It is with hearts full of gratitude that we approach what would be BKS Iyengar’s 100th birthday on December 14, 2018. Through the end of the year, Adeline teachers will be reflecting on his legacy and impact on their lives and practice.
In 2005, Adeline teacher Ananda Ma took her seat in the middle of San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, which, that evening, was packed full. She was there for an event honoring BKS Iyengar, but to her surprise BKS was not seated in the front of the auditorium. He was sitting right behind her.
Ananda remembers the event vividly, the feeling of being so close to Guruji—“being in his presence, everything gets burned up in you, purified in you,” she said—but also the outpouring of heartfelt thanks for his work. In particular, she remembers a Buddhist priest lying fully prostrate and raising her palms in a gesture of deep gratitude.
While Ananda left the concert hall that night with her copy of Yoga for Life bearing BKS’s signature, it was four years before she fully engaged in what she calls “the deep practice” of Iyengar yoga. In 2009, she inquired about teacher training at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco. Thus began the most intense four and a half years of her life. Not only did Ananda complete Iyengar teacher training and go up for her Introductory I and II assessments, she also began acupuncture school.
Looking back on this time, Ananda remembers racing to senior teacher Manuso Manos’s classes in the evening, studying late into the night, then waking up at four o’clock in the morning to practice and study. She questioned whether she would make it through that time, but found inspiration in the first lines of the invocation to Patanjali in which we celebrate his giving us yoga, grammar, and medicine. She felt she was marrying the various callings that had been “planted in her since childhood.”
In describing the interplay of these two practices—Iyengar yoga and Chinese medicine—Ananda describes the process by which an olive goes from a hard, indigestible and bitter fruit to a sweet and nutritious delicacy. Olives are cured in brine: a combination of water and salt. Neither water nor salt can do the job alone. Similarly, these two practices have, together, been the ripening and awakening agents for Ananda’s own spirit.
In December 2014, Ananda traveled to Pune, India, to study at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute. Guruji had passed in August, but Ananda remembers how clearly one encountered his spirit in the practice hall. While at RIMYI, she also had the opportunity to study with Geeta, BKS’s daughter. In a hall with well over a thousand people, Ananda remembers how clearly Geeta saw every person in the room: “she was up on there on the podium, and her eyes were like lasers, she saw every little thing about you.” It was in this moment that Ananda truly recognized the power, capacity, and mastery of both Geeta and BKS.
She returned to to Pune in 2016 after Geeta had been quite ill: “She was in the medical class,” Ananda remembers, “and she was sitting there with the same fiery eyes, even in a very fragile body. Being in her presence, every bone in my body shook, and every pore in my skin woke up.”
In Pune, Ananda felt both held and taught. “Geeta was the one to really initiate me into the family,” she says. This dedication and connection to the heart of Iyengar yoga is what Ananda brings to the students in her classes and how she continues BKS’s legacy.
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Ananda Ma is a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher. She is also licensed by the State of California to practice both Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Dedicated to empowering her clients and community, her stellar offerings parallel her passion for optimal health, mindful movement, and holistic education. Visit Ananda online at anandamayoga.com. She teaches a Level 1 class on Sunday at 3:30 PM and will teach a special series, Staying Healthy During Winter, four Sundays in December beginning Sunday, December 2 at 5:30PM.