(6) First steps in yoga

The young BKS Iyengar had spent most of his childhood in bed recovering from one bout of sickness after another. He was understandably extremely weak and stiff. When he bent down in a despairing effort to touch his toes, his hands would barely reach down as far as his knees. His body did not take well to the physical activity imposed upon it by the new regimen of asana practice prescribed by his recently acquired Guru. Iyengar worked hard but his body just did not seem to respond. Krishnamacharya was stern and demanding—a perfectionist and a taskmaster. He would force Iyengar to have classes at least twice a day, and sometimes more. Iyengar recalls suffering severe aches and pains and intense fatigue, but his diligence was unrelenting. Iyengar was not developing much of a love for yoga. Another problem was that outside of the asana classes, Krishnamacharya paid virtually no attention to him.

The plan to study at Mysore High School having fallen through, Iyengar’s life was far from enjoyable and he spent his time in between asana sessions doing such things as watering the plants and undertaking other menial tasks. About the only relief he had was a friendship he formed with his roommate, Keshavamurthy, who also happened to be Krishnamacharya’s favourite pupil and chosen protégé. Although Krishnamacharya continued to pay scant attention to Iyengar, Iyengar himself noticed that the magic of yoga was beginning to take hold. His health was slowly but surely improving.