Iyengar Adopts a Tiger for His Birthday

’Tis the season of giving and receiving, and one icon of yoga has done both in honor of his birthday. B.K.S. Iyengar who turns 90 this week as gifted himself with the purchase of a tiger in the Mysore Zoo. Now, it’s not as strange as it sounds. As part of the Mysore Zoo’s adoption program, benefactors “purchase” zoo animals, which provides the necessary income to care for and house almost 1000 residents in this 118-year-old zoo. Nearly half of the animals in the zoo have been purchased.

Mr. Iyengar paid the annual adoption fee of Rs 90,000 for seven-year-old male tiger named Brahma, around to $2000 US dollars. Fitting, I suppose, for a man who created such a fiercely precise style of asana. Fitting for a powerful teacher who revolutionized yoga asana, who has taught some of today’s most popular yogis from John Friend to Erich Schiffmann, and who is known to be simultaneously severe and benevolent. To give a gift of support to another creature in honor of his nine decades on this earth is something to be honored.

Iyengar has paved the way for support in yoga through the use of props and precise alignment and strengthening techniques that provide a foundation of fortitude and knowledge from which students can build and grow. With this adoption, in a small but meaningful way, Mr. Iyengar is doing the same for the earth. A yogi’s vision is broad, and through this “gift” Iyengar is a living example of how in even the smallest ways we can all reach out and support each other and the planet on which we live.

Weakness and ailments brought this master of yoga to the mat in need of strength and support, and after years of practice, dedication and commitment, he began to share the many gifts that yoga gave him with the world. When asked in a 2007 CNN interview where he thought he would be if he had never discovered yoga, Mr. Iyengar replied, “
“Probably, I would have died long ago. I would not have lived.”

So, just as the tiger “is fierce and commanding on the outside but noble and discerning on the inside” according to animal behaviorist Candy d’Sa, so B.K.S. Iyengar moves through the world. Fierce yet noble, commanding yet discerning, the embodiment of strength and knowledge.

Happy Birthday Mr. Iyengar.

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