Lifestyle & Belief

Remembering Indian yoga guru BKS Iyengar — the man who brought yoga to the US

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BKS Iyengar in Pune, India, being interviewed for the documentary "Enlighten Up".

Credit:

Jonathon Hexner

He’s the man credited with bringing yoga to the world.

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Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, better known as BKS Iyengar, was a yoga guru whose brand of the ancient spiritual practice took off around the world.

Iyengar opened his first yoga school in India in the 1970s. He went on to establish institutes in 72 countries on six continents, including in the US.

Iyengar personally trained hundreds of teachers to disseminate his approach, which uses props such as belts, ropes, blocks and bolsters to help novice yoga students achieve the poses. In 2009, documentary filmmaker Kate Churchill profiled Iyengar in her film, “Enlighten Up".

“I remember the first time I walked into an Iyengar yoga studio. ... It was like a gymnasium in there with these racks that you [lay] on and these blocks and straps and riggings from the walls — all of that, Iyengar figured out.”

Iyengar talked about his yoga practice in simple terms in “Enlighten Up”.

“Yoga can take a man into two ways of living; enjoyment in life or liberation in life,” Iyengar said. “You want to improve, I want to improve. “

Iyengar wrote a number books about his practice and philosophy, including the bestseller, “Light on Yoga”. And he developed a global following that included novelist Aldous Huxley, violin maestro Yehudi Menuhin and lifestyle guru Martha Stewart.

News of his passing sparked an outpouring of messages on social media, including from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Iyengar practiced yoga well into his 90s. It's reported that he was doing handstands up until last year.

His website on Wednesday carried a picture of Iyengar's smiling face beside a message that read: "I always tell people, 'Live happily and die majestically.' 14 Dec 1918 – 20 Aug 2014."

Iyengar died of kidney failure at a hospital in Pune, India.