Visit by Yogacharya Shri B.K.S. Iyengar to Patanjala Yoga Kendra on 3rd January 2011

Report by Dianne Brooks

It is the end of December 2010 in Rishikesh, the streets and businesses are quiet, tourism is down... yet the Iyengar Yoga Centre at Omkarananda Ganga Sadan is full to capacity as usual.

“Listen everyone,” Usha is smiling and can hardly conceal her happiness. “Guruji is coming to Haridwar on the 2nd of January. He has been invited to attend an International Conference on Yoga for Health and Social Transformation. It is to be hosted by Yogrishi Swami Ramdev Maharaj at the University of Patanjali. Mr Iyengar will be the honoured guest.”

We all start talking.

“Listen, listen to me. I have talked to Prof. Ram Kumar Sharma at the University and I have been given special permission to attend with my students. This is a great privilege to see Guruji.”

“Who would like to come?”

Fifty hands immediately go up.

In self-practice over the next few days Usha updates us on the program she is planning and tells us that she has been in contact with Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (R.I.M.Y.I) in Pune, and has asked if it might be possible for Guruji, time permitting, to come to the Yoga Centre at Omkarananda Ganga Sadan on the morning of the 3rd January before returning to Pune. He has agreed.

His last visit to Rishikesh was more than seventeen years ago so this will be a very important occasion for the Yoga Centre, Usha and her students.

Preparation begins and our Saturday class on New Years day is changed from 6:00 pm to 9:00am. This will give us enough time to prepare the yoga hall for Mr. Iyengar’s visit. A welcoming banner is made, carpets are laid down, the stage is covered and Sage Patanjali is beautifully decorated with flower garlands. Mahalia will bake fresh cookies, Marie Christine will be in charge of making Guruji’s favourite coffee, Eyal and Martin assign us all tasks and Vinod Barthwal the Manager and Shailendra the Assistant Manager of Omkarananda Ganga Sadan make sure everything is in place and perfect by the end of the day.

Sunday morning on the 2nd of January more than fifty people board the bus at 9:00 am to make our way to Jolly Grant Airport near Dehra Dun. We have with us the most beautiful flower malas, red roses, petals and a priest who will welcome Guruji by chanting the Purusha Suktam as he steps out of the airport.

There are more than seventy of us there to greet Mr. Iyengar... students from twenty different countries around the world . . . Brazil, United Kingdom, Israel, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, France, Korea, Germany, China, Canada, Russia, Columbia, India, U.S.A., Taiwan, Spain, Argentina and the Netherlands. Swati Chanchani, one of Mr. Iyengar’s senior teachers, her son and a small group of her students from Yog Ganga in Rajpur and also a group of students representing Rudra Dev’s yoga centre join us there for the welcoming.

Guruji is not expecting such a large crowd and immediately shows his delight when he walks out of the airport doors. The priest begins chanting and Rudra’s students join in quickly offering flowers. Usha then steps forward and places a beautiful shawl around Mr. Iyengar’s neck. She appears filled with light and love for her teacher. Guruji then graciously moves very slowly through our group to receive the malas around his neck and the single roses from each student. He pauses where he can thanking us and smiling. He is weighed down with flowers and affection. His son-in-law Shri Parthasarty is accompanying Mr. Iyengar and guides him to the awaiting car that has been sent by Swami Ramdev. The vehicle is quickly covered in more roses and he again pauses for a few moments placing his palms together in Namaste.

Upon Arrival at Patanjali Yog Peeth (Haridwar) we are issued guest passes and through the generosity of Professor Sharma we are ushered to reserved seats at the front of the auditorium.

Swami Ramdev greets all his guests on the stage and then there is lightening of lamp on stage followed by introductions, formalities and an overview of the four day gathering.

Mr Iyengar is then invited to address the audience and is given a standing ovation by all his students. He speaks easily for more than twenty five minutes and begins by telling us about his early life, his poor health as a child, his relationship with his brother-in-law T. Krishnamacharya of Mysore, his study of yoga and the far reaching effects it was to have on the world. He also speaks in detail about the importance of Patanjali´s Sutras. See a full transcript of his speech here.

At 8:30 pm we are invited to have dinner and Usha and some of her students join Mr. Iyengar, Swami Ramdev, Swami Chidananda Saraswati of Paramartha Niketan and some of the other delegates in their small dining room for a meal.

It was a great day and not to be forgotten by any of us.

Vladimir Malutin