a dynamic endeavor that requires tremendous intellectual attention. You can't walk into the pharmaceutical shop and buy health. It has to be earned with persistence and sweat."

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