Yogacharya Sri B.K.S. Iyengar
Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar generally known as Yogacharya B. K. S. Iyengar (born 14 December 1918, in Bellur, Kolar District, Karnataka, India, died 20 August 2014 in Pune, India) was the founder of Iyengar Yoga, although he himself would not call it Iyengar Yoga. He was considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world and had practised and taught yoga for more than 75 years. He wrote many books on yoga practice and philosophy, and was best known for his books Light on Yoga, Light on Pranayama, and Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. He also wrote several definitive yoga texts. Iyengar yoga classes are offered throughout the world, and it is believed that millions of students practise Iyengar Yoga.
He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1991, and the Padma Bhushan in 2002. In 2004, Mr. Iyengar was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
B.K.S. Iyengar was born into a poor family. He was the 11th of 13 children to parents Sri Krishnamachar, a school teacher, and his mother Sheshamma. He had a difficult childhood. Mr. Iyengar’s home village of Bellur, in Karnataka, was in the grips of the influenza pandemic at the time of his birth, leaving him sickly and weak. Mr. Iyengar’s father died when he was 9 years old, and he continued to suffer from a variety of maladies in childhood, including malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and general malnutrition.
At the age of 15 he went to live with his brother-in-law, the well-known yogi, Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya in Mysore. On learning asana practice, which steadily improved his health, he overcame his childhood weaknesses.
With the encouragement of Krishnamacharya, Mr. Iyengar moved to Pune to teach yoga in 1937. His practice developed as he spent many hours each day learning and experimenting in various techniques. As his methods improved, the number of students at his classes increased and his fame spread. In Pune, his brothers introduced him to Ramamani, to whom he married in 1943.Together they raised 6 children, 5 daughters and 1 son: Geeta, Vanita, Prashant, Sunita, Suchita, and Savita.
Recognition by Krishnamacharya
In an interview to Namarupa this is what BKS Iyengar said about Krishnamacharya’s endorsement of his teaching style:
“He [Krishnamacharya] never taught me much about teaching, but he saw me teach. In 1961, he came to Pune and was teaching my daughter and son. He taught them for many hours, but unfortunately they could not get what he was trying to show them. When I came up and asked what was wrong, my daughter told me what she did not understand about a posture. So, I explained to her, “You must stretch from this end to that end.” And immediately when Krishnamacharya saw this, he gave me a gold medal known as Yoga Shikshaka Chakravarti, which means “Emperor of Yoga Teachers, Teacher of Teachers.” He said I must teach like this and not just in private, but in public.”
In 1952, Mr. Iyengar met and befriended the famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Menuhin arranged for him to teach abroad in London, Switzerland, Paris and elsewhere. The popularity of yoga in the West can in large part be attributed to Mr. Iyengar.
In 1966, ‘Light on Yoga’ was published. It gradually became an international best-seller and was translated into 17 languages. Often called “the bible of yoga,” it succeeded in making yoga well known throughout the globe. This was later followed by titles on pranayama and various aspects of yoga philosophy. Mr. Iyengar authored 14 books.
In 1975, Mr. Iyengar opened the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, in memory of his departed wife. He officially retired from teaching in 1984, but continued to be active in the world of Iyengar Yoga, teaching special classes and writing books up until his death. Iyengar’s daughter, Geeta, and son, Prashant, have gained international acclaim as teachers.
In 2005, he visited the United States to promote his latest book, Light on Life, and to teach a special workshop at the Yoga Journal conference in Colorado.
In June 2011, he was presented with a commemorative stamp issued in his honour by the Beijing branch of China Post.