An evening with a legendary Yoga Guru Dr B K S Iyenger

Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar popularly known as Yogacharya B. K. S. Iyengar visited Bangalore recently. He founded the world popular - Iyenger Yoga. He is Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, amongst the Times list of world's 100 most influential people. At age of 90+, he is still upright, spirited, talked passionately about Yoga. He shared some useful tips and insights to Yoga practice. His memory is razor sharp and voice is as if he is just 45. He is very loving, fatherly, jovial, humorous and very humble-down to earth.

On Teacher’s Day, 5th Sept, in a function organized at R.V. Dental College, Bangalore, I had this opportunity to listen and learn from one of the best Yoga Gurus. He gave an excellent speech about 'Samadhi Pada' chapter from Patanjali Yoga Sutra. Here is the glimpse of the speech. Please note, this is not verbatim. I have tried my level best to reproduce the content as per my understanding and memory. Corrections, Suggestions and comments are welcome.

He delivered his speech with standing posture. His speech was scheduled at the end of the function. It was quite late and some people from audience had left. He politely conveyed sorry and he skipped some of the points due to lack of time. He talked in English for the benefits of foreigners. He also acknowledged and appreciated that the foreigners had listened and ‘tolerated’ so far to us, as our programme was in regional Kannada language.

Patanjali Yoga Sutras are divided into 4 chapters or books (Sanskrit pada), containing in all 196 aphorisms.

  1. Samadhi Pada (51 sutras)
  2. Sadhana Pada (55 sutras) – means to achieve Yoga
  3. Vibhuti Pada (56 sutras) – the power that the yogi comes across in his quest
  4. Kaivalya Pada (34 sutras) – the absolution

"Yogaś chitta-vritti-nirodha
- Yoga is the restraint of mental modifications. Chitta (the mind) is like ocean. It is deep, steady and silent. However on the surface it has waves. The mind is attached with the gross body with five senses. These senses are outer side. So chitta has mental modifications or distortions. We need to direct these senses towards inside. There is something inside us, that is so powerful, wonderful - our consciousness, our spirit, Atma.” (Footnote 1)

"As per Patanajali, the mind has five types of distortions/modifications which create pleasure or pain. PRAMAN (proof), VIPARYAY (wrong logic), VIKLPA (Imagining), NINDRA (sleep) and SMIRTI (memory). However, I would like to say memory is not separate. It is combination of all the above four. Patanjali is suggesting two methods to overcome these distortions - ABHYASA and VAIRAGYA. ABHYASA is constant and determined practice. The practice of long duration, uninterrupted, with full love and devotion is essential for strong foundation. This will make the mind calm and tranquil.” (Footnote 2)

Dr. Iyengar continued, “VAIRAGYA is non-attachment or freedom from desires. VAIRAGYA is not renunciation. Many times VAIRAGYA is wrongly interpreted as renunciation. These two methods are like support. Just now you saw how Arunji demonstrated Yogasana with support of chair. Same way with this two supports we can overcome five (or four) modifications/distortions of mind.

ABHYASA also means awareness. Awareness about our body, breath. When you read KAN (atom) in ancient Pantanjali Yoga Sutra text, it is in fact cell, not atom. Are we aware that our body is made up of many cells? This awareness about each cell is knowledge. It is energy. Our body's each cell has energy, awareness and knowledge.

Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (the feeling of individuality which limits a person and distinguishes him from a group), Raga (attachment or passion), Dvesa (aversion) and Abhinivesa (the instinctive clinging to worldly life) (Footnote 3) are the causes which create Klesa - pain.

He explained different distractions and obstacles which hinder the aspirant’s practice of Yoga. These are Vyadhi (sickness), Styana (languor), Samsaya (doubt), Pramada ( insensibility), Alasya (laziness), Avirati (sensuality), Bhranti Darsana (illusion), Alabdha Bhumikatva (failure to concentrante) and Anavasthitattva (instability)

Along with this he also explained fourfold remedies that Patanjali has offered to overcome the obstacles. These are Maitri (friendliness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (delight), Upeksa (disregard). He explained this with very simple example - “In this journey of spiritual path, you may face some obstacles, for example, your body may feel pain at the beginning when you start practicing Yogasana. Some people may get stuck at this body aspect of Yoga. You need to find out whether this pain can be overcome by practice or not. If yes, you continue to practice. If no, you need to be indifferent to it. Be aware about that pain, accept that pain and raise yourself above it. This Maitri and Upeksa will lead you to happiness. Be Happy. Remain happy. Yoga is not about merely theory for the scholar people. It is about practice, consistent practice. Some intellect people may get stuck at the logic, theory. You need to go beyond that also.”

He continued with few more warnings for all Sadhakas (seekers) about such obstacles. “Prior to applying these two tools namely Abhyasa and Vairagya, we need devotion, faith in God (Ishwara Pranidhana). It is the first step for spiritual journey. Thus Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, looks like it talks about knowledge (GYAN YOGA). However it covers all the Yoga - Devotion (BHAKTI YOGA), Action (KARMA YOGA), and RAJ YOGA.” He also mentioned about different types of SAMAADHIs and he explained all of them.

Dr. B.K.S. Iyengar talked about Guru (the master). "Yes we all have Guru Parmpara (Guru, then Guru's Guru, Guru's Guru's Guru and so on). When we track it backwards, the first Guru is nothing but sound of OM. OMKARA, PRANAV sound. A+OO+M. Even Patanjali says, ’I am that first Guru and I am the God’...."

Then he explains the three aspects. "OM means A, OO and M. Breath has three aspects. Breath inhale (POORAK), hold it (KUMBHAK) and breath out/exhale (RECHAK). If you just breathe in and in and in then hold. It will not work. You need to breathe out as well. Same way, ASANA (postures) have three stages. Enter into the ASANA (posture), stay there and exit that ASANA (posture)." I first time heard this commonality between AUM, PRANAYAMA (breathing exercise) and ASANA.

"In fact, we need to regroup some of the SLOKAs (SUTRAs) in Patanjali Yoga Sutra, for the benefits of novices. For example:

Maitri, Karuna, Muditopekshaanaam....

Here Maharshi Patanjali talks about four attitudes: Friendship, mercy (compassion), gladness, indifference and then he talks about Pranayama (breathing exercise). Here also Patanajali is talking about eight limbs of Astang Yoga only. Here Maitri Friendship, Karuna Compassion etc are corresponding to Yama and Niyama limbs of Astang Yoga. And remaining limbs follows in the same sutra.....

He suggested some sequence, about what portion (how many sutras) from which chapter one should read and after that other sutras from other chapter and so that it will make more sense. "I am working on a book about Patanjali Yoga Sutra. There I have regrouped some sutras or content." Later on I found on Wikipedia, that he has written one book : Iyengar, B.K.S. (1993, 2002). Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. Hammersmith, London, UK: Thorsons. ISBN 978-0-00-714516-4

He remembered his Guru. Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya "On those days, Yoga was not popular. So they faced a difficult time and financial trouble. Today, I am proud of myself that I have made Yoga as means to earn livelihood for many people."

He concluded that "the complete programme consists of three BHRAMAs. First was classical music that was SHABDA BHRMA, second this knowledge session - GYAN BHRMA. Next you all are welcome for dinner. It is ANNA BHRMA"

Now let me provide some context about the event. It was silver jubilee function of Prashant Yogashraya, Bangalore. Dr B K S Iyenger had specially come from Pune to bless the occasion. The institute invited all the students and alumni from across the globe. This function was open to public and I am thankful to Dr. Sejal Shah for informing me about it and inviting for it. She is a Yoga teacher. The programme began at 5:30pm with wonderful classical-instrumental music. Yoga teacher Arunji, Director, Prashant Yogashraya gave superb demonstration of different Yogasana sequence (postures) in standing position with props like chairs, blankets and belt. Doing asana with the support of different props and in certain sequence are the unique features of Iyenger Yoga. Arunji informed that,
"We can perform about 80 Yogasana (postures) with such supports. Supports make it easy and still we get benefits of those Asanas." He is very popular among the students may be due to his sense of humor. We saw journey of 25 years of Prashant Yogashraya, with a short video clip. We saw many testimonials including Mr. Nandan Nilekani and his wife, Mrs Rohini Nilekani. Everyone wished all the best for Prashannt Yogashraya. We all welcomed Dr. B K S Iyengar with candles. Ms. Shreya as an anchor naturally announced all formalities.
Mrs Srimatha Arun (Co-founder, Prashant Yogashraya) gave a very touching vote of thanks.

Later on, Dr. Sejal informed me some key takeaway points from previous session. Again this is not verbatim. On 4th Sept, Dr. B.K.S. Iyengar inaugurated Yoga Nikaya. Shri Mouli Raman (Co-founder and CTO, OnMobile Global Ltd.) - a student of Arun Sir - built this beautiful and sacred place - YOGA NIKAYA to promote Yoga and health. Dr. B.K.S Iyenger while inaugurating Yoga Nikaya, emphasized and appealed to all the people to make use of this place to its full potential. This place is at Hosur, boundary of Bangalore, inside Tamilnadu boarder. While explaining in brief Yama and Niyama, he said “Yama is known God of death. If one does not follow the five Yamas as told by Patanjali, then it is equalizing to death. OR in other words, if we follow Yamas, then we can keep the death away. There is a difference between faith and belief. For example, you believe that Yoga is good for my health. However it is the faith that will lead you for persistent practice.

Dr. Iyengar delivered another lecture at Prashant Yogashraya. He stressed on being very watchful while performing Yogasana. “Yogasana is not just physical exercise similar to work out at gym. One should not perform Yogasana mechanically. You need to be watchful, attentive and alert when doing asana. Be aware and involved. Your awareness should pervade in your entire body including tips of your fingers and toes. This will help you to correct yourself if you observe that you are doing something wrong. This correction is very important. Make sure, your left and right hands are aligned when you raise them both. Make sure, all center points of body remains in one line. You should be actively working on your muscles. Observe your body and keep doing self correction, by paying attention. This it self is meditation. Be as perfect, graceful and steady as possible. Yes, flexibility of body and physical perfection for Yogasana is important. However more important is the state of your mind, Meditative mind. Your flexibility might be excellent but if your mind is not attentive, you are merely doing some physical exercise, not Yoga. With this kind of meditative practice once you achieve sufficient mastery over asanas, and then prefer to move to next stage of Pranayama and Dhyana. If you just do pranayama or dhyana and not do asanas, it won’t help you much and may harm also. Pranayama generates the energy, while asanas distributes it in the entire body. Avoid rushing to higher stage without preparing your body for it. Prepare your body and mind with Asanas, Yama, Niyama first..” He requested Arun sir to perform Shirsasna and then he asked him to do some corrections to demonstrate what meditative Shirsasna is.

I wish that all readers and the yoga sadhakas find this article useful. I have given some hyperlinks for the benefit of more interested readers. Also look at the left side bar, at the top. I have put slideshow of this event and Dr. B.K.S. Iyneger images.

Footnote 1: This reminds me, Sri Sri Ravishankar’s statement from his commentary on Patanjali Yoga Sutra. “You become object of your perception”

Footnote 2: Yes, I can recall, Sri Sri Ravishankar told this point in very convincing way in his commentary on Patanjali Yoga Sutra VCDs. “Even we need regular exercise, practice to build our body at gym for several months/years. So our mind needs regular practice for even longer duration. We can not achieve mind control, over night.”

Footnote 3: Yes, I can recall, Sri Sri Ravishankar explained this word ABHINIVESAAtma does not loose his/her(?) body accidentally. in unique way. It is like… little fear. So that any Atma does not loose his/her body accidentally.

Global GSM Connections

Yes, Since long I was planning to write about my Google Gadgets. Today, I will introduce a simple gadget to you. "Global GSM Connections"

The GSMA represents the interests of the worldwide mobile communications industry. Spanning 219 countries, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators, as well as more than 200 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset makers, software companies, equipment providers, Internet companies, and media and entertainment organisations. The GSMA is focused on innovating, incubating and creating new opportunities for its membership, all with the end goal of driving the growth of the mobile communications industry. (Source :

I saw dynamically changing numbers about global GSM subscribers at right bottom corner of GSMA website : I dig further and located client side script, that updates this number. I reused that script in my new Google gadget and it is ready. Look at the first gadget at your left side bar.

You can all add this gadget by inserting this code in your HTML page.
You can add this gadget to your iGoogle page, Google Desktop and Windows Vista sidebar.

Click here for source code. The logic is straight forward. GSMA has forcasted at the end of this quarter, how much GSM subscribers will be there. So one can determine the rate, per second how many subscribers should be added to achieve this target. We know at the beginning of this quarter (1st Sept, 2009) how many subscriber were there. So with linear formula, we can determine, at present, how many GSM subscriber should be there. Simple. As GSMA mentioned "This number is indicative only, estimated from market data collected by Wireless Intelligence. It is not a precise figure, nor usable for legal purposes."

Have a look to some of my other Google gadgets: Click here

I may write something more about my journey to develop useful, interesting, popular Google gadget. Are you interested to know?