Monday 22 January 2018

Indian yoga guru Iyengar dies at 95

Yoga in Morocco
Yoga in Morocco

INDIAN yoga guru BKS Iyengar, who helped popularise yoga around the world and wrote 14 books on the subject, has died aged 95.

Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar's death was reported on his website as well as by major Indian TV stations, which said he had been taken to hospital with a kidney ailment over the past week in the western city of Pune.

Born into a poor family in Bellur village in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, Iyengar was a sickly child who suffered multiple illnesses including typhoid and tuberculosis.

When he was 15, a relative introduced him to yoga in an attempt to build his resistance to disease. By the time he was 18, he moved to Pune to practise yoga and to teach its techniques to others.

Iyengar created his own brand of yoga, called Iyengar yoga, and established studios in 72 countries where yoga practitioners are taught ways to improve breathing, concentration and meditation.

By the mid-1950s word of Iyengar yoga spread in Europe, where he began teaching many new converts, including violinist Yehudi Menuhin and author Aldous Huxley.

The popularity of Iyengar yoga spurred him to write a book called Light On 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 three million copies sold and has since been translated into 17 languages.

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.

Iyengar yoga's physically challenging poses and breathing techniques have been adopted by mainstream medical practitioners to help patients suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic back pain.

In 2004, Iyengar was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.

In a condolence message, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi described Iyengar as "a fine guru, scholar and a stalwart who brought yoga into the lives of many across the world".

President Pranab Mukherjee said: "The nation has lost a personality who devoted his entire life to the teaching and dissemination of India's ancient knowledge and wisdom to millions all around the world."

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