Iyengar: The Yoga Master Edited by: Kofi Busia

Reviewed by: Suza Francina

Iyengar: The Yoga Master. Edited by Kofi Busia. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2007. ISBN 978-1-59030-524-9. 360 pages. $18.95.

This collection of uplifting essays, appreciations, stories and interviews by an international and diverse group of fifty-one contributors is a celebration of the life of B.K.S. Iyengar. Compiled and introduced by Kofi Busia, one of the world's foremost teachers in the Iyengar tradition, this book offers the opportunity to learn about Iyengar through the eyes and experience of close friends and long-time senior students.

The contributions in this tribute volume are exceptionally diverse and thought provoking. Some honor Iyengar's life and work by exploring technical matters, like the effect of arterial blood flow in the legs during standing poses, or the way yogis shift their attention and effort in balancing poses. Other essays address the best-known features of Iyengar's teaching, including the rigorous precision of his asana instruction, the use of props to make the benefits of poses accessible to all, and his therapeutic application of yoga to medical conditions. Most valuable, however, is that the book provides personal reminiscence and insight into the influence Iyengar has had, as a man and a teacher, on each writer.

Kofi Busia is also a Sanskrit scholar (he has translated several ancient texts into English, including The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali), which adds authenticity and clarity. Kofi introduces the essays with an Editor's Note on the issues that arise in writing a book that contains many Sanskrit words. Sanskrit terms, with few exceptions, have been transliterated as phonetically as possible to make the material more accessible to both new and experienced students.

The Editor's Note is followed by a humorous introduction in which Kofi describes how he fell into teaching, his early encounters with Iyengar, and how he came to compile this book. Along with his self-effacing personal saga, Kofi opens a window into the riveting history of how Iyengar Yoga grew from a few original students into a worldwide phenomenon that revolutionized the yoga world.

Kofi's close connection with both Iyengar and many of the teachers featured in the book make him the perfect editor for this project. He acts as a knowledgeable host and philosophical guide by providing an informative and insightful introduction to each essay. His gift for extrapolating gems of yoga philosophy helps to make the personal stories universal and more meaningful.

He has structured the book into two fascinating parts: "The Embodiment of Practice" and "Light On Life," which include essays from T.K.V. Desikachar, Rama Jyoti Vernon, Joan White, Aadil Palkhivala, Judith Hanson Lasater, Patricia Walden, Marian Garfinkle, John Schumacher, Manouso Manos, Eric Schiffmann, Ramanand Patel, Dr. Krishna Raman, Christian Pisano, Bobby Clennell, Dona Holleman, John Friend, Richard Freeman, Eric Small, Chuck Miller, Lilias Folan, Elise Browning Miller, Beryl Bender Birch, Rodney Yee, Baron Baptiste, Sharon Gannon and David Life, Shiva Rea, Alan Finger, Gary Kraftsow, Annette Bening, Julian Sands, Ali MacGraw and others.

I honestly cannot recall another yoga book that filled me with such delight and recognition. I studied with many of the teachers featured in this book before they were famous, back in the seventies when they were fresh from their first trip to India. They write from the heart and their recollections bring back happy memories of my own discovery of Iyengar yoga.
Even if you've read many other books by and about B.K.S. Iyengar, you will come away from Iyengar, the Yoga Master with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the man and his life's work, and how each of us must find our own inner light and unique way to carry the yoga flame forward.

Suza Francina is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher and writer in Ojai, California. She is the author of four books, including The New Yoga for People Over 50, Yoga and the Wisdom of Menopause, and The New Yoga for Healthy Aging. www.suzafrancina.com

Kofi Busia is currently based in Santa Cruz, California, where he is putting the finishing touches to two books, one of which is an original translation and commentary of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. www.kofibusia.com

This book review originally appeared in the Winter 2008-2009 issue of Yoga Vidya, the newsletter for the Southern California regional association. Reprinted with permission.