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10 Life Lessons I Learned From B.K.S. Iyengar

Claudia Altucher
August 21, 2014
August 21, 2014

B.K.S. lyengar has passed away, and it's sad to see someone we grew up with as a yoga teacher of teachers, pass.

I want to remember him with 10 things I learned directly from him, which for some reason stick in my imagination and never leave me.

Whether I learned them from books or from hearing them from a YouTube video, he had this magic as he spoke where his words resonated.

1. Forget the gatekeepers, but respect tradition.

When Iyengar asked his teacher (none other than Krishnamacharya) to teach him pranayama (the fourth limb of yoga where we learn to extend, control, and retain the breath), guess what happened?

He said said "NO" to him because Iyengar was too sick and not ready.

Did Iyengar give up? No way! He spied on him, used mirroring-neurons techniques to study and see how he should practice by copying what the teacher did. Then he studied by himself. Nothing stops us when we want to learn. There is ALWAYS a way.

Some might say he did not respect tradition. But he looked at ancient sources, he observed his teacher, and he did the best he could. And millions learned from it, including me.

2. Take five minutes of rest for every half-hour of practice.

Don't forget that the word "practice" implies there are periods when you use what you've practiced. Iyengar had great balance between practice and life.

If we do not take time to restore the nervous system after practice, then we run the risk of being agitated, or jittered. It's not worth it.

3. Commit to years of constant practice to go deeper into yoga.

He said once that although his book Light on Yoga was a three-year course on yoga, he could also have written it was a 10-year course on yoga.

It's not about speed or achievement. It's about yoga.

4. Appreciate precision.

When teaching, precision and determination, proof of what works, are what counts ... and when he is showing the practice, then it's art in movement and art in stillness.

Practice leads to skill, which leads to minute appreciation of the subtleties of how yoga interweaves with body and spirit. This is the art of yoga.

5. Learn to be like a lion.

Iyengar was known as "The Lion." He was very strict in classes because he wanted people to be disciplined and to respect the form of the practice.

Every time I remember him while I am on the mat I tend to try a pose again, or do it with more intention, or stay in it longer. Always go a tiny bit deeper each time, not just in yoga, but in everything in life.

6. Change with the times.

It's our responsibility to keep going deeper with the practice of yoga, finding the balance between what we learn and what we "download" from divine intelligence as we practice.

To believe that yoga needs to be static and never change is simply untrue. It's not real. Everything changes.

7. On your birthday, do as many backbends as your age.

Iyengar adhered to this tradition, but I haven't been able to do this. Maybe my back is not there yet. Maybe I'm different.

But I admire him for this, for challenging himself to keep his back young. This is how he played. This is how you live to age 95.

8. Try to withdraw the senses, even though it's difficult.

I try appreciate nature with my whole body and mind and not just my brain that likes to name things. It is not easy. Not naming things and rather BEING with them is quite the challenge. I think I'll try that today.

9. Glean energy from yoga for every area of life.

For Iyengar, yoga wasn't limited to the mat. He lectured, he traveled, he wrote, every day until his death.

Whatever you're interested in, whatever you do that can change the world, let it infiltrate every area of your life until you breathe and live it. That is what Iyengar did for yoga. That's what I hope to do in the areas of my life I am passionate about.

10. Don't be afraid to die.

That comes from Light on Life, one of his latest books:

"The yogi steps toward death fearlessly like a soldier who would be ashamed to cling to life, and like a saint because he is already part of the Oneness that he has recognized as the Supreme Reality."

We are afraid to die because we are afraid we have not lived ...

We must live!

Claudia Altucher author page.
Claudia Altucher

Claudia Azula Altucher is a teacher of yoga and spirituality. She is the author of two books including, "The Power of No." Follow her on Twitter.