B.K.S. Iyengar, the legendary yoga guru who overcame debilitating illnesses in his formative years and built a global following that included violin maestro Yehudi Menuhin, died in Pune on Wednesday. He was 95.
Nivedita Joshi, the daughter of veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, was incapacitated by slipped disc problems for almost 12 years before she met Iyengar. In an account to Ananya Sengupta, Nivedita Joshi recalls how the guru changed her life.
When I went to meet him in 1996, he took one look at me in my lumbar belt and neck brace and diagnosed my condition.
That was B.K.S. Iyengar — the man, the legend, the healer. He was my father, grandfather, sister, brother and guru.
He changed the course of my life in seven years. I am indebted to him not just for this life, but for each breath that I take today.
I was just 15 years old when I began suffering from slipped disc. In 1996, I was appearing for my master’s exams in microbiology and by this time I was totally immobile. Doctors advised a hip operation but I was not convinced.
Then Sir came into my life.
When I met him, he had given up teaching but he took up my case as a challenge. I credit my entire recovery to Sir — my only contribution was that I followed his instructions to the T.
I had suffered for 12 years and the first time I saw some hope was when on the 12th day with Sir, he told me to do Adhomukh Vrikshasana — which required me to stand upside down on my hands. I looked at him like he was joking. But he wasn’t. At that time, I could barely even lift a newspaper and imagine what he wanted me to do!
When I hesitated, he yelled — “do it” — and I did.
I carried my body’s entire 70kg weight on my palms and held it for 30 seconds, without any help. For those 30 seconds, all my pain went away. That day I knew I would get better.
When I began, he would ask me to do the asana even if I was not able to stay in the pose. He would say, “Do the asana again. After some practice, you will be able to stay in the asana.”
His yoga taught me about life too — about beginnings, discomfort and adjustments. You learn to tolerate. If you do everything right, the result is fulfilment.
In fact, it was he who had suggested that I get married at the ripe old age of 39 years. He teased me about it.
Finally in 1999, I was walking fit. The pain went away miraculously by 2003.
I met him last in June this year. During my last conversation with him, when he was really ill just some days ago, he was still concerned about my welfare. He said — “Your lower spine has some problem. I have taught my granddaughter some asanas, go and learn them from her.”
I have always said that my life began 18 years ago when I met him. His death is the end of its most beautiful chapter.