About Ramamani Iyengar
B.K.S. Iyengar’s beloved wife, Smt. Ramamani Iyengar, died in 1973. The following tributes are from B.K.S. Iyengar, Geeta Iyengar and Prashant Iyengar:
From “Rama – The Light Of My Life.” By B.K.S. Iyengar
Everyday I got up early for my yoga practices. Rama also got up at the same time to prepare coffee for both of us. She used to observe me practise but she never interfered. For her, even the word “Yoga” was unknown. She did not know then what it stood for, and she never ventured to ask what Yoga teaching meant or what I learned. However, in the course of time, she developed a keen interest in learning the art.
I started teaching her daily and she became my pupil. As she made progress I taught her how to assist me towards improving my methods. My instructions to help me during my practice made her a good teacher. This enabled her to teach one or two lady students from my group independently. As our family responsibilities increased and her attention to the welfare of the children took much of her time, she could not take to teaching. Whenever she found time she practised yoga for herself. She was ever ready to help whenever I wanted a support to get a better position in my practices.
Sometimes I used to practise for 10 hours a day. I had no mirror to even look at my positions or compare my experiences with anybody. There was a constant struggle inside me. She completely gave everything for my practice. Never once did she ask me, “Let us go to the cinema together or let us go to the market.” She would tell me, “If you want to practise I will go on my own.”
Slowly we understood each other, and lived happily, spiritually and were devoted to each other.
Rama was the personification of patience and magnanimity. She was simple, generous and unostentatious. She was kind to one and all. She had great forbearance even to people who did not wish her well. She was quiet, serene and peaceful and remained unruffled in adverse circumstances. She took everything in her stride coolly. She looked after those who came to her for help or advice with love, joy and devotion … Her love was unique; she had a heart full of compassion and people called her “Amma” which means mother … we lived without conflicts as if our souls were one … She was never harsh to the children; yet she commanded high respect and moulded them with discipline.
I am never separated from her for she is always in my life. It was her affection for me to learn and teach this subject that has made me name the Institute after her.
From “Reminiscenses of My Mother” by Geeta Iyengar.
Simplicity and humility
As much as she never complained of her difficult days, she never showed off her wealth during better times. She never showed off or expressed herself ever with pride. She would always thank God for whatever changes, progress that we made. False pride and ego were far away from her. She was always very composed, simple and humble. Despite our financial status changing there was never a display of wealth. Our house was always simple and till we moved to this new house where our Institute currently stands there was no change in our style of living.
My mother maintained all our traditions and culture, but at the same time she was quite open to new ideas and things. It was she who pushed me into wearing shorts for yoga practice. In fact, the yoga shorts, the bloomers, which are now being worn all over the world, were initially designed by my mother.
Earlier not many women would practise yoga and those who did wore the 9 yard sari. It was cumbersome to practise in that. What to wear for yoga class was a big problem for Indian women! The Western women would wear a two piece suit but Indian women could never see themselves wearing those clothes. Most Indian women wore saris then and to change from that to a two piece suit can be unimaginable. There were no t-shirts available then. We wore blouses and skirts and a sari.
So, the Indian women were always at a loss on what to wear while doing yoga. The blouses would be buttoned in the front and that is what I wore for a long time.
Some women would wear pants or trousers that belonged to their husbands or brothers. Then, the stretch pants came in with more Westerners coming to India in the 1960s. And, the Indian women also wore salwar kameez.
Guruji brought me two full pants from one of his European tours. My mother realised that even these would not give the necessary freedom for the movements that we required.
I also did not know what was the appropriate dress for me when I started doing yoga. She insisted that I should wear shorts like my father was wearing. These shorts would be very loose near the thighs so she would insert a string through the hem and knot the string at the inner end of the thighs. Later, elastic was available so the string was replaced by elastic. Thus the yoga shorts or Pune shorts were born … Gradually more and more women started wearing these shorts.
From “My mother my yoga teacher: an interview with Prashant Iyengar.”
“You had mentioned in one of your earlier interviews that you learnt yoga from your mother. Can you please elaborate on that?
“I have said earlier that I have learnt yoga from my mother but it is not as all of you have understood yoga. It is the philosophy of life and conduct that I have learnt from her. The principles of tolerance, magnanimity, compassion and the sense of sacrifice are all important for yoga. This is what I learnt from her. She had the sense of duty mindedness. She never had an excuse for not doing anything … She tried her level best to carry out her duties. Her attitude was like following the principle of karma yoga from the Bhagavad Gita. She worked without expectation and resigned herself to the will of God. She was absolutely selfless to the core. We could not even identify her likes and dislikes. She never ever said she did not like something or someone … it was her matter of concern on what was right or wrong. But at the same time she had a pardoning nature and forgave anything and everything.
She had a sense of sacrifice. When a person makes a sacrifice – he makes it expressed. “I sacrificed this or that.” Then there is no sacrifice. Sacrifice should be a product of certain qualities. And she had those qualities. She was unselfish and without hatred. That made her magnanimous and compassionate which in turn led the sense of sacrifice.”
Like a karma yogi she was devoted to her duties. She had a sense of duty-mindedness but had no eyes for the fruits of her actions. She never proclaimed her role or her contributions … she did everything very silently. We realised her contributions only in her absence.
She was epitome of philosophy of yoga. Jnana, Karma and Bhakti are the three paths of yoga. She had a balanced state of mind like a jnani. She was never drawn to the polarities. She had never expressed likes or dislikes. She was not attached but not indifferent too … she was never excessively attached to anyone. There was always a balance in her.
Like a karma yogi she was devoted to her duties … Like a bhaktan, she totally resigned herself to the will of God.
She was a yogi in the truest sense.