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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.

 

 

 

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New Study Shows Link Between Meditation And Greater Focus

Supplementation, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are key, with recent studies showing that aerobic exercise also increases brain size.

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Pranayamic breathing is just one way to improve brain health.

Pranayamic breathing – an important part of yoga and meditation – has a unique ability to strengthen our focus and a new study by Trinity College Dublin has unlocked its secret. The researchers note that pranayamic breathing affects the levels of a natural chemical in the brain called noradrenaline. The latter is released when we are challenged, curious, focused, or emotionally excited. When present at the right levels, noradrenaline helps the brain grow new connections and helps us concentrate better on important tasks.

The old masters were on the right track

The researchers noted: “Practitioners of yoga have claimed for some 2,500 years, that respiration influences the mind. We looked for a neurophysiological link that could help explain these claims.” The researchers did so by measuring breathing, reaction time, and brain activity in a small area in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus, where noradrenaline is made. Noradrenaline is affected by stress; when we are worried or anxious we produce too much, and cannot concentrate. When we feel lazy, on the other hand, we produce too little and once again, focus is lost. One way to boost levels is through yoga; another method which can complement the latter is the consumption of medical grade focus supplements, which contain compounds such as octopamine (which has a similar effect to noradrenaline).

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Conversely, those with lower mindfulness ratings had greater activation of this part of the brain and also felt more pain. Pixabay

Pranayamic breathing aces the right balance

In the above study, researchers noted that brain activity in the part of the brain where noradrenaline is produced raises slightly when we inhale and drops slightly as we exhale. Thus, balance is achieved and we can focus on what we have set out to do. Pranayama not only boosts concentration but also produces “changes in arousal, attention, and emotional control that can be of great benefit to the meditator.”

What is Pranayamic breathing?

Pranayamic breathing involves controlling and extending breath, with a view to manipulating your vital energy, battling stress, and improving your mood. It is often used in meditation and yoga and interestingly, many yoga experts rank pranayama as even more important than asanas (the postures performed in a yoga session). In yogic tradition, breath is said to carry a person’s life force. Interestingly, scientific studies back this assertion to the extent that pranayamic breathing is able to boost brain function and change the actual structure of the brain. In recent studies, pranayamic breathing has been found to lower or stabilize blood pressure, lower stress, and reduce anxiety and depression.

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In order to comprehend better the Indian seers constructed the special “BOAT” – named Yoga/Meditation.

Implications of the study for aging

The researchers are excited that their findings could signal a way to prevent brain aging. They stated that if brains typically lose mass as we age, practices such as pranayamic breathing greatly reduce the rate of brain shrinkage, thus potentially helping keep dementia and related diseases at bay. Because keeping noradrenaline levels at an optimal level can help the brain grow new connections, meditation is an ideal activity to pursue.

Pranayamic breathing is just one way to improve brain health. Supplementation, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are key, with recent studies showing that aerobic exercise also increases brain size. To make the most of the effect of breathing on focus, consider joining a yoga class or learning the essence of pranayamic breathing online or through an app like Prana Breath or Universal Breathing.