25 unheard facts of BKS Iyengar
- Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, popularly known as Yogacharya B. K. S. Iyengar, was born on December 14, 1918, in Bellur, Kolar, District, Karnataka. India. He was the founder of Iyengar yoga.
- He was one of the leading and foremost yoga teachers in the world and had been practising and teaching yoga for more than 75 years. He is known as the King of Yogasanas because he embraces the precision of yoga poses.
- Dr. B. K. S. Iyengar has authored more than 30 books on yoga practice and philosophy. Some of his best-known books are ‘Light on Yoga’, ‘Light on Pranayama’, ‘Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’, ‘Patanjali Yogasutra Paricaya’, ‘Illustrated Light on Yoga’, ‘Yoga-A Path to Holistic Health’, Art of Yoga, ‘Light on Life’, Yoga and Sports-A Journey towards Health and Healing, etc.
- “Light on Yoga” 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. The book features instructions, illustrations, and descriptions of yoga poses and breathing exercises (pranayama) and also features 600 yoga photos of Iyengar practising yoga.
- Iyengar School of Yoga is famous worldwide and generally offers yoga classes more or less on all the continents and has millions of followers worldwide.
- Yogacharya Iyengar was awarded the Padma Shri in 1991, the Padma Bhushan in 2002, and the Padma Vibhushan in 2014. and in 2004, he was featured by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. In June 2011, he was presented with a commemorative stamp issued in his honour by the Beijing branch of China Post.
- He was the 11th of 13 children and faced a tough childhood due to the poor condition of the family.
- During childhood time, he was very sick and weak and continued to suffer from a variety of ailments like malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and malnutrition.
- At 15, Iyengar went to live with his brother-in-law, Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, one of the most famous yogis ever. He learned yogasana and gradually overcame his weaknesses.
- In 1937, he moved to Pune, where he improved his art of yoga, thereby increasing his followers and popularity. He married Ramamani in 1943, with whom he has five daughters and one son. Unfortunately, his wife died at the age of 46.
- Krishnamacharya was highly praised for Iyengar’s art and science of Yoga and gave him a gold medal known as Yoga Shikshaka Chakravarti, which means “Emperor of Yoga Teachers, Teacher of Teachers.”
- He taught yoga to the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who introduced Iyengar to the Western world. Yehudi Menuhin also wrote the foreword for Light on Yoga in 1965. Iyengar was instrumental in making yoga much more popular in the Western world. According to him, yoga is for everyone…..old, young, stiff, thin, or diseased.
- In 1975, Iyengar opened the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune in memory of his departed wife. He officially retired from teaching in 1984 but remains active in Iyengar Yoga, teaching special classes and writing books.
- Iyengar took his first formal yoga class in 1936.
- Iyengar got his spine dislocated due to a scooter accident. After that, he started using props to teach yoga to disabled people.
- Iyengar taught yoga to Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, who was 85 years old, and helped her do Sirsasana independently.
- Besides Queen Elisabeth, he taught yoga to many celebrities like Jayaprakash Narayan, novelist Aldous Huxley, actress Annette Bening, filmmaker Mira Nair, designer Donna Karan, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor, etc.
- His primary motto was ‘Yoga for All’ and focused on the coordination of mind, body, and breath.
- He was the master of Hatha Yoga and also introduced various props, viz., blocks, chairs, blankets, etc., to make the practising of yoga much more accessible.
- Even at 90, he was practising yogasana daily for three hours and pranayama for half an hour.
- The tradition of Iyengar is being continued by his two children, son Prashant and daughter Geeta, both nationally and internationally. Geeta Iyengar died in 2018.
- He died on August 20, 2014, at 95 in Pune, Maharashtra, India.
- He was an animal lover and donated Rs. 2 million to Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, Mysore, considered the highest donation made by an individual to a zoo.
- San Francisco Board of Supervisors declared 3rd October 2005 as ‘ BKS Iyengar Day’.
- Now, ‘Iyengar’ is a noun defined by Oxford Dictionaries as a type of Hatha Yoga focusing on the correct alignment of the body, using straps, wooden blocks, and other objects to achieve the correct postures.
Iyengar in Oxford English Dictionary
Not only did he survive, he gave life to millions worldwide, having taught for 80 years in the 95 years of his life. He transmitted his understanding and experience on how asanas and pranayama can relieve physical, physiological, mental, emotional and intellectual suffering. Dukha vritti nirodha. Iyengar has become so famous that even the Oxford English Dictionary defines the term ‘Iyengar’ as a form of yoga, a great recognition.
How to become an Iyengar yoga teacher?
Life was difficult as he struggled for a livelihood in his youth, often needing more money to afford two square meals. His commitment to yoga did not waver, and his abilities as a yoga teacher spread by word of mouth; over the years, he evolved into a Master, Acharya and then a Guru. Never once did he seek support from any individual or organisation or advertise, but merely through his artistic demonstrations, he wooed people to yoga. Once they studied with him and ‘tasted’ the experience of yoga – they continued….many becoming teachers of his system. Today, Iyengar Yoga is being practised in 80+ countries. It is not easy to become an Iyengar Yoga teacher. It takes a minimum of 3 years of practice before they can attain the basic level of teaching, the highest taking more than 18 years, ensuring continual learning by a teacher. Being futuristic and maintaining high standards, he has developed a system of training, assessment and accreditation, which ensures that the quality of Iyengar Yoga teaching across nations is maintained.
What is Light on Yoga?
His seminal work, Light on Yoga, was called the Bible of Yoga. Today, even after 50 years – it remains one of the most authoritative texts on yoga, having been translated into 20 languages and the Indian edition going into its 53rd impression. Subsequently, he authored 30 books, including Light on Pranayama, Light on Yoga Sutras and Light on Life – each a masterpiece in itself. The Chinese edition of Light On, published in 2005, took the nation by storm, and in just a few months, 10000 copies were sold. He touched the heart of the Chinese in just three days of teaching when he travelled there at the age of 92.
Iyengar Yoga Institute, Pune
He travelled far and wide but never moved from his roots – the Institute in Pune that he set up in memory of his late wife, Ramamani. This simple Institute has become a place of pilgrimage for yoga lovers from all over the world. The demand to study here is so great that often, students learn with a teacher in their own country for eight years and then wait patiently for two years for just a month’s study at the Mother Institute.