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Mystic East comes to the East of Scotland

by Joan Simpson

Barefoot they sat cross-legged on the floor; Laura Ashley prints jostling for attention with Indian sparkles. Chaps sporting neat beards, favouring Shetland pullovers.

There is a slightly embarrassed silence as the main attraction, yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar arrives. it is an awesome moment. How to react? Oblivious, a baby lunches happily at his mother’s breast.

Mr Iyengar, a yogacharya from Pune, India, recognised as the top contemporary teacher of yoga is in Edinburgh to Visit the centre named after him in Bruntsfield Place and where yoga classes meet every day.

Mr Iyengar took his place at the front of the expectant group of 50 followers, and after some desultory chat, nothing too profound, came the searching questions.

How is Iyengar Yoga different from other forms?

“I teach that the body is the frontier for the body’s intelligence, that each pore of the skin is a single unit without any differentiation in which every part of yoga can be brought out without creating any space between the mind and the body.”

Well yes. anything else?

“As the water covers the lake, so the energy that is intelligence covers the lake of the body.”

What about mysticism then, did he have supernatural powers?

“Yoga is practical not mystical. However, when the body is developed to the extent of super-sensitivity people can believe that it means you are a mystic.”

At “about 69” years old, Mr Iyengar certainly practises what he preaches. Four hours of yoga per day plus daily (including Sundays, no holidays) teaching of up to seven hours.

His world-wide followers – “from Japan to San Francisco and Scotland to the Cape of Good Hope” has grown up in Britain from just two people including violinist Yehudi Menuhin to many thousands.

We were served a glass of orange juice. Was drink, smoking and red meat denied to his followers?

“I do not tell anyone how they should live … that they should not smoke or drink or that they should follow a special diet. When they practise yoga they will come to see that they do not want these things.”

Luncheon was spread, a spread of dazzling greenery and beanery.

Mr Iyengar, kitted against the May weather in a white Shetland tank top over his flowing robes, went off to meet this followers.

Original Edinburgh Evening News article

This article was first published in the Edinburgh Evening News on Thursday May 10th, 1984, and subsequently in IYN Autumn 2018.

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