Taking Iyengar out of Iyengar Yoga

One of the hardest parts about being alive today is the pervasive culture of intolerance for the basic humanity of being human. This is perfectly illustrated in the dynamics of the Iyengar system of yoga. BKS Iyengar’s teaching methods are harshly judged by the standards of the present not only by people outside of Iyengar yoga but by the very people (senior teachers and IYNAUS) who have profited from his teaching and his name. Certified Iyengar yoga teachers (CIYTS) are held to impossible (and hypocritical) standards of perfection in both their private and professional lives, to the extent that they are not free to study with teachers of their choosing without the fear of losing their Iyengar certification. Check out the IYNAUS website. It is filled with the rules and regulations for an Iyengar yoga teacher. The continuing education requirements alone make sure nobody has any fun! It seems to me that BKS and Geeta have been edited out of Iyengar yoga and all that is left is a punitive system of rules and regulations rather than the exploration of self in relationship to the universe through asana. I left the system because of this and because many of my fellow CIYTS were mistaking self righteousness for morality. Their punitive intolerance for mistakes in others while maintaining a wide sweeping forgiveness for their own did me in. The system evolved into something I could no longer relate to and had nothing to do with the teachings of BKS Iyengar as I understood them. Manouso talked about this on BKS Iyengar’s birthday. The class is on vimeo if you want to check it out. December 14, 2021.

Class on BKS Iyengar’s Work on Iyengar’s Birthday

IYENGAR YOGA TEACHER TRAINING

I recently ran into a Iyengar yoga student who was in training to be an Iyengar yoga teacher. I asked her how it was going and after a pause she said, “I just want to teach yoga, I don’t want to be a yoga nun!” She went on to explain that the high-minded teacher was completely oblivious to the needs of the students in the class. The atmosphere was so off putting that she dropped out.

Read the comments below…

Happy 70th Manouso Manos!

On April 29, 1988, 100 of the world’s finest photojournalists roamed the Golden State to capture its essence. The results are in this coffee table book of everything California,. Manouso is featured on a two-page spread and has a spot on the back cover!

January 9, 2022 is Manouso’s 70th birthday. Happy Birthday, Manouso! So many of us have benefited from your yoga teaching and your generosity.

I already miss the Abode of Iyengar Yoga. Whenever I crossed the threshold and entered the studio, all else receded. Manouso and Rita created a supportive and warm community at the Abode. Their reverence for yoga and humanity permeated the space. Manouso’s teachings inspired me to be better, and I formed deep connections with other seekers at the Abode. Manouso’s selflessness touched us all and made us better humans.

The Abode of Iyengar Yoga was a very special place–a once-in-a-lifetime experience where many lives were transformed. I feel fortunate to have had the experience and to continue to study with the master. Happy Birthday, Manouso!

Manouso Manos

This post is dedicated with gratitude to the selfless and inspiring teachings of Manouso Manos. Here are the reasons I chose Manouso as my teacher and continue to study with him.

  1. Manouso knows his shit. His knowledge of the physical body and the intricacies of how each asana affects the mind body experience is astounding. I mean mind blowing. I also learn a lot about history, physics, science, anatomy, philosophy, and an occasional basic cooking tip in his classes.
  2. Manouso inspires. He pushes. He is passionate. His teachings are clear, concise, and methodical and make me a better yoga practitioner, and more importantly, a better human being.
  3. Manouso is compassionate and sensitive. He has gone out of his way to help me with injuries and emotional distresses. I know he does this with all of his students.
  4. Manouso tells me the truth. He doesn’t try to please me or earn my devotion. He tells me straight.
  5. Manouso leads by example. He consistently reinforces themes of shared humanity, taking care of each other, the environment, and future generations. He does not engage in gossip and keeps confidences. He subscribes to the notion that the rising tide lifts all boats. He genuinely wants to see his students advance.
  6. Manouso is generous in mind, body, and spirit. He responds to emails promptly with information. He generously donates his time for studio openings, conventions, and other causes. He helps students who are strapped for cash. He wants his students to take up the practice of yoga themselves and not rely on him.
  7. Manouso has a keen sense of humor and can laugh at himself.
  8. Manouso is unapologetically comfortable with who he is. He stands tall and holds his head high. He is not afraid to disagree. He is not afraid to say he was wrong. He is not afraid to say he doesn’t know.
  9. Manouso gives credit to his teacher BKS Iyengar in every class.

Thank you Manouso for being you. Your teachings transform. I am grateful to you for your mind-blowing yoga teaching and your kind heart.



HOW IYENGAR YOGA ATE ITSELF

Thank you for reading my blog. It’s happened throughout history. Same old story — power, greed, betrayal, repeat. Iyengar yoga has morphed into something unrecognizable compared to the original teachings of BKS Iyengar. Move on. Adapt. Keep studying with Manouso.

Manouso Manos Allegations and Geeta Iyengar

Originally posted February 2020

I love Geeta Iyengar so much. The first time I went to India to study at RIMYI (Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute) Geeta was not well and was not teaching. BKS Iyengar was not well either but would show up at the practice hall. I had waited a long time to go to India to study with the Iyengar family. It was a big deal for me. I had to take a month of work (no pay for two of those weeks) and had to find care for my daughter who was in elementary school at the time. It was this first trip to India that I realized the Iyengar family reminded me of the Beverly Hillbillies, but I would not dare say that aloud. Most of my classes for the month were with Prashant Iyengar, and after about a week and a half, I stopped going to class with him. I hated it. He talked incessantly, and when he stumbled onto a clever turn of phrase, he would repeat it endlessly with a proud smirk. He would put us in triangle pose on one side for 3 minutes and the second side for twenty seconds, if he remembered to do the second side at all. If we didn’t move to get the props fast enough, he would fly into a rage and scream at us with a contorted face. I kept thinking maybe I wasn’t smart enough or experienced enough to comprehend the complexity of what he was teaching, so I would listen harder and try more. Then I realized, whatever he was teaching, I wasn’t learning. Meanwhile, Abhijata Iyengar would petulantly march around the practice hall talking on her cell phone and ordering the Indian staff around. Occasionally she would give a disdainful look at a middle- age female practitioner which was (and still is) about 95% of the Iyengar yoga demographic. Scolding seemed to be her skill. I couldn’t shake the feeling that that I had been had. I couldn’t shake the sinking feeling of disappointment.

It was a long fucking month. I kept wondering why I spent all this energy and money on this trip to India when I had the best teacher in the world in San Francisco–Manouso Manos, but then came along the first Yoganushsanam. Yoganushasanam is a sacred cash cow for the Iyengar family. The event allows for 2000 practitioners from around the world to come to Pune India to study with the Iyengar family via jumbotron. This event welcomed all levels of practitioners and didn’t require a letter of recommendation from a mentor which is something RIMYI requires. I jumped at the opportunity, because I wanted to give the Iyengars another chance, and I had never studied with Geeta. Also, it was only 10 days so I didn’t have to find a month of care for my daughter. Geeta’s teaching was exquisite. She was demanding and profound. Her instructions were clear and concise, and she didn’t mince words. It was no surprise to me that when IYNAUS decided to open an independent investigation in response to the appeal to the ethics complaint against Manouso Manos, Geeta reacted like this in a letter to the board of IYNAUS:

Maybe you have taken this decision out of nervousness because of the havoc being created in the social media. Even though we don’t want to be judgmental it also seems like there is an animosity that is driving all this. You cannot assume that an individual is guilty and go all out to prove that. Yoga teachers and Iyengar yoga Associations should act with more responsibility.” 

A month later she she was dead and here we are.

Iyengar Yoga Hypocrisy

Back when Manouso was being skewered on social media and before the interviews came out that were called an independent investigation, the owner of the Iyengar yoga studio where I taught invited me to dinner to talk about the Manouso situation.

I liked the owner of the Iyengar studio and still do, though we have very different perspectives. During dinner she lectured me about all Manouso’s flaws as a human, as a male, and as a yoga teacher. I was taken aback by her assertions because I knew she had only taken a handful of classes with Manouso while I had studied with him hundreds of times. It was the confidence with which she made these false proclamations that got to me.

At some point during the conversation she asked me why my original Iyengar yoga teacher left the Iyengar system. I told her that my teacher went to the 2012 mega class taught by Geeta Iyengar in Portland, Oregon and decided Geeta was abusive, and she no longer wanted to be associated with IYNAUS or Iyengar Yoga.

She responded with a dismissive wave of the hand and said, “That’s just Geeta.”

You can’t have it both ways.

The reference that Manouso is guilty is not consistent with any legal finding. Manouso has denied and continues to deny all the charges.

Comments on “How much are you willing to hide and lie to keep your Iyengar yoga certification?”

I left IYNAUS with great relief last year. I did join another nation’s association. But I don’t care one whit if somehow I am “outed”. Manouso is my teacher. I stand by him. I stand by Rita. How much so will come clear soon.

This is Insane. When did yoga teachers become the Nazi Stasi? I am so disgusted with all yoga organisations – they seem to be just another delusion of ego.

Granddaughter (Abhi) has been listening to the wrong people.

When dictators and or movements start losing followers and power, they keep tightening the reins in the misplaced hope that they will keep their power.

It ain’t going to happen.

They got rid of the one person (Manouso) who could have and would have worked tirelessly to keep this whole thing together.

Thank you to those of you brave enough to comment. I know there are many who do not have the financial freedom to speak up and need to keep the income that is entwined with their Iyengar yoga certification. It’s an illusion. Yoga is freedom. May you soon be free to study with those who inspire you — no matter the brand; no matter the teacher.