BKS Iyengar was initiated to yoga at the age of 15 by his brother in law Sri Krishanmacharya. Being bedridden from birth with influenza, typhoid and tuberculosis BKS Iyengar was introduced to yoga to improve his health. In 1936, after several years of study with his guru, BKS Iyengar was sent to Pune to teach yoga at a college for six months. The college authorities soon saw the benefits of this teaching and extended his stay to three years. From then on BKS Iyengar began teaching in Pune independently.
In 1952 BKS Iyengar befriended violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Immediately Menuhin saw the depth and understanding that Iyengar had gained in this ancient art and so invited him to teach internationally in cities such as London and Paris. It was during this time that the flame of yoga was reignited in the west. During this time Iyengar could see that there was a need for a revised yoga text, describing an asana and pranayama practise and hence Light on Yoga was conceived.
In 1966 Light on Yoga was published with 593 photographs of asanas and over 200 corresponding descriptions. It was the first book of its kind and revolutionised yoga in west.
Since this time, yoga has grown exponentially. Iyengar opened his centre ,RIMYI, in 1975 and immediately encountered teachers from western countries coming to learn the art. As those teacher learnt with Iyengar they went back to their respective countries and spread the information. Consequently Iyengar Associations began in over 60 countries of the world. Seeing this growth in the interest of yoga and particularly yoga teaching, Iyengar established strict guidelines for becoming qualified as a teacher.
No Iyengar teacher is certified unless they have attained a minimum level of proficiency in specific asanas and pranayama and then sat and passed an assessment by a panel of Senior Iyengar yoga teachers.The process of becoming a teacher takes years and consequently the Iyengar yoga tradition and lineage is maintained and respected.
Iyengar yoga is also renowned for its therapeutic approach. Guruji and his family have worked extensively with western doctors bringing relief to patients with cancer, heart and immune deficiencies, orthopaedic and spinal problems. Guruji’s daughter, Geeta, has also researched extensively the impact on the practise of asana’s on a women’s body and has developed therapeutic techniques for menstruation, menopause and pregnancy, while his son Prashant has written from a philosophical approach.
BKS Iyengar passed away on Wednesday 20th August 2014. His practise was his life and we are all grateful for the light this man has shone onto this ancient art for the benefit of us all.
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