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Monday, December 14, 2015

Google Doodle on BKS Iyengar - the Yoga legend

Did you google today and observe that different ‘0’ in Google !! ~ a search takes us to articles in;, BBC, Huffington Post – and all of them on a man who passed away last year, who would have been 97 today. 

It is Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, born in 1918 into a poor family in southern India - one of 13 children, of whom only 10 survived. He was sickly as a child - suffering from malaria and typhoid - and was introduced to yoga by a brother-in-law who ran a school in Mysore as part of an effort to restore his health.  At the age of 18 Iyengar became a teacher in the city of Pune, practising what he called an "art and science". His career was to  last more than than eight decades.  In Pune he taught Menuhin. The music maestro had complained that he could not relax or sleep, but in an interview with the veteran India broadcaster Sir Mark Tully in 2001, Guru Iyengar said “within one minute”, he was “snoring happily away”. The violinist was so impressed that he invited his guru to Switzerland in 1954.  It was the break that launched him on the West, and visits to the US and the rest of Europe followed.  Aldous Huxley, the author, was another of his famed disciples. writes :  BKS Iyengar: Four facts you need to know about the yoga guru behind today's Google Doodle.  Those four interesting facts are :   

1.His brother-in-law was known as the “father of modern yoga”  :  In 1934, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya first invited his young, sickly brother-in-law to train with him in what was then the kingdom of Mysore (now Karnataka state) in southern India to improve his health. Krishnamacharya was one of the key figures behind the revival of “hatha yoga” - from which Iyengar yoga developed - in the early 20th century which focused on the correct alignment of the body.  

2.  He owed his international success to an American violinist :  In 1952, Yehudi Menuhin befriended BKS Iyengar. Menuhin believed doing yoga improved his playing and invited him to Switzerland with him in 1954.  After that visit, Iyengar travelled frequently to the west to demonstrate his special technique and hundreds of Iyengar yoga centres sprang up around the world.

3. He taught the 85-year-old Queen Elisabeth of Belgium how to do a headstand :  Iyengar was first introduced to the dowager Queen in 1958 and she told him she wanted to learn how to do his signature sirasana headstand. She gave him a bust of his head which she had sculpted herself. In 1965, he visited her again to help her regain some control of her movements after she suffered a stroke at 92.

4. His children became celebrated yoga teachers as well  :  His eldest daughter Geeta and his son Prashant have become internationally renowned yoga practitioners and now run the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute - which BKS Iyengar founded in 1975 in honour of his late wife. He also trained his granddaughter, Abhijata Sridhar Iyengar as a yoga teacher for many years and she now teaches at the institute and abroad.
photo credit : huffington post.

Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar (1918 – 2014), better known as B.K.S. Iyengar,  authored many books on yoga practice and philosophy including Light on Yoga, Light on Pranayama, Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and Light on Life.   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 one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.

Iyengar supported nature conservation, donated Rs. 2 million to Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, Mysore, thought to be the largest donation by an individual to any zoo in India.  Iyengar helped promote awareness of multiple sclerosis with the Pune unit of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India.  His  most important charitable project involved donations to his ancestral village of Bellur, in the Kolar district of Karnataka. Through a trust fund that he established, he led a transformation of the village, supporting a number of charitable activities there. He built a hospital, India's first temple dedicated to Sage Patanjali, a free school that supplies uniforms, books, and a hot lunch to the children of Bellur and the surrounding villages, a secondary school, and a college.

Great man indeed !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
14th Dec 2015

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