As many of you now know, the world lost an incredible force of nature and spirit over the weekend. Geeta Iyengar, daughter of BKS Iyengar and a world renowned yoga teacher in her own right, concluded the celebrations for her father’s 100th year and then passed peacefully away at home.
I was speechless…but not necessarily because of her death. I was pretty sure that my trip to India in October would be the last time I saw her, so I soaked her teachings up as I always do, not knowing when I might return to Pune. What made me speechless was that she seemed to know that this is exactly what would occur.
At our first gathering for the 2-week intensive in October I was brought to tears as she showed some knowledge of her own physical frailty. She mentioned that she had been “talking with Guruji”, asking him for guidance and strength to just see his 100th birthday. That is what she wanted, and she did exactly that.
1300 people from 57 countries around the world were blessed by her presence and her teaching for days before her passing. As in October, I am sure that even from her seat in a chair on stage, she filled the room with dynamic energy and life through her teaching.
Geeta Iyengar preferred to direct attention always to her father’s legacy, but all of her students know that she herself held her own power and knowledge and flame for Iyengar Yoga. Her mastery of sequencing, her eagle eyes that could find any needed correction even in a room full of thousands, and her demanding presence that moved your own ego out of the way, gave students freedom to move boundaries they placed on themselves and challenged your habits and stubbornness on mental and physical levels.
In Yoga, A Gem for Women, Geeta wrote the first treatise on yoga for women, empowering them with knowledge of their body and encouraging respect and acknowledgment of every cycle and stage through life. We forget that this practice of yoga was a male practice as a tradition in the East, so Geeta Iyengar was one of very few women to teach classes and write about yoga practice specifically pertaining to women. She helped women regulate their menstrual cycles, helped women become physically healthy for pregnancy and gave ways to practice throughout pregnancy that were safe and effective. She acknowledged the changes through menopause, and like her father was a master at therapeutics in yoga, running the medical classes at the institute up until her death.
What I will miss most of Geeta is her laugh and sense of humor. Amidst her relentless and unwavering expectation of us to catch EVERYTHING, there was always a glint in her eye and a joke just around the corner.
She could definitely leave you wondering if you were doing anything right, but I am glad that the following video from the Centenary celebrations was shared. Someone asked “Do you Love Us?” and her answer was quick : “I definitely love you!!!” and then there was a pause….and a follow up with her giggle “but my love is not of that type.” It can be hard to understand her in this clip, but she goes on to say that her love is endless for those who come to her to learn yoga. Her anger comes when there is only half-mindedness in practice and in yoga. Her hope is that we catch ALL OF YOGA.
So, also as her father wished that his end was our beginning, the best thing we can do in light of Geeta’s passing is to practice whole-heartedly. Remember her voice, her sharpness, her lifelong effort to share yoga.
I am grateful that I was able to be a student of hers in this life, even so briefly. As someone somewhere so aptly said, she will be the voice of conscience in our practice.
Thank you to all who came together to celebrate BKS Iyengar over the weekend, ending with such a wonderful celebration of life for Geeta Iyengar as well.
Keep practicing and experience the WHOLE of YOGA !!!