The main reason why I’m here in Mysore is to follow the traces of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, the father of modern yoga, the root of what we all know as (ashtanga) vinyasa yoga.
He spent in Mysore two decades and trained great masters like B.K.S. Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
After having experimented with many western versions of vinyasa yoga, I was incredibly attracted by the idea of exploring more about this dynamic, solar practice in its birthplace, at the source, without frills.
As Sri T. Krishnamacharya left his body in 1989, Pattabhi Jois in 2009 and B.K.S. Iyengar in 2014, I started searching for more close disciples, and I stumbled upon Sri B.N.S. Iyengar. I didn’t know anything about him, as he is not as famous as his two celebrated colleagues and now I regret I haven’t found out about him before!
Guruji B.N.S. Iyengar is the last direct Krishnamacharya’s disciple, he is 91 and still crunchy, brilliant, actively teaching daily asana, pranayama, mudra and philosophy classes here in Mysore.
It has been quite difficult to catch him for a course, though. He has a busy, changeable schedule that he changes quite spontaneously depending on the students and requires at least one-month commitment for all his courses. I have been kept in a sort of limbo for a couple of weeks, without knowing whether there was a course starting in the days I was in Mysore. This feeling is quite common in India, but then magically all things go in place!
So, I was happy like a little girl when his assistant wrote to me to communicate that he was starting a yoga mudra course and that I could join. He teaches in his own shala, the Mysore Krishnamacharr Yoga Shala and at Mandira Ashtanga Yoga Shala, where I followed his yoga mudra course.
Overexcited, the first day of the course, I arrived early and saw this cute old building, like a precious jewel box, surrounded by a garden. The wooden door was closed. I sat down under the porch and waited, daydreaming about seeing Guruji arriving through the main gate, dressed in white.
Other people came, we said hi and then remained each in his space, possibly thinking about the same scene of Guruji approaching.
Suddenly we heard the little wooden door opening.
I turned around, and behind the mosquito net, I saw, in the shadow, the shape of a little man, eyeglasses, dressed in white. OMG, it was him!
I was sitting on a plastic chair right next to the door and didn’t expect at all that he would have popped out from behind and stand so close to me…
He thundered, while I got goosebumps . . . Sri B.N.S. Iyengar had finally materialized and was shouting at us!
I had later the chance to get familiar with his warm, solar, famous temperament. He is one of those persons that you either love or hate immediately. For me, it has been immediate love, empathy, admiration! He is not a simple teacher; he is an old-school master to listen carefully to, without half measures, savoring every second of his lessons.
We went in, sat down in Padmasana on cushions.
It was a little room before the central yoga shala, and I felt like in a time machine. Ancient wooden ceiling, terracotta floor tiles, old portraits of various divinities and Krishna piled up in a corner.
It’s 1 pm.
Tweets of unknown birds outside, mooings of holy cows nearby, omnipresent hooting far away.
He sat down, closed his eyes, hands in Anjali Mudra, and started chanting:
asato mā sadgamaya
tamasomā jyotir gamaya
Om śhānti śhānti śhāntiḥ
From ignorance, lead me to truth
From darkness, lead me to light
From death, lead me to immortality
Om peace, peace, peace
No other mantra could have been more perfect than this one, as it describes precisely the content of his course.
He continued: what is Mudra?
Nobody dared to answer. Fortunately, I add, as none of us could have answered right before taking this course.
Smiling, he proudly and energetically answered his own question, in front of our petrified faces:
Mudra is about the man becoming God
Yes, dear Guruji, I understand…. I understand that I’m living a piece of history! And I know that you are giving me a golden, precious key I’ll keep forever in the safest place.
I cannot describe the feeling of sitting in front of such legend, a direct disciple of Krishnamacharya, a man who is teaching us the same subjects in the same way he learned from him, directly.
His teachings cannot be found in any book, as they are handed down from master to disciple.
I would recommend one of his courses to anyone willing to dive deeper into yoga and to understand the connection among asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, mythology, meditation. Guruji will allow you to close the circle and to get access to ancient, powerful practices.
He could have taught us hands mudras. He didn’t.
Those you can find in any book, he said.
He taught us 15 total-body mudras instead, where asana, pranayama, and bandhas dance together and build up the mudra itself.
He called them divine practices.
This man literally blew me away.
This little, powerful, wise man is leading me to look for the truth within me, to elevate myself towards the light of knowledge and to work with prana on a much deeper level.
What a precious seed you planted, forever grateful to have met you, Guruji B.N.S. Iyengar.