B. K. S. Iyengar

Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar (14 December 1918 – 20 August 2014), better known as B.K.S. Iyengar, was the founder of the style of yoga known as "Iyengar Yoga" and was considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world. He has written many books on yoga practice and philosophy including Light on Yoga, Light on Pranayama, and Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Iyengar yoga classes are offered throughout the world. Iyengar was one of the earliest students of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who is often referred to as "the father of modern yoga". He has been credited with popularizing yoga firstly in India and then around the world. 

Iyengar was awarded the Padma Shri in 1991, the Padma Bhushan in 2002 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2014. In 2004, Iyengar was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. 

Early years

B.K.S. Iyengar was born into a poor Sri Vaishnava Iyengar family (a priestly Brahmin caste) at Bellur, Kolar District, Karnataka, India. He was the 11th of 13 children (10 of whom survived) of father Sri Krishnamachar, a school teacher, and mother Sheshamma. Iyengar's home village of Bellur, in Karnataka, was in the grip of the influenza pandemicat the time of his birth, leaving him sickly and weak. 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. "My head used to hang down, and I had to lift it with great effort." 
When he was five years old, his family moved to Bangalore and within four years his father died of appendicitis. 

Education in yoga

In 1934, his brother-in-law, the yogi Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, asked Iyengar, who would have been 15 years old at the time, to come to Mysore, so as to improve his health through yoga practice. There, Iyengar learned asana practice, which steadily improved his health. Krishnamacharya had Iyengar and other students give yoga demonstration in the Maharaja's court at Mysore, which had a positive influence on Iyengar. Iyengar considers his association with his brother-in-law a turning point in his life saying that over a two-year period "he [Krishnamacharya] only taught me for about ten or fifteen days, but those few days determined what I have become today!" K. Pattabhi Jois has claimed that he, and not Krishnamacharya, was Iyengar's guru. In 1937, Krishnamacharya sent Iyengar to Pune at the age of eighteen to spread the teaching of yoga. 
Though B.K.S. Iyengar had very high regard for Krishnamacharya, and occasionally turned to him for advice, he had a troubled relationship with his guru during his tutelage. In the beginning, he predicted that the stiff, sickly teenager would not be successful at Yoga. He was neglected and tasked with household chores. Only when Krishnamacharya's favorite pupil at the time, Keshavamurthy left one day, did serious training start. Krishnamacharya began teaching a series of difficult postures, sometimes telling him to not eat until he mastered a certain posture. These experiences would later inform the way he taught his students. 

Teaching career

With the encouragement of Krishnamacharya, Iyengar, aged 18, moved to Pune in 1937 to teach yoga. He spent many hours each day learning and experimenting with various techniques.
He taught yoga to several noted personalities including Jiddu Krishnamurti, Jayaprakash Narayan and Yehudi Menuhin. He taught sirsasana (head stand) to Elisabeth, Queen of Belgium when she was 80. 
Among his other devotees were the novelist Aldous Huxley, the actress Annette Bening and the designer Donna Karan, as well as a who’s who of prominent Indian figures, including the cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and the Bollywood siren Kareena Kapoor. 

International recognition

In 1952, Iyengar befriended the violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Menuhin gave him the break that transformed Iyengar from a comparatively obscure Indian yoga teacher into an international guru. Because Iyengar had taught the famous philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, he was asked to go to Bombay to meet Menuhin, who was known to be interested in yoga. Menuhin said he was very tired and could spare only five minutes. Iyengar told him to adopt a relaxing asana, and he fell asleep. After one hour, Menuhin woke refreshed and spent 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". From then on 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.  

The popularity of yoga in the West can be attributed in large part to Iyengar's teaching and writings. In 1966, Light on Yoga was published. It eventually became an international best-seller and was translated into 17 languages. Light on Yoga was followed by titles on pranayama and various aspects of yoga philosophy. In total, Iyengar authored 14 books. 
In 1975, Iyengar opened the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, in memory of his late wife. He officially retired from teaching in 1984, but continued 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, Iyengar visited the United States to promote his latest book, Light on Life, and to teach a special workshop at the Yoga Journal conference in Estes Park, Colorado. 3 October 2005 was declared as "B.K.S.Iyengar Day" by San Francisco city's Board of Supervisors.[2] Anthropologist Joseph S. Alter of the University of Pittsburgh stated "He has by far had the most profound impact on the global spread of yoga." In June 2011, he was presented with a commemorative stamp issued in his honour by the Beijing branch of China Post. There are now over thirty thousand Iyengar yoga students in 57 cities in China. 
The noun "Iyengar" is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as "a type of astanga yoga...", named after B. K. S. Iyengar, its deviser. 

Personal practice

Iyengar reported in interviews that, at the age of 90, he continued to practice asanas for 3 hours and pranayamas for an hour daily. Besides this, he mentioned that he found himself performing non-deliberate pranayamas at other times.

Approach to teaching

Iyengar attracted his students by offering them just what they sought – which tended to be physical stamina and flexibility. He conducted demonstrations and later, when a scooter accident dislocated his spine, began exploring the use of props to help disabled people practice Yoga. He also drew inspiration from Hindu deities such as Yoga Narasimha and stories of yogis using trees to support their asanas. 

Yoga Shiromani Mrs. Kadambari won the World Yoga Championship - 2004 in Argentina under the guidance of Gurudev B.K.S. Iyengar and is a close follower of Iyengarji.