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B K S Iyengar: Guru who spread yoga craze in the West

One of the foremost yoga teachers in the world, Iyengar had been selected for Padma Vibhushan.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
Updated: August 21, 2014 2:59:21 pm
At B K S Iyengar’s funeral in Pune. ( Source: Express photo by Arul Horizon ) At B K S Iyengar’s funeral in Pune. ( Source: Express photo by Arul Horizon )

Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja or B K S  Iyengar, who is credited with providing global popularity to yoga through his unique style, died at a Pune hospital Wednesday due to age-related ailments. He was 96.

Dr Shirish Prayag, director of Prayag hospital, said that Iyengar underwent three sessions of dialysis. The yoga guru, who had been admitted to the hospital on August 12 following complaints of breathlessness and low blood pressure, was initially stabilised at the critical care unit. However, his condition deteriorated in the past few days as renal function was reduced.

He suffered a cardiac arrest and breathed his last at 3.15 am, doctors said. He is survived by five daughters and a son.
“My time has come. My soul is deeply satisfied with the work that has been done, now my body is in your hands,’’ Iyengar, who lay ailing at the hospital, had told his eldest daughter Geeta and other family members. “We even spoke about the national convention on yoga that has been planned later this year. He was encouraging till the very last and kept saying people will come — they have to learn  yoga,” Geeta said.

As soon as news of his death spread, his followers and disciples, even from abroad, reached Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Institute here to pay tributes. The yoga guru was cremated at the city’s Vaikunth crematorium in the afternoon in the presence of a large number of his disciples.

One of the foremost yoga teachers in the world, Iyengar had been selected for Padma Vibhushan — the second highest civilian honour — this year.  Condoling his death, PM Narendra Modi tweeted: “I am deeply saddened to know about yogacharya B K S Iyengar’s demise and offer my condolences to his followers all over the world.”

Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan tweeted: “We have lost a versatile personality who popularised yoga.” His deputy Ajit Pawar remembered Iyengar as the one who spread Indian culture to the world through yoga.

Born in 1918 in Bellur, Karnataka, Iyengar used to frequently fall sick during his childhood and adolescence. Creator of the world-famous “Iyengar yoga”, he was introduced to yoga by his brother-in-law, Prof T Krishnamacharya.

He came to Pune in 1937 and, after spreading knowledge of yoga, set up his own institute in 1975, which later expanded in various branches across the country and abroad. He used around 50 props, including ropes and mats, to align and stretch the body.

His book, Light on Yoga, considered the Bible of the art, has been translated into 19 languages and sold more than three million copies. In his last decade, he led an international yoga conference in the US and visited Russia and China.

“Even at 96, he continued to teach regularly,” recalled Uday Bhosale, one of the senior teachers of Iyengar yoga. He had been hailed as the Michelangelo of Yoga and included in Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people.

The International Biographical Centre at Cambridge, UK, awarded him the International Man of the Year (1998) and one of the top 100 educators in the 21st century. In 1991, he received the Padma Shri, while in 2002, he was awarded Padma Bhushan.

(Inputs from Garima Mishra & Paratha Sarathi Biswas)

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