Five interesting things about yoga guru BKS Iyengar

Google has honoured yoga guru BKS Iyengar on his 97th birthday with an animated doodle on its home page

Nandita Mathur
Updated15 Dec 2015
The Google doodle on Monday.<br />
The Google doodle on Monday.

Google has honoured yoga guru Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, commonly known as BKS Iyengar, on his 97th birthday with an animated doodle on its home page, which shows an old man performing different yoga asanas or postures. Iyengar, it is said, could hold a headstand for nearly half an hour well into his eighties.

Here are five things about the yoga guru you would like to know.

1. Born into a poor family, Iyengar was a weak and sickly child. Throughout his childhood, he struggled with malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid fever and general malnutrition. “My arms were thin, my legs were spindly, and my stomach protruded in an ungainly manner,” he wrote in his book Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom. “My head used to hang down, and I had to lift it with great effort.”

2. His association with his brother-in-law at the age of 15, yogi Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya was the turning point in his life. Krishnamacharya became his teacher and guru and taught him yoga, transforming Iyengar into a healthy person. Iyengar’s own body thus became the laboratory in which he could see the life-changing health benefits of yoga.

3. In 1952, Iyengar met violinist Yehudi Menuhin and it was this serendipitous encounter that catapulted Iyengar from a comparatively obscure Indian yoga teacher into an international guru. As the story goes, Iyengar was asked to go to Mumbai to meet the violinist at the behest of famous philosopher J. Krishnamurti whom he had taught yoga. Menuhin was said to be very tired and could spare only five minutes. Iyengar told him to lie down in Savasana (lying on his back), and he fell asleep. After one hour, Menuhin awoke refreshed and retuned, spending another two hours with Iyengar. Menuhin came to believe that practising yoga improved his playing, and in 1954 invited Iyengar to Switzerland. At the end of that visit, he presented his yoga teacher with a watch on the back of which was inscribed, “To my best violin teacher, BKS Iyengar”. After this, Iyengar visited the West regularly, and schools teaching his system of yoga sprang up all over the world. There are now hundreds of Iyengar yoga centres.

4. Iyengar had an incredible international following among dancers, film stars, politicians, authors such as Aldous Huxley, celebrity cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and even Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, whom he taught to stand on her head. Iyengar’s manual Light on Yoga, first published in 1966, has been translated into 18 languages and has gone into nearly 60 editions. It is considered to be a Bible for yoga practitioners, as it provides detailed descriptions along with illustrations of key postures.

5. Iyengar Yoga, named after Iyengar, is characterized by tremendous control and discipline, and places emphasis on detail, precision and alignment in the performance of postures (asana) and breath control (pranayama). This form of yoga often makes use of props, such as belts, blocks, and blankets, as aids in performing the asanas. Iyengar, who passed away last year, was awarded with the Padma Shri in 1991, the Padma Bhushan in 2002 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2014, for his immense contribution to Yoga globally. In 2004, Iyengar was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.

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