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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 185-186

Yogacharya Dr. Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar- "A Michelangelo of Yoga" (1918-2014)

Medical Research Centre, Kasturba Health Society, Vile Parle (W) Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication6-Aug-2015

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ashok D.B. Vaidya
Medical Research Centre, Kasturba Health Society, Vile Parle (W) Mumbai, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2347-9906.162373

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How to cite this article:
Vaidya AD. Yogacharya Dr. Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar- "A Michelangelo of Yoga" (1918-2014). J Obes Metab Res 2015;2:185-6

How to cite this URL:
Vaidya AD. Yogacharya Dr. Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar- "A Michelangelo of Yoga" (1918-2014). J Obes Metab Res [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Feb 22];2:185-6. Available from: http://www.jomrjournal.org/text.asp?2015/2/3/185/162373

When Yogacharya Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja (BKS) Iyengar entered his eternal Samadhi on August 20, 2014, the tributes to his life, works, teaching, yoga and literature were from all the corners of the world. "The guardian" wrote, "more than any other practitioner, Iyengar was responsible for the spread of interest in yoga in the west over the last half-century, having originally introduced the violinist Yehudi Menuhin to the art in the early 1950s." [1] The obituary note in the New York times (NYT) so graphically captures his personality, his passion for yoga and how his student perceived him. NYT quoted some his long-time students like Patricia Walden, "we were just coming out of the 60s change-your-consciousness thing, and many of us were in our heads, and wanting to meditate, and reach Samadhi. Iyengar was, like, "stand on your feet" "feel your feet." He was so practical. His famous quote was, "how can you know God if you don't know your big toe?" [2] BBC carried the news of the demise of the maestro, citing Iyengar's pithy quotes, "when I stretch, I stretch in such a way that my awareness moves, and a gate of awareness finally opens… 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." [3] Mark Tully had previously reported on the story of how Yehudi Menuhin's insomnia was handled by Yogacharya, "within 1-min 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." The tribute in "The Hindu" quoted Mr. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, "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." Dr. Iyengar's physician and disciple Dr. Manoj Nayak reported his last words as: "I have lived a majestic life!" [4]

BKS Iyengar was born on December 14, 1918, in Karnataka. The Vaishnava family was large and financially challenged. The father Sri Krishnamachar was a teacher at the village school. BKS had 10 siblings elder to him and two younger. As it was common at that time, malaria, typhoid, influenza and tuberculosis were rampant. BKS had more than enough of his share of malnutrition and infections. [5] In his own words, "my arms were thin, my legs were spindly, and my stomach protruded in an ungainly manner. My head used to hang down, and I had to lift it with great effort." No one in their right senses could have foreseen that this sickly child would not only live upto 96 years but will bring health to so many all over the world through his unique yoga. BKS lost his father in his childhood and was guided and trained by his brother-in-law in yoga, at Mysore. The steady and classical yoga practice led to a marked improvement in his health. BKS always acknowledged the germane influence of Sri T. Krishnamacharya as his Yoga Guru. The world is also grateful to that relatively unknown yoga pioneer for giving BKS for the world health.

BKS had an excellent way of teaching yoga. He was encouraged by his teacher to dedicate his life to the propagation of the Mysore School of Yoga. [6] Once when he witnessed that BKS could so well communicate the exact procedure of doing a specific yoga asana, which he could not, then he gave BKS a gold medal of Yoga Shikshaka Chakravarti, meaning "Emperor of Yoga Teachers". BKS inherited the strict disciplinary approach from his teacher. At an early age of 18 years BKS started teaching Yoga at Pune. He had a long struggle for a decade and a half.

A chance encounter of meeting the master violinist Yehudi Menuhin, in 1952, changed the life of BKS completely. The Western world and India learnt about the yoga maestro. And rest is the history of the conquest of the world by Iyengar Yoga. Leaders, queens, philosophers, artists, actors, sportsmen, businessmen, doctors and many others were the yoga disciples of BKS. The names include J. Krishnamurti, Jayaprakash Narayana, Achut Patwardhan, Yehudi Menuhin, the Queen Mother of Belgium, Aldous Huxley, Sachin Tendulkar, Annette Bening and Kareena Kapoor-Khan. The number of the disciples of the Iyengar Yoga runs into many thousands all over the world. It is an honour that the Oxford Dictionary defines the noun "Iyengar" as "a type of Yoga focusing on the correct alignment of the body, making use of straps, wooden blocks, and other objects as aids in achieving the correct postures."

A ready acceptance of Iyengar yoga followed the frequent visits to many countries by BKS. There are more than 80 countries where the yoga teachers trained in this form are available. The nodal Institution is the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMY) at Pune, established by BKS in memory of his wife. Pune has a very active group of experts in Bariatrics. They should establish a linkage with RIMYI for an integrative care of the overweight and obese, with yoga as a component. There is a need to study the prevalence of obesity in those who practice yoga on a regular basis with appropriately matched controls. The current Yogacharyas at RIMYI can be of major help.

The books (14) written by BKS have been very popular globally. There have been translations in many languages too. BKS had received many awards and honors from Governments, Universities, Institutes, Biography Centers, Clubs, Trusts and Corporations. Padmavibhushana and the Yoga Drona Award for being the greatest yoga exponent of the millennium were two out of many honors. The award of D. Litt. to this matriculate maestro is a unique event.

The extended family of BKS is very committed to continuing his mission globally. [7],[8],[9],[10] His eldest daughter Geeta and his son Prashant are internationally-known Yogacharyas. They too have authored several books of much value. Their leadership at RIMYI has kept the vision of Iyengar Yoga bright and spreading.


We thank Yogacharya Prashant Iyengar for kindly providing the Life-sketch and the permission to print the Asana pose of Yogacharya Dr. BKS Iyengar as the frontispiece.

  References Top

Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/aug/20/bks-iyengar. [Last retrieved on 2015 Jul 15].  Back to cited text no. 1
Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/21/world/asia/bks-iyengar. [Last retrieved on 2015 Jul 15].  Back to cited text no. 2
Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-28862979. [Last retrieved on 2015 Jul 15].  Back to cited text no. 3
Available from: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._K._S._Iyengar. [Last retrieved on 2015 Jul 15].  Back to cited text no. 5
Sjoman NE. The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace. New Delhi, India: Abhinav Publications; 1999. p. 49.  Back to cited text no. 6
Iyengar BK. Light on Yoga. (1966; Revised edition, 1977). New York: Schocken. ISBN 978-0-8052-1031-6.  Back to cited text no. 7
Iyengar BK. Light on Pranayama: The Yogic Art of Breathing. New York: Crossroad; 1981.  Back to cited text no. 8
Iyengar BK. The Art of Yoga. Boston: Unwin; 1985.  Back to cited text no. 9
Iyengar BK. Astadala Yogamala: Collected Works. Vol. 8. New Delhi: Allied Publishers; 2000-2008.  Back to cited text no. 10


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