“When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.” – B.K.S. Iyengar
One of the 100 most influential people in the world passed away Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 at the astonishing age of 95.
B.K.S. Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar Yoga, lived life with a goal of spreading the teachings of yoga to as many people as possible. Writing 14 books during his lifetime, Iyengar made the lessons of yoga available to all who wanted to learn.
Born in 1918 in Belur, India (a small village in the state of Karnataka), B.K.S. Iyengar suffered a sickly childhood. However, at the age of 16, his sister married Sri T. Krishnamacharya, and Iyengar’s health took a dramatic turn. Krishnamacharya took Iyengar under his wing and taught the young boy some asanas. After this introduction of yoga into his life, Iyengar’s health soon improved, and he became a student of Krishnamachayra. In an interview with New York Times in 2005, Iyengar said, “Yoga saved my life. I took it for my health, and then I took it as a mission.”
Iyengar placed great emphasis on precision and alignment in his and his students’ practice. He encouraged students to overcome the mental and physical barriers they may have faced during their practice. The transformation in his students’ minds and bodies was instantaneous. The branch of yoga that was coined after this guru is a combination of “research-based experience” and “experience-based research.” Iyengar yoga is a way of life and meant for all to enjoy. Through the use of props, such as ropes and belts, all students can come to their mat aiming for perfection in their asanas. Iyengar encouraged students to regularly practice yoga in an effort to effectively integrate one’s mind, body, and emotions.
In 1966, Iyengar published Light on Yoga. Often called the “Bible of Yoga,” this informative book contains illustrations and explanations of over 200 postures as well as discussing pranayamas, bandhas, and kriyas. The book begins with “What is Yoga” and ends with beautiful pictures depicting numerous asanas. Light on Yoga has been published in 18 languages and shared with people all across the world.
However, the teachings of Iyengar yoga didn’t enter the Western world until 1952 when a chance meeting with violinist Yehaui Menuhin paved the way. Just a few years later, Iyengar was able to visit the United States and spread his message. While the world was being introduced to Iyengar yoga, he was busy building institutes that would eventually span six continents. His main institute, Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI), was built in 1973 in Pune and named after his wife. Shortly after, the first Iyengar yoga studio in America opened in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
During his lifetime, Iyengar taught countless individuals, and his message touched so many people’s lives. His teachings were well-received by even the highest authorities, like Pope Paul VI and Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first president of India. Acting as inspiration for all, he continued to practice until his death.
B.K.S. Iyengar will be greatly missed, but his teachings and his life as a lesson will remain in hearts and history forever.
This unique portrait of B.K.S Iyengar was painted by artist Michele Bohbot as a tribute to B.K.S Iyengar’s life-long dedication to spreading the joy of yoga. It will be gifted to B.K.S. Iyengar’s family in December 2014.