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It was early afternoon at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India. I was studying in the library. Guruji was at his desk, as he was each day, writing and answering correspondence or students’ questions. One of the students had come prepared to show Guruji his portfolio, which included photographs of him practicing various asanas. Guruji reached for a straightedge ruler and observed each image using the ruler to demonstrate the alignment of each pose and specifically how parts of the body were relating to each other in balanced action. During this exchange, I listened as he generously examined each image and instructed this student in the refinement of his practice. Then he came upon a photo and said, “Look everything is aligned, only you didn’t know it.”
When I heard this, I immediately recognized the depth of Guruji’s passion for the subject of yoga. He wasn’t only looking at the shape of the outer form; he was seeing through the higher intention he held for each of his students. Iyengar is known for his scientific and methodical approach to the body, for his clarity in communication and instruction, for his ability to guide and support anyone in the practice of yoga despite physical, emotional or mental challenges; however, his intention for each student resides in their inner knowing. He demonstrated through his discipline, the constant pursuit of a state of true equanimity, which permeates all layers of the body. He has given students everywhere a method by which to practice this inward journey. And as I see it, his legacy continues with a profound inquiry, “Can you reach and know the depths of your own soul?”
Nikki Costello is a Certified Intermediate Junior Iyengar Yoga Teacher in New York and a Former YJ Columnist.