Iyengar started practicing yoga at a very early age. His first teacher was his brother-in-law, a Brahmin. Then a teenager, Iyengar was made to stretch and even bend his body as part of Maharaja of Mysore’s entourage and showcase them in front of visitors.
Yehudi Menuhin visited India in 1952 and asked to meet the Yoga Guru. The meeting with Menuhin went on for hours. Iyengar in his interview to CNN recollected the meeting and said, “The moment I adjusted him and took him, he said, ‘I’ve never felt this sense of joy, elation.’ ”
Later on, Menuhin introduced Iyengar to Switzerland, where the Guru earned substantial following. Four years later he visited New York. Though it took him ten years to attract people, Iyengar became famous for becoming the Guru who introduced yoga to West.
Tendulkar met Iyengar in 1998 when the batting maestro was suffering from backache. In 2013, Indian Express spoke to Iyengar when Tendulkar was playing his final and 200th Test. “I was just watching the match, Sachin was batting on 20. He is a gifted man. He still has the stamina and endurance to play a five-day match,” Iyengar was quoted as saying by Indian Express.
He went on to say, “He had a lot of problems with his foot and his doctor in London had suggested surgery. I saw that the soles of his feet were as hard as rock. We tried a few asanas. About 10 days later, he returned to London for an appointment with the doctor, who said that surgery was no longer necessary…Sportspersons like Tendulkar are national assets, so whenever they have problems that are hard to recover from, I try to guide them.
“Sachin became very sincere about 4-5 years ago when he had a severe backache. After the class, he told me that he had slept well for the first time in many days. Sachin is a very obedient student. He surrenders to the lesson quite readily.”
Incidentally, Tendulkar is not Iyengar first cricketer student. It was DB Deodhar. Comparing the two, Iyengar said: “He [Tendulkar] has the stamina to do it. DB Deodhar used to have knee problems but with the help of yoga, he played past his 50s, so Tendulkar could also have continued to play.”
After Iyengar passed away last year, Tendulkar remembered and paid rich tributes to Iyengar: “I will always be thankful for the wonderful asanas he taught me. Practising those asanas helped me a lot throughout my career. Over a decade later, I was faced with a peculiar problem in my foot causing immense pain and discomfort. I was advised surgery for the same which I was not too sure of. At that time, Zak [Zaheer Khan] suggested that I seek Guruji’s advice. His positive spirit and guidance helped me to recover to an extent that the surgery was not needed,” Tendulkar said.
“Guruji left for his heavenly abode and left us with fond memories of how he touched our lives with his unique ways,” Tendulkar said in his condolence message. “Guruji maybe not around anymore, but the warmth of his smile and his healing touch will remain with us forever. May God give us all the strength to overcome this loss and may his soul rest in peace.”
Iyengar also helped Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid in the past.
“It is very simple. Yoga is a science and has several asanas which can cure injuries and support quick rehabilitation. Cricketers and sportsmen have benefited from yoga over the years and hence keep coming to me,” Iyengar was quoted by DNA.
“Both Dravid and Kumble have learnt yoga from my students, Omkar and Murlidhar, in Bangalore. Omkar teaches yoga to cricket trainees at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore,” he said.
Speaking on Zaheer’s injured ankle, which he helped the pacer recover from in 2011, the Yoga Guru said, “There was a knot in his ankle following the surgery. I suggested a few specific asanas, which helped loosen up the ankle. This brought him relief and resulted in his being able to bowl more easily. He did very well as a bowler when he recently played for the Mumbai team.”
Despite being a sick child, Iyengar lived for 95 years, largely due to yoga. Iyengar was reported that even at an age of 90, he practiced yoga for four hours.
In 2014, he received the second highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan, from the President of India