Now that Geeta is no longer with us I would like to share my last personal memory of her. In 2017 I was in Pune for the month of December. One morning, as is customary after the main morning class with her brother Prashant Iyengar, I was practicing in the main hall, when one of the regular teachers at the Institute rushed in telling us that Geeta had invited us to celebrate her birthday…now! We all ran out of the hall excited and incredulous, making our way just across the courtyard, to the Iyengar family’s home.
The door was open as it often is, and Geeta was inside sitting at the main table and already offering Indian sweets personally to everyone who came in, one by one. Many people had already gathered around her in the small front room eating their sweet, whilst others were trying to form a queue hoping not to miss out on this unique and moving opportunity. However what we all really wanted was to simply sit in her presence and listen to what she had to say.
My turn arrived. I will always remember one of Geeta’s hands, supporting the other at the wrist in lifting the sweet from the box and handing it to me. It seemed that such a simple task was in fact not easy for her to perform. Her health then was not at its best. For some years already she had had good and bad spells. As soon as she felt good enough you would know! She would soon teach daily and tirelessly, general, medical or women’s classes. You could spot her also out in the courtyard talking to teachers she had come to know personally over the years and who were usually seeking her advice and help.
Once the sweets were all gone, we sat or stood around the table and Geeta started talking to all of us. At this point the room had become pretty crowded. As we all knew very well, December 2017 marked the beginning of the year-long centenary celebrations for the birth of her father, BKS Iyengar and the Pune Institute had many plans for this special occasion. One was, Geeta told us, to bring yoga to women who were working as cleaners, and were often too poor to afford regular classes. Not a surprise that she would mention women…her book ‘Yoga: A Gem for Women’ was a pioneer publication and has supported women in yoga ever since. Her main message was for us all to continue practicing yoga and added that the teachers amongst us should bring yoga especially to those who were less able to come to classes, and generally less exposed to yoga.
Just over a year later, after the centenary celebrations came to an end, she died, I believe, at that same table. She had just taught powerfully a 10-day intensive course to thousands of students from 53 countries.
She started teaching at 16 and she never stopped, for nearly 60 years, leaving us with her enormous contribution to the practice of yoga for women and yoga therapeutics in general. My limitations are such that I can all but grasp a small (sweet) piece of it.