Iyengar, yoga teacher to the stars, dies at the age of 95
The Indian guru who brought yoga to the West and transformed it from a Hindu ritual to a church hall keep fit class has died
Gurus in India have paid tribute to B.K.S Iyengar – the man who popularised yoga throughout the world and turned it into a global ‘mind, body and spirit’ industry – who has died at the age of 95.
He began practising yoga in 1934 under the tutelage of his brother-in-law and by the time of his death on Wednesday, his brand of yoga was taught in 70 countries.
His unique style of yoga, which involved the use of foam blocks and straps to increase stretching, was brought to the West in the early 1950s after the young guru met the violinist Yehudi 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”.
Sir Yehudi Menuhin took his new guru on a tour of Europe where he found a new source of devotees. The author Aldous Huxley became a follower while the Queen of Belgium is said to have learned his trademark sirsasana headstand at the age of 80.
His popularity with new audiences encouraged other Indian gurus to export their techniques around the world. Some, like Baba Ramdev, have created television, medicines and spiritual centre business empires worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
Leading yoga teachers in India today said he was a modern innovator whose legacy is the global interest in the Hindu spiritual ritual.
“The West knows yoga because of Iyengar. He developed a style of yoga for ordinary people. He introduced simple props and aids like ropes, blankets, wall to facilitate people to make it easy for the masses,” said Yogi Santatmananda Saraswati of Swami Dayananda Ashram, in Rishikesh.
“It is sad that he left us but what he left will be there for times to come through his disciples and teachings”, he added.