BKS Iyengar, yoga guru to the world, passes away at 96

Written by fe Bureau | Pune | Updated: Aug 21 2014, 08:14am hrs
BKS Iyengar, who popularised yoga around the world, died early on Wednesday morning. Iyengar, 96, had been in hospital for the last eight days for age-related ailments.

Shirish Prayag, director of the hospital, said Iyengar underwent three sessions of dialysis. Iyengar, who had been admitted on August 12 following complaints of breathlessness and low blood pressure, was initially stabilised in the critical care unit. However, his condition deteriorated in the last few days as his renal function was reduced. Iyengar had suffered two heart attacks earlier.

Followers and disciples of Iyengar from the city and abroad paid tributes to the creator of Iyengar yoga at the Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune. Among his disciples were philosopher J Krishnamurthy, violinist Yehudi Menuhin, author Aldous Huxley, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and a host of European royalty. Yoga teachers certified by the Iyengar Institute work across more than 70 countries.

Iyengar, easily recognisable by his bushy eyebrows and silvery locks of shoulder-length hair, practised yoga until two months ago and even did headstands in his 90s. At 96 too he continued to teach regularly at the institute, specially attending to patients with medical ailments.

Iyengar took his yoga across the globe after he treated Menuhin. The popularity of Iyengar yoga spurred him to write a book called Light on Yoga considered a bible of yoga explaining the 216 yoga postures that formed what he called the science and art of yoga. The book became a global best seller with more than 3 million copies sold and has since been translated into 17 languages. He was awarded the Padma Vibushan early this year.

The emphasis in Iyengar yoga was on precision and alignment in all postures, the use of self-designed props to help practitioners achieve perfection in all postures and the aspect of sequencing the order in which different groups of asanas have to be performed.

Born in Bellur, Kolar district, Karnataka, Iyengar's childhood years were marred by frequent illnesses including typhoid and tuberculosis and was initiated into yoga by his brother-in-law T Krishnamacharya at 15. He began teaching yoga in 1937 in Pune and continued till the very end.

My time has come. My soul is deeply satisfied with the work that has been done, now my body is in your hands, Iyengar told his daughter while being treated at the hospital. He also discussed about the national convention on yoga was planned for later this year.

The funeral was attended by hundreds of his Indian and foreign disciples in Pune. His son, Prashant Iyengar, lit the funeral pyre.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled Iyengar's death and said that the will be remembered as a fine guru and scholar. I am deeply saddened to know about yogacharya BKS Iyengar's demise and offer my condolences to his followers all over the world, Modi tweeted.