Google doodle celebrated the 97th
birth anniversary of BKS Iyengar, the man who has been credited with developing a new form of yoga. Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, who died last year, popularized ‘Iyengar Yoga’ in the country. Here are some facts you might not know about the yoga guru:
1. Early years
Born to a poor Sri Vaishnava Iyengar family, BKS Iyengar was the 11th
of 13 children born to a school teacher, Sri Krishnamachar, and mother Sheshamma. Iyengar’s home village Bellur, Karnataka was in the grip of an influenza epidemic at the time of his birth, which left him sickly throughout his childhood. Iyengar struggled with malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and general malnutrition. When he was five-years-old, the family moved to Bangalore and within four years, his father died due to appendicitis.
2. A yogic start
BKS struggled throughout his childhood and it was after a few years that his brother-in-law, the yogi Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, asked BKS to come to Mysore to practice yoga to improve his health. The fifteen-year-old boy kept on practicing yoga which steadily helped him to deal with his health issues. BKS then started giving demonstrations in Maharaja’s court at Mysore. His cousin, Krishnamacharya, was so strict in his teaching that he would sometime not let him eat until he mastered a certain posture.
3. Teaching career
With the encouragement of Krishnamacharya, at the age of 18, BKS moved to Pune to teach yoga. He spent countless days and years mastering various techniques of this ancient exercise. Among his devotes were Sachin Tendulkar and Kareena Kapoor. He also taught the head stand to Elisabeth, Queen of Belgium, when she was 80 years old.
4. International recognition
Iyengar became friends with the violinist Yehudi Menuhin who turned Iyengar from an Indian yoga guru to an international guru. Iyengar made his first visit to the United States in 1956, when he taught in Ann Arbor, Michigan and gave several lectures and demonstrations. In 1966, Iyengar published his first book, ‘Light on Yoga’, which was later translated into 17 languages and sold more than 3 million copies, making it an international bestseller.
Iyengar tied the knot with Ramamani, who was introduced to him by his brothers; the couple was blessed with five daughters and one son. Iyengar’s wife died at the age of 46, after which he named his yoga institute ‘The Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute’. He also adopted a tiger and a cub in memory of his wife. Today, Iyengar’s eldest daughter Geeta and his son Prashant have become internationally-known teachers in their own right. BKS died on 20 August 2014 in Pune, India at the age of 95 from heart and renal failure.
6. Philanthropist work
BKS supported nature conservation and donated Rs 2 million to the Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, Mysore; it is believed to be the largest donation by an individual to any zoo in India. He also worked to develop his home village, Bellur. He built a hospital, India’s first temple dedicated to Sage Patanjali, as well as a free school that supplies uniforms, books, and hot lunches to the children of Bellur and surrounding villages. He also constructed a secondary school and a college.
7. Approach to Yoga
BKS would give demonstrations to students and would also mention the inspirations from Hindu deities, such as Yoga Narasimha, and stories of yogi
s using trees to support their asana
s. Iyengar said in interviews that at the age of 90, he continued to practice asana
s for 3 hours and pranayama
s for an hour daily. Besides this, he mentioned that he found himself performing non-deliberate pranayama
s at other times.
The Indian government awarded Iyengar the Padma Shri in 1991, the Padma Bhushan in 2002 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2014. In 2004, Iyengar was named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by ‘Time’ magazine.