B.K.S.Iyengar: the man who spread Yoga Internationally

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  • By Pragya Jha

Yoga is a way of life, an art of righteous living or an integrated system for the benefit of the body, mind and inner spirit. When it comes to yoga we must not forget one of the significant names who has contributed towards yoga and spread it across west. Bellur  Krishnamachar  Sundararaja Iyengar , popularly known as B.K.S. Iyengar, was the founder of the unique style of yoga known as “Iyengar Yoga” .

He was born on December 14, 1918 in Bellur , Karnataka . He frequently fell ill during his childhood and suffered from malariatuberculosis, typhoid fever and general malnutrition . Married to Ramamani Iyengar, father of five daughters and one son. Ramamani supported him and with her help  Iyengar refined and advanced the asanas he learned.

Iyengar’s introduction to Yoga

He was introduced to yoga by his brother–in-law Prof T Krishnamacharya. He was the person who influenced Iyengar and made him the creator of the word “Iyengar Yoga” and made it world famous. Iyengar single mindedly dedicated himself to Yoga .He practiced yoga for hours and was so obsessed with it that his neighbors and family considered him mad. Iyengar started making innovation in yoga by researching the way of internal alignment, considering the effect of body parts, even skin, in development of each pose. He considered body as a temple and asana as a prayer .

Iyengar’s contribution towards yoga

His dedication and work towards yoga made him popularize his “Iyengar Yoga” in India and across the world. He made Yoga accessible to people of every age. He brought yoga to the western world .He came to Pune in 1937 and spread the knowledge of yoga. In 1975 he set up his own institute  and expanded its branches in India and abroad.

His yoga got international recognition  when a violinist Yehudi Menuhin visited  Bombay and showed his interest in Yoga. He met Iyengar and told him that he is tired and could relieve only for five minutes. Iyengar made him perform Savasana and he fell asleep. After one hour he awoke and felt refreshed. Their bond became strong and Iyengar visited to Switzerland on the invitation of Menuhin. From then he visited west regularly and spread his teachings of yoga all over the world. Yehudi was the reason behind Iyengar’s transformation from an Indian yoga teacher to an International yoga guru. He even taught Queen Elizabeth that how to do a headstand.

Uniqueness of Iyengar Yoga

The attention is made on alignment of body parts. Props such as wooden gadgets, belts and ropes to make the poses accessible .He focused on therapeutic yoga which work against illness.

He wrote books like Light on Yoga; Light on Life; Light on Pranayama; The tree of Yoga; Yoga, wisdom and Practice and many more. He received Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri, and Time 100 awards.

End of journey

BKS Iyengar took his last breath on 20th August 2014 at 3:15 am at the age of 95. He was admitted to hospital on complaint of breathlessness and low blood pressure. His condition deteriorated and he died of cardiac arrest. His disciples from India and abroad reached to Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Institute to pay tributes.

Iyengar was an enthusiastic man who won millions of hearts with Yoga.

Pragya Jha is a student of journalism in New Delhi.