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Interview with Advanced Senior Iyengar Teacher Manouso Manos

Interview with Advanced Senior Iyengar Teacher Manouso Manos

Photo courtesy Manouso Manos

Last summer, Manouso Manos, one of two Advanced Senior Iyengar teachers in the world, answered a few questions about B.K.S. Iyengar, who turns 92 today. (The other Advanced Senior teacher is Patricia Walden.)

DK:  How is Mr. Iyengar’s health?

Manouso: I saw him a half a year ago or so and he was in unbelievable shape. He’s still doing things that most teenagers cannot do in terms of how he makes his body go into these poses and asanas and stay there. It’s still a remarkable sight to see. His mind is in fantastic shape. He’s as sharp as a tack and his ability to continue to grow and even change and morph his subject is still quite astonishing. 

I’ve seen him slow down.  Don’t get me wrong.  The effects of aging are in fact reaching him.  But that’s not to say that he’s lost the real essence of that practice. 

To see somebody with a dedicated practice over more than seven decades, it’s almost impossible to imagine.

DK:  I read that Mr. Iyengar has retired.  Does he no longer teach?

Manouso: He’s not really retired to be honest with you.  He still teaches every Wednesday and every Saturday.  He’s conducting the women’s class.  It’s been called ladies class or women’s class for decades. It was that way when I first got to India in ’77.

He is conducting. Although he’s not standing in front of the class shouting out instructions like he did years ago, he’s in his own practice, he’s doing asana and describing to the students in the class what they should be doing and it’s brilliant.  It is still with the same kind of intensity and layering of instruction that I’ve seen him do for nearly 40 years now. 

Anybody that tells you he’s retired, he’s not.

DK:  What do you think about Mr. Iyengar’s reputation for being harsh? He sounds like he’s barking at people when he talks to them.

Manouso: I think it’s completely misread. …It’s very much like a female dog taking care of its children. You’ll notice if you watch the way the dogs interact with their pups, that mother, when she’s trying to discipline that child or keep it from danger, you’ll see that she’s all teeth and snarls and then the next moment she’s licking that exact same puppy.  I find him much more like that.  There’s the very instantaneous thing that’s not bred out of any sense of anger, but in fact comes out of some sense of intensity.

It’s a subject that’s very serious…and there is potential for danger. To keep someone on track, to keep someone really quite mindful in some cases it may sound like you need to bark at them, etc.

DK:  What was it like to study with Mr. Iyengar in India in 1977?

Manouso: It was very different in that it was an intensive and there were only 12 people in that intensive.  He wasn’t that popular in most circles in the West at that point.  That kept growing from that point onward. 

The actual physical outlook of that location is exactly the same as it was in 1977. The room’s been expanded slightly, the pictures have been moved around, the clock went from this point to that point.

Now cutting forward 33 years later up to...today, the room again has been expanded and instead of 12 people, I’ve been in that room where there were more than a hundred people, almost 108people doing yoga at any given point, plus assistants, plus the teacher, plus, plus, plus, plus. 

It’s grown so hard, so rapid. The waiting list is still more than two years the last I heard for individuals trying to go there at any given point.

Photo:  BKS Iyengar with Manouso Manos.  (Photo courtesy Manouso Manos)

Shiva Rea & Demitri Velisarius at Tara Mandala

Shiva Rea & Demitri Velisarius at Tara Mandala