Victoria’s oldest yoga studio is celebrating the 100th birthday of its namesake.
B.K.S. Iyengar was an Indian man who taught yoga for 75 years, authored 20 books and trained teachers and students from over 40 countries around the world. In 2004, he was named by Time Magazine as one of the most influential persons of the 21st century.
One of the late teachers’ students includes Ann Kilbertus, a Victoria woman who began practising in 1984.
“There was only Iyengar yoga at the time and I just did it because I liked it,” she recalled. “Your mind changes at the end of a class. It’s using the body to change the mind.”
Kilbertus was able to practise under Iyengar himself, both when he visited Canada in 1984 and during many trips she made to his school in India.
“He was mercurial,” she said. “He was sharp and if he walked into the room right now, you would be awake. there was something about him, he was a true genius and some of us couldn’t’ really understand what he was saying. Sometimes it would take 30 years to figure out what he was saying.”
In the 1980s, the only official place to practise yoga in Victoria was at the YMCA/YWCA, though a group formed to open the Victoria Yoga Centre in 1976.
They eventually opened the Iyengar Yoga Centre of Victoria in 2001, where it still sits at 202-919 Fort St.
“There’s a depth to it, there’s a rigour ,” Kilbertus said. “Iyengar had a saying, ‘yoga is for all.’ You can do this without even a mat … It’s for the young and old, the healthy and infirm, for different stages in life. So, it’s very versatile and adaptive, and that’s one of its big hallmarks.”
Iyengar passed away at age 95 in 2014 and practiced yoga until his last days. This year, the Iyengar Yoga Centre of Victoria is ready to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday.
Starting on Sept. 4 – 100 days out from his birthday on Dec. 4 – the centre will host free community classes and special readings from his books.
On his actual birthday, celebrations will run from 4 to 6 p.m. and include practice with Victoria’s senior Iyengar teacher, Shirley Daventry French, who practiced with Iyengar for many years and still teaches, well into her 80s. Special readings, demonstrations and refreshments will also be happening.
“It’s a path; you have to learn, you have to stumble, you have to get up,” Kilbertus said. “You need to find your way, but there’s so much to explore, it’s vast.”
To find out more, you can head to iyengaryogacentre.ca.