Yogacharya BKS Iyengar (1918-2014) is the foremost master who brought yoga to the Western World in the 1960s.
Born to a very modest family, one of the 10 surviving children of the 13 born to his parents, BKS Iyengar was a sickly child. He suffered from malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis and malnutrition. His father died when he was nine years old. He was sent to live and study with his brother-in-law Tirumalai Krishnamacharya at the age of 15, so that he could improve his health through the practice of yoga asanas. He started teaching yoga at the age of 18 and continued until a few weeks before his death, nearly 80 years later.
His meeting with world famous violonist Yehudi Menuhin in 1954 changed Mr Iyengar’s destiny: Menuhin was interested in yoga and came to believe that Mr Iyengar’s teachings improved his violon playing. On Menuhin’s invitation, Mr. Iyengar came to London, England, and Geneva, Switzerland, where he gave public demonstration of yoga, and progressively gained a following that included Aldous Huxley and Elizabeth, the Queen of Belgium, who at the age of 80 years old was doing headstands.
In 1966, he published what became the yoga bible: “Light on Yoga”, an international best sellers, translated in several languages. He was named in 2005 by Times magazine of the 100 most influential persons of the XX Century.
Everyone who met BKS Iyengar speaks of his penetrating intelligence, kindness, absolute dedication to yoga. Until a few weeks before his death in 2014 at the age of 95, he practiced daily in his institute in Pune, India, along visiting students. He is to yoga what Einstein is to physics: he moved yoga from the domain of secrecy to make it accessible to the wider public across the world.
What is Iyengar Yoga?
This is the classical yoga of Patanjali, 5000 years old. It is a form of Hatha Yoga or physical yoga of poses of various degrees of difficulties, demanding increasing levels of flexibility. strength, balance and focus. What distinguishes this particular practice is the use of props to assist in the performance of yoga poses. Mr Iyengar invented the use of props to help students with specific circumstances or limitations to achieve the best spinal alignment to maximize the pose health benefits. From 1992, Mr Iyengar increased his focus on holding the asanas (poses), as he observed that staying in poses longer increased the benefits of doing the poses.
Why Iyengar Yoga?
Iyengar yoga is essentially therapeutic because of its emphasis on spinal alignment, precision and the fact that asanas (poses) are held for a period of time. Because students move carefully from poses to poses, generally after a demonstration by the teacher, Iyengar Yoga is a very safe practice for individual of every age or physical condition. It truly is yoga for everyone.
Highly trained teachers are able to adapt poses to allow students with various health conditions to practice safely.
Iyengar yoga is a safe and systematic progression of poses that touch on all the physiological systems as students master poses.