Jump to content

Indian Guru Who Sparked Global Yoga Craze, Dies Aged 95


Recommended Posts

BKS Iyengar, Indian guru who sparked global yoga craze, dies aged 95

He developed unique form of ancient practice he said anyone could follow, leading to a huge expansion and celebrity fans
BKS Iyengar, photographed in Karnataka, India, in 2005. Despite a heart attack at 80, he continued to practise yoga into his 90
BKS Iyengar, the Indian yoga guru credited with helping to fuel a global explosion in the popularity of the ancient spiritual practice, has died aged 95.

Iyengar started his yoga school in 1973 in the western city of Pune, developing a unique form of the practice that he said anyone could follow.

He trained hundreds of teachers to disseminate his approach, which uses props such as belts and ropes to help novice practitioners achieve the poses.

He wrote many books on yoga, which has been practised in Asia for more than 2,000 years, and has in recent decades become hugely popular around the world.


His insistence on perfecting the poses – or asanas – won him a huge following, among them celebrity fans ranging from the cricketer Sachin Tendulkar to the writer Aldous Huxley.

It was an encounter with the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who came across Iyengar during a trip to Mumbai in the 1950s, that prompted him to take his practice global.

"Perhaps no one has done more than Mr Iyengar to bring yoga to the west," said the New York Times in a 2002 profile of the guru.

"Long before Christy Turlington was gracing magazine covers, decades before power yoga was a multimillion-dollar business, Mr Iyengar was teaching Americans, among others, the virtues of asanas and breath control."

US model Turlington graced the front cover of Time magazine in a cross-legged pose for a 2001 report on the explosion in yoga's popularity.

Critics say the global expansion of yoga into western gyms and fitness centres has taken the practice too far from its spiritual origins.

But Iyengar said it was unfair to blame yogis. "It all depends on what state of mind the practitioner is in when he is doing yoga," he said last year in an interview with Indian newspaper Mint.

"For the aberration, don't blame yoga or the whole community of yogis."


Iyengar died early on Wednesday in hospital after suffering kidney failure, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

His website carried a picture of Iyengar's smiling face beside a message that read: "I always tell people, 'Live happily and die majestically.' 14 Dec 1918 – 20 Aug 2014."

Despite suffering a heart attack at 80, he had continued to practise yoga into his 90s.

He suffered from ill health as a child but found that he could improve his strength by practising yoga, which he took up as a teenager.

When he was 18, his guru sent him to teach in Pune because he spoke some English. There, he developed his own form of yoga, eventually opening his own institute.

There are now over 100 Iyengar yoga institutes around the world.

The Indian information minister, Prakash Javadekar, said Iyengar had "made Pune the capital of yoga and spread it all over the world".

The prime minister, Narendra Modi, a yoga lover, tweeted that he was "deeply saddened" by the guru's death.

"Generations will remember Shri BKS Iyengar as a fine guru, scholar and a stalwart who brought yoga into the lives of many across the world," he said.

Iyengar is survived by a son and a daughter. He will be cremated on Wednesday afternoon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mr Iyengar's yoga is now taught in more than 72 countries

Indian yoga guru BKS Iyengar has died in the western city of Pune, aged 95.

Mr Iyengar was admitted to hospital last week and died early on Wednesday following kidney problems, doctors treating him said.

Mr Iyengar was credited with his own brand of yoga, and taught author Aldous Huxley and violinist Yehudi Menuhin, among other celebrities.

Iyengar yoga is now taught in more than 70 countries and the guru's books have been translated into 13 languages.

One of yoga's finest teachers, Mr Iyengar practised what he called an "art and science" for more than eight decades and ran one of India's top yoga schools in Pune.

He continued to practise - "practice is my feast", he once told a correspondent - in his old age and could still do the sirsasana - or the headstand - for half an hour until last year.

He used around 50 props, including ropes and mats, to align and stretch the body.

"When I stretch, I stretch in such a way that my awareness moves, and a gate of awareness finally opens," Mr Iyengar told the Mint newspaper last year.

"When I still find some parts of my body that I have not found before, I tell myself, yes I am progressing scientifically... I don't stretch my body as if it is an object. I do yoga from the self towards the body, not the other way around."

When he first met Yehudi Menuhin, the violinist complained that he never had time to relax and never got a good night's sleep.

"Within one minute Iyengar had him snoring happily away. But Guruji did warn me: 'Relaxation doesn't mean yoga is a soft option. It's a disciplined subject - a casual attempt only gains casual results'," Mark Tully, former BBC correspondent in India, wrote after meeting Mr Iyengar in 2001.

Bold part is very interesting, its almost seems like awareness from our self- unfolding its full potential into body. In order to do that, one must connect to full awareness of self within- or have some sort of self-awareness awakening (half self realization as they say).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Khushwant singh lived for 99 years on shots of whisky :)

I recall reading that he always went to bed on two stiff pegs of the above.

Disclaimer! I'm not encouraging drinking here BUT (here, possibly, is the science behind it - for interested parties):

Apparently some whiskeys can help reduce blood sugar levels. They may be working like this. The liver perceives the alcohol as a toxin and the liver works to process this. In order to do this, the liver requires glucose, which it pulls in from the bloodstream.

I've met a few diabetics who use it (sparingly) in this way. Apparently this effect doesn't work with all alcohol though? Just wondering what special quality of whiskey might cause this effect?

I think Italians (maybe unwittingly?) use this effect when they drink red wine with their carbohydrate laden meals (breads and pastas etc.)

P.S. - I think Khushwant Singh also did brief 'mind stilling' meditation twice a day too, which might have helped him (morning and evening).

Edited by dalsingh101
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I might be giving a bit of a negative input here...but things like these make me a bit skeptical.

If somebody is classified as a yoga 'guru', I would assume that they would have complete control over how their body works.

More so, their body organs should be in a perfect working order.

To be a yoga 'guru', and to die of heart and renal failure at 95....seems a bit odd.

Lets assume that their 'breath' or 'swaas' for this lifetime were exhausted....and they just had to exit their 'praan-shakti' to leave this body. Do the heart and kidneys fail in such a procedure?

Or may be I am overestimating yoga....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Or may be I am overestimating yoga....

I think so.

He had a long life.

The organs naturally deteriorate in old age like everything else physical.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In ashtaang yoga, the stages are as following: yam, niyam, aasan, pranayam, pratyahara, dharna, dhyaan and samadhi.

A while ago, I had read the book, 'Living with the Himalayan masters' by Dr Swami Ram ji. In one of the chapters, he explains how he witnessed a 'guru' leave his body and occupy an another young dead body which had been left unattended. This was done so as to be able to continue his spiritual practices.

Now, this 'guru' had obviously entered the state of samadhi and then exited his praan via the brahm-randar naadi or dasam dwaar.

This is what my perception of a yoga guru is.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is what my perception of a yoga guru is.

I think what you are talking about there is exceptional.

I've probably got a more modern perception of what a yoga guru is about. I think that they are about teaching practices which are conducive to a healthy body and deep psychological relaxation/calmness. Probably like what Deepak Chopra is on?

In one of the chapters, he explains how he witnessed a 'guru' leave his body and occupy an another young dead body which had been left unattended.

Sometimes I take these types of 'witness accounts' with a pinch of salt. I know over piousness and adulation can sometimes have people exaggerating or pretty much imagining things. That's not to say that such things aren't possible though.

No offense towards your beliefs intended btw.

: )

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...