One of the world’s foremost yoga gurus has died.
The Times of India reports that BKS (Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja) Iyengar, the guru considered responsible for bringing yoga to the mainstream attention of the West, was admitted to the intensive care unit of a private hospital in Pune on August 12th with poor heart function and difficulty in breathing.
His weakened heart continued to fail, leading to a decrease in blood flow to all of the vital organs, including his brain and kidneys. After his kidneys failed, he was prescribed continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT), but it became obvious after three cycles of dialysis that his body was not responding to the treatment.
The much-loved guru died early Wednesday morning, August 20th, at the age of 95.
For more than eight decades, he practiced the art and science of yoga, transforming the discipline in a way that made it internationally popular. Credited with having created his own style of yoga, the guru’s methods are now taught in more than 70 countries. His books have been translated into 13 languages. Before his death, he ran one of India’s best yoga schools in Pune.
A celebrity in his own right, Iyengar’s notable students have included the writer Aldous Huxley and the violinist Yehudi Menuhin. He was on TIME‘s 2004 list of the 100 most influential people for his instrumental role in bringing yoga to prominence in the United States.
He was a sickly child, struggling with malnutrition and a number of diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever, and tuberculosis. His illnesses inspired him to begin practicing yoga at 15 as a way to strengthen his body and spirit. Iyengar then began teaching yoga in 1937 after moving to Pune at the age of 18, but it would be his friendship with Yehudi Menuhin that would change his life forever.
The violinist Menuhin came to him with a complaint of sleep problems and was so inspired by the use of yoga to cure the illness that, in 1952, he arranged for the guru to teach abroad in Paris and London. From there, the publication of his international bestseller Light on Yoga propelled him into the limelight.
His approach to yoga was attractive to students in the West because of its focus on physical stamina and flexibility through attention to body alignment. He introduced the use of props to help disabled people practice yoga.
According to the Guardian, Guru Iyengar started the Pune school in 1973, having developed a form of yoga that he claimed anyone could do. There are more than 100 Iyengar yoga institutes worldwide. Survived by a son and a daughter, he was cremated Wednesday afternoon.
India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, tweeted his grief at the guru’s death:
“Generations will remember Shri BKS Iyengar as a fine guru, scholar and a stalwart who brought yoga into the lives of many across the world.”
[Image Courtesy of yoga-iyengar-pantin.fr]