Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, was popularly known as B.K.S. Iyengar. He was one of the earliest Yoga teacher who took Yoga to the West. He popularized Yoga in India and the world. His style of Yoga is known as “Iyengar Yoga”.
He also wrote several books on Yoga, such as Light on Yoga, Light on Pranayama, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and Light on Life. He was a disciple of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who is called “The father of modern yoga”. B.K.S. Iyengar was honored from time to time, by the Indian government with all the top civilian awards which includes the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. He was named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, by Time magazine in 2004.
B.K.S. Iyengar was born on 14 December 1918 in Bellur, Kolar district, Karnataka, India. He was one of the 13th children in a poor Sri Vaishnava Iyengar family. His father Sri Krishnamachar was a school teacher, and his mother Sheshamma was a housewife. His family moved to Bangalore when he was five years old, and his father expired when he was nine. He was a weak and sick child who suffered from influenza, malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and malnutrition.
When he was 15, his brother-in-law, Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who was a renowned Yoga teacher, brought him to Mysore, to learn and practice yoga for improving his health. Iyengar practiced Yoga and his health improved. His guru Krishnamacharya then sent Iyengar to Pune to spread the teaching of yoga, in 1937.
Career and Recognition as a Yoga Teacher
As a Yoga teacher, he taught Yoga to top personalities of the world including Jiddu Krishnamurti, Yehudi Menuhin, Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, Aldous Huxley, actress Annette Bening, film maker Mira Nair and designer Donna Karan. He also taught Yoga to well-known Indian personalities like Jayaprakash Narayan, Sachin Tendulkar and Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor.
A meeting with the violinist Yehudi Menuhin in 1952 in Bombay, catapulted Iyengar to international fame as an international Yoga guru. This meeting was arranged by the famous philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, who learnt Yoga from Iyengar. Two years later, Yehudi Menuhin invited Iyengar to Switzerland. The success of this Yoga sessions made Iyengar visit the West regularly. Slowly he built up a series of his Iyengar Yoga schools all over the world and today there are more than hundred such schools in several countries including the United States, which he first visited in 1956.
His Books and Contributions
His first book on Yoga, Light on Yoga was published in 1966 and became an international best-seller, which sold millions of copies and was translated in several languages. This success was followed by several books on Pranayamas and Yoga philosophy, totalling 14 books.
In 2005, Iyengar visited the United States to promote his new book, Light on Life, and to hold a special workshop at the Yoga Journal conference, when San Francisco city declared 3 October 2005 as “B.K.S. Iyengar Day”.
In 2011, a commemorative stamp was issued by China Post – Beijing, in his honour. More than 60 cities in China have Iyengar Yoga schools with thousands of student in each school.
Even at the age of more than 90, Iyengar kept practicing asanas for 3 hours and pranayamas for an hour every day.
Iyengar married Ramamani in 1943. They had a son and five daughters. Ramamani died in 1973. In her memory, Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute was opened in Pune, in 1975. Iyengar retired from active Yoga teaching in 1984. He continued to spread Iyengar Yoga to the world with special classes, lectures, and writing books. Much of his tasks were taken up by his daughter Geeta and son Prashant.
Iyengar passed away on 20 August 2014 in Pune at the age of 95 and was cremated there. Condolences poured from all over the world.
Inspirational Quotes by B.K.S. Iyengar
“Be inspired but not proud.”
“Live happily and die majestically.”
“You are a spark of divinity; you can realize it through your body.”
“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”
“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”
“The head is the seat of intelligence. The heart is the seat of emotion. Both have to work in cooperation with the body.”
“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.”
“Do not aim low, you will miss the mark. Aim high and you will be on a threshold of bliss.”
B.K.S. Iyengar will be remembered for his contributions to Yoga and also for the causes he contributed to; such as nature conservation, multiple sclerosis, education for poor children, charitable hospitals and many more. He also built India’s first temple dedicated to the ancient sage Patanjali, who is credited to have founded the system of Yoga.
Written By: Raj Kumar Hansdah