Today, Google has chosen to acknowledge the birthday of Indian guru Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, better known as B.K.S. Iyengar. B.K.S. Iyengar was the founder of “lyengar yoga” and is considered to be one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world. Today, December 14, 2015, Iyengar would be celebrating his 97th birthday.
Iyengar played an instrumental role in bringing yoga to the West. He created devout followers on nearly every continent and was well known for his everlasting headstands. He believed that yoga was for everyone. No one was too old, stiff, thin or tired to learn or practice yoga.
Here are a few facts you may not know about this great yogi guru:
- Iyengar was one of thirteen children, three of whom died. Born into a poor family in 1918, Iyengar experienced poor health and was influenced by one of his older brother-in-laws to practice yoga to improve his health. Iyengar was teaching yoga by the age of 19; however, it was not until the 1950’s that he became internationally recognized.
- Iyengar’s brother-in-law practiced yoga in the kingdom of Mysore (now Karnataka state) in southern India. Here, he studied and taught “hatha yoga,” which focused on the alignment of the body. This is where Iyengar came to practice yoga and improve his health.
- BKS Iyengar taught his first yoga class in 1936.
- In 1952, Iyengar befriended Yehudi Menuhin, an American violinist. Menuhin grew to strongly believe in the power of yoga and practiced to improve his playing ability. Iyengar became his teacher, and Menuhin invited him to Switzerland to share his skills. After this trip, Iyengar continued traveling West teaching his yoga practices. Iyengar yoga studios were created across the globe.
- Iyengar was in a scooter accident that dislocated his spine. After this, he began exploring the use of props to help disabled people practice yoga. Additionally, he studied anatomy, psychology, and physiology to pioneer modern therapeutic yoga.
- Iyengar was happily married via an arranged marriage; however, his wife died at 46. In honor of her, Iyengar named his yoga school in Pune the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute.
- In 1966, Iyengar published a book, Light on Yoga, that features instructions, illustrations, and descriptions of yoga positions and breathing exercises. This book has served as the source for yoga students around the world.
- Iyengar met and became close with a variety of public figures including 85-year-old Queen Elizabeth of Belgium. The two first met in 1958 when the queen expressed interest in his signature sirasana headstand. He taught her to do her own.
- Two of Iyengar’s children became well-known, international yoga teachers as well. His son Prashant, and daughter Geeta also now run the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune.
- In 2004, Iyengar was featured in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. He was 85 at the time and still teaching strong. Iyengar devoted his life to the study and practice of yoga and carried the mindset, “yoga for all.” His “goal is to tie the mind to the breath and the body, not to an idea.” You can find Iyengar studios around the U.S. today.
Sources: Independent, Mirror, Time