• Introduction
  • Early life
  • His Guru
  • International recognition
  • His work
  • Publications
  • Teachings
  • Iyengar Yoga
  • Institution
  • References


Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar – B. K. S. Iyengar is considered as one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world and has been practicing and teaching yoga for more than 75 years. He has written many books on yogic practice and philosophy, and is best known for his books Light on Yoga, Light on Pranayama, and Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. He has also written several definitive yoga texts. Iyengar yoga centers are located throughout the world, and it is believed that millions of students practice Iyengar Yoga.

He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1991 and the Padma Bhushan in 2002. In 2004, Iyengar was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine. 

Early Life  

Krishnamachar Sundararaja (B.K.S.) Iyengar was born on December 14, 1918. His father Sri Krishnamachar was a school teacher. He had a difficult childhood. Iyengar’s home village of Bellur, in Karnataka, was in the grip of an influenza pandemic at the time of his birth, leaving him sickly and weak. Iyengar’s father died when he was 9 years old, and he continued to suffer from a variety of maladies in childhood, including malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and general malnutrition.

His Guru

At the age of 15, Iyengar went to live with his brother-in-law, the well-known yogi, Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya in Mysore. Iyengar began to learn asana practice, which steadily improved his health. Soon he overcame his childhood weaknesses.

With the encouragement of Krishnamacharya, Iyengar moved to Pune to teach yoga in 1937. He spent many hours each day learning and experimenting in various techniques. As his methods started improving, the number of students at his classes increased and his fame spread.

In Pune, his brothers introduced him to Ramamani, whom he married in 1943. She supported Guruji along with her family of five daughters namely Geeta, Vinita, Suchita, Sunita and Savitha and one son Prashant.

International recognition and His disciples

B. K. S. Iyengar taught several eminent personalities such as J. Krishnamurti (ideal teacher), Jayaprakash Narayan (freedom fighter), Achyut Patwardhan (commandant of National Defense Academy) and also many physicians and industrialists.

Guruji’s practice and teachings were well appreciated by Dr. Rajendra Prasad (First President of India), Dr. Mohammad Hatta (ex-Vice President of Indonesia), Pope Paul VI and also by other eminent personalities from different countries.

In 1952, Iyengar met and befriended the famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Menuhin arranged for Iyengar to teach abroad in London, Switzerland, Paris and elsewhere. The popularity of yoga in the West is attributed to Iyengar.

In 1966, ‘Light on Yoga’ was published. It 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. This was later followed by titles on pranayam and various aspects of yoga philosophy. Mr. Iyengar has authored 14 books.

His Work

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 continues to be active in the world of Iyengar Yoga, teaching special classes and writing books.

Iyengar’s daughter, Geeta and son Prashant have gained international acclaim as teachers.

In 2005, he visited the United States to promote his latest book, Light on Life, and to teach a special workshop at the Yoga Journal conference in Colorado.

His Publications

  1. B. K. S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, Schocken Books; Revised edition (January 3, 1995), trade paperback, 544 pages, ISBN 0-8052-1031-8
  1. B. K. S. Iyengar, Light on Pranayama, Crossroad/Herder & Herder; (June 1995), trade paperback, 320 pages, ISBN 0-8245-0686-3
  1. B. K. S. Iyengar, The Tree of Yoga, Shambala, (1988), trade paperback, 184 pages, ISBN 0-87773-464-X
  1. B. K. S. Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, South Asia Books; 1 edition (August 1, 1993), trade paperback, 337 pages, ISBN 1-85538-225-3
  1. B. K. S. Iyengar, Light on Life The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom, Rodale; (2005), hardcover, 282 pages, ISBN 1-59486-248-6

His teachings

Guruji’s teachings were first published in 1966 as Light on Yoga. This book has been translated into 18 languages. Today, he is the author of 14 books.

Guruji was the first person to teach large groups of students. He lays great emphasis on precision and alignment which is followed by his students. He gets students to perform and break barriers. He brings about an automatic transformation in the mind and habits of people. He is the only person to teach the highest aspects of yoga – Atma Darshan through asanas. He has taught several famous personalities.

In 1998, he taught 800 of his students for a week on the occasion of his 80th birthday at Pune. Again, in the year 2000, he conducted a special course for senior “Iyengar Yoga” teachers from nearly 40 countries.

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar Yoga, created by B. K. S. Iyengar, is a form of yoga known for its use of props, such as belts and blocks, as aids in performing asanas (postures). It is firmly based on the traditional eight limbs of yoga as expounded by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras, emphasizing the development of strength, stamina, flexibility and balance, as well as concentration (Dharana) and meditation (Dhyana).

A form of Hatha Yoga, it focuses on the structural alignment of the physical body through the development of asanas. Through the practice of a system of asanas, it aims to unite the body, mind and spirit for health and well-being. This discipline is considered a powerful tool to relieve the stresses of modern-day life which in turn can help promote total physical and spiritual well-being.

Iyengar Yoga is characterized by great attention to detail and precise focus on body alignment. Iyengar pioneered the use of “props” such as cushions, benches, blocks, straps, and even sand bags, which function as aids allowing beginners to experience asanas more easily and fully than might otherwise be possible without several years of practice. Props also allow tired or sick students to enjoy the benefits of many asanas via fully “supported” methods requiring less muscular effort.

Iyengar also extensively developed ways of applying his practice to various ailments, diseases, and disorders. Many of these sources of suffering, such as chronic backache, immunodeficiency, high blood pressure, insomnia, depression and menopause, have specific programs of Iyengar yoga associated with them.

His Institute

Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) is the heart and soul of Iyengar Yoga and is located in Pune, Maharashtra. The institute was established on January 19, 1975 and is dedicated to Smt. Ramamani Iyengar, the wife of Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar. Its directors are Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar, Geeta S. Iyengar and Prashant S. Iyengar. Students from all over the world come here to receive the essence of yoga and learn the values of life.

There is a great significance behind the unique design of RIMYI. The three floors represent the body, mind and soul. Its height is 71 feet and has 8 columns which represent the eight limbs of ashtang yoga i.e. yam, niyam, asan, pranayam, pratyahar, dharan, dhyan and samadhi.

The bust of Smt. Ramamani at the gate welcomes the visitor while that of Guruji is present in the entrance hall. Guruji’s bust has been chiseled by the Queen Mother of Belgium at the age of 81, joyous at accomplishing her life’s dream of performing Sirshasan.

The institute is filled with numerous awards, citations, presentations, offerings and works of art presented to Guruji. The library has 8000 titles in several languages on a variety of subjects ranging from philosophy, human anatomy and physiology, ayurveda, commentaries on the scriptures, modern medicine and of course yoga.