(8) The first classes

Fortunately for BKS Iyengar, his escape route from this perceived tyranny was at hand. In late 1936 the Maharajah of Mysore instructed Krishnamacharya to go to northern Karnataka to give a lecture and demonstration in yoga. Krishnamacharya took Iyengar with him. Some of the ladies in the audience were very impressed and wanted to learn something of yoga. But with the Indian modesty of the time, they were very unwilling to be taught by any of the older men. As the youngest in the group, the 18-year old Sundararaja was deputed, by Krishnamacharya, to instruct them. Thus begun Iyengar’s career as a teacher of yoga. In the mean time, he continued with his intense practice routine and his health continued to improve.

The fame of Krishnamacharya and his Yogashala had spread far and wide. In 1937, Dr. Gokhale, on behalf of members of the Deccan Gymkhana Club in Pune, Maharashtra State, wrote to Krishnamacharya asking him to send them a yoga teacher on a six-month contract. The Deccan Gymkhana being one of the oldest and most prestigious sports clubs in all of India, Krishnamacharya was thrilled to receive such an honour. Unfortunately, in spite of the importance of the offer, none of the Yogashala’s students was particularly keen to go. To begin with, they had all, except Iyengar, studied at the Mysore Sanskrit Patshala. So although fluent in Sanskrit as well as their native Kannada, none of them could speak either Marathi, the language of Pune and Maharashtra, or English. And since, although it was at that stage still poor, the young Sundararaja Iyengar spoke the best English, Krishnamacharya ordered him to go and fill the position. And with that, BKS Iyengar’s two-year apprenticeship with his Guru came to an end. He went to Pune to try his hand at being an independent teacher of yoga. Although, given the nature of the appointment, he went with some trepidation, he was also very relieved to be leaving. He would much prefer if he did not have to return.