I was absolutely delighted to catch a portion on CNN of a special on B.K.S. Iyengar, noted teacher of Yoga, who is still well and teaching Yoga along with two of his six children at his school in India.

I had the good fortune in 1956 to share a summer with him when both B.K. (which he was called for short) and I were catching our breath by nurturing a family saddened by the recent death of its husband and father/step father.

B.K. had been discovered in 1952 as a yogi when he had rescued the noted violinist, Yehudi Menuhin, from a playing block through yoga training.   Thus, it was natural that he would be invited to teach a wealthy widow, an aspiring musician who would later found a well known ballet company, the basics of yoga.  I had been brought on board for all the wrong reasons (social rather than professional) to tutor her two young daughters.  I was getting myself together between college and grad school and the offer of a high paying job with many summer perks had caught me up in contrast with my usual things in construction or a factory production line  I was totally unqualified for the job apart from having been a caring summer camp counselor in the past and having a young sister the same age as the two girls. I had just completed an honors thesis on John Dewey, but that was not easy to apply in practice. The girls, perhaps, needed a caring big brother in their lives more than a tutor, I hope.  Their own returned at the end of the summer.

At any rate B.K. and I shared the third floor of a massive summer estate house dominating the outlook at Watch Hill, RI, and looking down over the sweep of the ocean and beaches stretching into the distance.  We had separate apartments, but shared a common large porch.  Each morning B.K. would arise and run through his routine of asanas (positions in yoga) which included extraordinary flexibility of his body — he could literally sit on his own head.

Needless to say, as the only men in the house apart from an alcoholic butler who was sacked mid summer by the British nanny who ran us all, we chatted at length and he taught me the basics of yoga — head standing, for instance, which he recommended as an alternative to coffee drinking for students to get through an all night study or paper writing session.

I have to admit that I did not keep up with the yoga sessions through my life (probably a loss), but I did pick up some of the basics such as control of pain through diverting one’s attention away from the pain location to something else — a spot, say on the wall — while relaxing.  Works perfectly for needle injections and to a lesser extent for other types of bearable pain.

What was so real about B.K. was the integrity of his person.  He explained to me that he had been a sickly child expected to die when he had been sent off to an uncle, a yogi, who trained him in the discipline.  He thrived, but said he was a skeptic about its philosophy for many years until it became a way of life for him.

Seeing him again last night, there was the same good and true man who, I am sure, has rescued many a troubled soul during his lifetime.  To quote his words from his website above:

“When I practice, I am a philosopher.”

“When I teach, I am a scientist.”

“When I demonstrate, I am an artist.”

And so he is.

And so, B.K., if this reaches you, I wish you well.  I, too, became a professional philosopher eventually and one who learned some important truths from you.

All best, Ed Kent

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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