The Dutch often claim that God lies in the details. Well, no one can accuse an Indian of looking for Him there so I’ll spare you the same, but honestly, if you’re ever in need of a dash of divinity, look up the details about the man in my story and go pay him a visit. You won’t be disappointed. I had seen his pictures and read his books, but he seemed different when I met him in the flesh. He seemed to have been hewn out of the rugged rocks of Vetal hill, now casting its lengthening shadow over the city of Pune. It was late afternoon, and since I seemed to have disrupted the man’s siesta, I sat across him with some trepidation. He wasn’t a big man, but his diminutive 90-year old frame seemed hard pressed to contain the colossus that breathed within; his voice rumbled deep inside him and hit me with the heat and force of a freshly ejected cannon ball. I’d been warned that he did not suffer fools – especially fools with press cards – gladly.
And why was I here? Well dear reader, like any self respecting gadfly with a pen, I was out risking life and limb to bring you the truth – the truth about miracles. And since yoga boasts of more miracles per century than any other art or science, I thought of meeting the man who the BBC described as the Michelangelo of yoga – Shri B.K.S. Iyengar. In the beginning, I was a little disappointed. When I asked the great yogi if he had acquired any siddhis, he responded with what a rather egotistic rant, “I have conquered the world”, he boomed, as the windows rattled “…but do you know how I was as a child?” he asked with a boyish smile that made his bushy eyebrows dance. I was beginning to like the man… “I was sickly and weak, I had tuberculosis and couldn’t attend school... the doctors said I didn’t have long to live…” and it was then that yoga found him and breathed health and strength into his dying body. Thus resuscitated, Iyengar surrendered himself to yoga and was perhaps singlehandedly responsible for the yoga revolution that is sweeping the world today. “From a dying child, I became a man who taught yoga to the world, isn’t that a miracle?” he asked. Yes, yes I wasn’t convinced either, and ‘Guruji’, as his disciples call him, must’ve noted my disappointment.
While the interview was in progress, he called out to young lady who walked past us. “You wanted a miracle? Well, here is one. Nivedita, tell them your story” Nivedita, a little bashful to begin with, began her story “I was bed-ridden for 15-years of my life. The doctors couldn’t tell me what was wrong with me, the tests couldn’t… I was told I’ll never walk again. My life was as good as over, until I met Guruji. After one look, he prescribed a set of asanas and soon enough I was able to sit, walk and run on my own. Today I’m in the best of health, and teaching yoga – a life that my doctors and I believed was impossible for me.” Just then, a blonde woman walked in to ask ‘Guruji’ something about a class that was in progress at the time.
“Ah, here’s another ‘miracle’!” exclaimed Guruji. “ Shai, tell them your story.” Sure enough, Shai, from Israel, revealed how she had an obstinate brain tumour that simply refused to respond to medication or surgery and how her life had become intolerable with constant nausea and headaches but once she started yoga with Iyengar, the pain and the nausea went away, she stopped taking her medication and even her doctors say that she should “keep doing yoga because nothing seems to work the way this does.” And so it went on… there was Raya, a reformed Indian delinquent, there was the charming Danish breast cancer patient, Ingellsen, an ever so sweet woman in her 60s who said “I’ve surrendered myself to Guruji, I owe my life to him… there is something divine about him.”
B.K.S. Iyengar may not have resurrected the dead (yet!), but he sure comes close. As I walked away, I was filled with a deep sense of regret, for not too long ago I had lost a relative who might have lived a longer, fuller life if I had had the sense to bring him here. If you share your life with a Nivedita or a Raya, go to that miracle worker on Hare Krishna Mandir street, because for you or yours, God might actually lie in that detail.
Heal the world
It’s been long overdue but the world is finally waking up to the health benefits of Yoga. This 5,000 year old spiritual practice continues to find new believers and converts, in search of inner enlightenment or a good old fashioned workout. Indian Yogis had forever been a source of wonderment and awe among the ‘cultured’ westerners, with their impossible feats of endurance and famed longevity. Nobody was sure how they did it till very recently, although yoga obviously had something to do with it. Now researchers from all over the world have started to find that a steady and diligent practice of various forms of Yoga–Iyengar, Ashtanga, Raja etc–has the ability to treat or lessen the symptoms of various ailments. Hypertension, asthma, cardiovascular ailments and even OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) are–just to name a few–diseases which have been successfully treated with Yoga. Not to mention the happy side-effects, improved flexibility, glowing skin, a well toned body and a peaceful demeanour. With so much going for Yoga, is it any wonder that this ancient practice continues to evolve?