Thursday, 16 December 2010

Luminaries B.K.S. Iyengar and Yehudi Menuhin

Yehudi Menuhin (photos from the internet)

B.K.S. Iyengar and Yehudi Menuhin met in 1952. Menuhin was a White-Russian British Jew born in New York and one of the greatest violin virtuosi in the world; Iyengar a little-known yoga teacher from India. When their paths crossed, the pompous white western world could not even spell yoga. It also considered black and brown people fit only to scrub their floors and wash their laundry, not to learn the art of living - yoga - from.

The beginning of a life-long friendship
Along came Menuhin. The violinist became Iyengar's yoga student, learning diligently yogic exercises, meditation and breathing techniques. Menuhin also introduced Iyengar to the royals, deep pockets, V.I.P.-s and luminaries in Europe and in the United States. Thereafter, Iyengar's career catapulted and he was able to introduce his own yoga style to the west; it has since become one of the most popular in the world. The two men remained lifelong friends, even publishing a yoga book together. I have it on my bookshelf - it is a good read.

Wise and brave Menuhin
The beauty of this story is not that Menuhin, an unlikely advocate of yoga, learned to stand on his head, but rather the successful and ingenious marrying of two completely different disciplines: violin playing and yoga. Menuhin often said publicly that without meditation, breathing exercises and yoga he could not have developed an enhanced clarity of mind and physical vitality during his very long career. Menuhin played the violin, conducted orchestras and recorded for EMI until his death. He also founded a school of music in England.

Menuhin on the stage
I saw Menuhin on the stage when I was in my early teens. What struck me about him most was his mental and physical vitality. From my seat I could clearly see just how agile and present he was during the performance. I now recognise this particular kind of mental alertness, mindfulness and physical energy as something that can be cultivated and sustained through yoga, breathing and meditation. It is something to aspire to.

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