This week, the international yoga community said goodbye to a beloved teacher, B.K.S. Iyengar, who died at 95. He is credited with bringing yoga to the Western world and making it accessible to every age and walk of life. To learn more about what makes Iyengar yoga so special to those who practice it, I spoke with Carrie Owerko, a teacher at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Greater New York. She was also a student of B.K.S. Iyengar, studying with him in India in February. Here’s an edited version of our conversation.
Q. Why was B.K.S. Iyengar such an important teacher?
B.K.S. Iyengar was really a pioneer. He was one of the people who brought yoga to the West and really made it popular because he made it approachable for anyone. He felt that yoga was for everybody. No matter what the challenges — physical challenges, mental challenges or age — he didn’t see any limitation.
I think one of his main contributions was making yoga accessible, but also the degree of attention he gave to the practices of asana, or postural yoga, and to pranayama, the breathing exercises, was immense. He was also an amazing communicator. He was constantly finding new ways to help his students increase their capacity to be aware of what was going on in their bodies and minds.
Iyengar is a lot of the yoga people experience in the United States. The teacher may not be teaching Iyengar, but that teacher has been influenced by Iyengar yoga in some way. Continue reading >>