I picked up my first copy of Light on Yoga over 20 years ago. The original sits on my bookshelf, as part of my personal archive. The binding has fallen apart, pages are loose and yellowed and the margins are filled with questions and observations.
When I choose to open it, I read it as scripture and journal all in one. This book also marks the beginning of my relationship with B.K.S Iyengar. I first saw his image in the form of asanas, heard his voice in my own head and practiced his instructions word by word in my own body. I memorized the Sanskrit names of asanas by saying them aloud or writing them many times on paper. I studied the sequences attempting to self-diagnose what my body needed and followed them step by step. There were many things I could not do, concepts I did not understand and mythical stories that led to more questions. But there was one thing I knew with certainty: the light of yoga was ON.
I began my formal training, studying with many of Iyengar’s teachers by attending their classes, workshops and intensives. One year, I was on a pilgrimage in India with some friends, traveling in the state of Maharashtra to visit sacred temples and samadhi shrines. We were on the outskirts of Pune and I asked the rickshaw driver how long it would take to get to Hare Krishna Mandir Road. He didn’t know the road. I said, “Iyengar.” And he responded, “Yoga.” I nodded, “Yes.” It was that simple, Iyengar Yoga Yes!
I stood on the road looking at the sign that read Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute. As I walked through the gate the atmosphere shimmered. The walls along the side of the building had carvings of Iyengar in various poses. It was quiet and peaceful. I removed my shoes and approached the entrance with reverence; I had arrived at a temple that I had longed to see.
I was greeted by Iyengar’s secretary and told that this time of day was a respite. No classes were in session and I was welcome to look around. I walked up the circular staircase to the top floor and then back down to the room I had seen for so many years in photographs – the great hall where thousands of yoga students come year after year to study and practice. I wanted to be one of those students.
I descended the staircase whose walls were lined with photos, plaques and awards honoring Iyengar’s dedication, commitment and service to humanity through his teachings and dissemination of yoga. I walked a few more steps and there he was, standing in the lobby. My heart swelled in fullness and my legs became soft. I knelt down and offered my pranams. He kindly stood and listened as I thanked him for his life of selfless service. In those moments with him I glimpsed the magnitude of his gift to the world.
That day, I made a promise to myself that I would return to RIMYI as a student. Ten years later I fulfilled my promise and returned as an Iyengar Yoga teacher. My journey from seeker to student to teacher is sustained by the thread of generosity that exists between a teacher and a student. It is a blessing to receive his legacy. B.K.S Iyengar and his entire family have offered their lives in service so that we may all come to know and experience Light on Yoga.
Thank you Guruji,
With folded palms I offer you my love and gratitude. Namaste.
Nikki Costello is an Iyengar Yoga teacher with 20 years of teaching experience. Based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, she teaches at Kula Yoga, Yoga Shanti and The Iyengar Yoga Institute of Brooklyn. She has a well-established private practice in NYC and travels internationally to lead workshops and retreats. Nikki is an inspirational speaker and shares her wisdom as a contributing editor at Yoga Journal, writing the magazine’s “Basics Column” for 2013-2014. www.nikkicostello.com