Mr. Iyengar

August 21st, 2014 | Other Projects

I just heard that B.K.S. Iyengar died. Strangely, one of the things I’ve been doing over the past couple of weeks is making drawings of yoga poses. Here’s me working on one last Thursday.

I studied Iyengar yoga in the late 1980s and early 90s, and have kept up a minimal practice ever since. Several years ago I got out Mr. Iyengar’s book Light on Yoga, and started doing quick brush drawings based on the lovely black and white instructional photos of him in the book. It was very fun and freeing, and really loosened up my drawing. Now I have found my way back to a similar project. I started by doing giant life-size charcoal sketches of myself in various yoga poses. It’s an interesting challenge to draw on this large scale, without preparatory sketches, just trying to draw from my whole body the way the pose feels.

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I haven’t really thought this through intellectually…I guess it’s something to do with the body as a signifier, as a sort of unmediated vessel of meaning. But mainly I have just experienced a lot of joy doing these poses, and I feel grateful to Iyengar for his carefully codified teaching methods. I’ve tried other kinds of yoga, but nothing else has ever felt quite as deep or precise.

After drawing myself in a few poses, I got some other people to do their favorite poses for me. I did a quick sketch, took some reference photos, then later made a more careful, but still quick and spontaneous ink drawing—not life size but still much larger than I am accustomed to drawing.

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It’s been a really fun and rewarding drawing project, plus I’ve been constantly googling images of B.K.S Iyengar doing the poses over the past week, since he is the gold standard. So it’s especially strange to hear that he is gone.

14 Responses to “Mr. Iyengar”

  1. Amy Mann says:

    Beautiful, Alison.

  2. Jack Sky says:

    My condolences on the loss of your teacher. What a precious gift he gave you and the world. I love your drawings.

  3. Looking at these drawings (or photos of drawings), I think about space: the large amount of space that the drawings take up, the space our bodies occupy in yoga positions, and the golden time and space of a residency. I’ve been to four in my life, and, for three of them at least, I felt more creatively alive and more my true self than anywhere else.

  4. LizB says:

    I really love these, I hope you will consider putting some up in “Original Art”

  5. They do look like vessels of meaning, a little like people signalling flag semphores or spelling out Y M C A. I can kind of feel them. What a great thing to be doing, and what a great tribute to Mr. Iyangar.

  6. Kate L says:

    I’ve never done yoga, but a yoga instructor at my Unitarian Fellowship recommended her chiropractor to me when I had a slipped disk in my neck. It worked, and after a few visits I had a (pain-free) life back.

  7. Dr. Empirical says:

    I’ve never had the patience for yoga, but there is considerable overlap between it and the Circus disciplines that have consumed me for the past five years or so. There are even those who attempt to combine the two through “aerial yoga”.
    In response to Kate L’s comments, I’ve never had any back pain after the first month I took up tightwire walking.

  8. Kate L says:

    Dr. Empirical (#7) Hmmm… too bad I have acrophobia (fear of acrobats?) 🙂 Yesterday afternoon at just before 5 pm local U.S. Central Daylight Savings Time, I was at the annual LGBTQ Welcome Back to Moo U Barbeque on the stately Moo U campus, so it was not until the opening moments of The Rachel Maddow Show on the television machine that I heard how Kansas has now made it more likely than not that Democrats will keep control of the US Senate in this November’s elections. The rather conservative Democratic nominee (“Chad” Taylor) dropped out just before the deadline to do so, making the progressive Independent candidate an instant favorite to win this U.S. Senate seat in the November 4th election. That Independent candidate is Greg Orman (more progressive than Senator Angus King of Maine, less progressive than Senator Bernie Sanders of the sainted land of Vermont – both King and Sanders caucus with the Senate Democrats). The last time Kansas had a competitive Senate race was in 1974, when our Democratic congressman came within 3,000 votes out of 1 million cast of defeating Senator Bob Dole. The last time Kansas sent anyone other than a Republican to the U.S. Senate was 1932.

  9. Acilius says:

    @Kate L: In the 90s I hung out with some political professionals who kept mentioning then-Rep. Sam Brownback as a remarkably skilled political operator who would very likely be a future US president. They were Democrats who thought this would be bad news for the country, I should clarify. Anyway, looks like Mr Brownback’s skills aren’t carrying him quite as far as that crowd had feared, if Mr Brownback is likely not only to lose the governorship, but even to drag his party so far down that it loses one of its very safest US Senate seats.

  10. NLC says:

    Kate L #8 writes:The last time Kansas sent anyone other than a Republican to the U.S. Senate was 1932.

    As a totally off-topic aside, you may take some comfort in knowing that this is far from a record.

    For example, Stephen Royce was elected Governor of Vermont in 1854. He served his first term as a Whig, but switched to the Republican party for his second term. In 1963 Philip H. Hoff was elected Governor as a Democrat.

    Between these two elections every Governor, every Lt Governor –indeed every major state official–, every member of Congress (both Senator and Representative) from the State of Vermont was elected as a Republican. The longest single-party monopoly in American history.

    (Footnote: As an effort towards balance an informal agreement called “The Mountain Rule” was instituted. Under this rule 1] a Governor would serve a maximum of two terms; 2] alternating Governors would come from alternating sides of “The [Green] Mountains”; 3] each Lt Governor would come from “the other side of the Mountains” from the Governor under which he served; and 4] each of Vermont’s two US Senators came from opposite sides of The Mountains.)

    Also, it is probably worth noting, as many folks have, that “There are Republicans, and then there are Republicans”. For most of this run the Republican party was known, as the saying goes, as “The Party of Lincoln”. (I, for one, like to think that it is noteworthy to observe that the monopoly ended at the same time that the GOP was on the verge of becoming “The Party of Nixon”.)

  11. Acilius says:

    @NLC: “There are Republicans and there are Republicans.”

    That’s very true. I know some Republicans who, however hard I may find it to understand why they vote the way they do, are demonstrably quite all right in all the ways that really matter. I even know some Republicans who do yoga.

    Fox News seems to be the separator, young people who are decent watch Fox News and leave the Republican Party, old people who are decent watch Fox News and turn into something like addicts- seriously, that channel is like crack cocaine for them. I suppose that means that in the long run Fox News will kill the Republican Party, but in the meantime it will kill a lot of worthwhile things.

  12. Kate L says:

    Acilius (#11) I had heard of the effect you mention concerning older Fox News viewers, and when I did the phrase shared delusional syndrome popped into my head to explain the effect.

    On another subject entirely, let’s all wish our host, A.B., a Happy Birthday! 🙂

  13. Acilius says:

    By all means, happy birthday and many happy returns!

  14. William P. says:

    Hi Alison. I’ve always followed and loved your strip and your drawings. These Yoga drawings are great. Peace.