B.K.S. Iyengar Celebrates 92nd Birthday. Leave a comment!

Via Birdie Greenberg
on Dec 14, 2010
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Today, December 14, 2010, marks the 92nd birthday of Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, known to the world as B.K.S. Iyengar, the world’s greatest living yoga master, and to his students as Guruji.  Mr. Iyengar has been teaching yoga for more than 75 years, and gained international fame when he befriended Yehudi Menuhin, a world famous violinist, who arranged for him to teach in Europe.  Since that time, Mr. Iyengar has been credited as perfecting the yoga asana practice that is most widely taught in the west.

Mr. Iyengar was born in 1918 in Bellur, India, into a poor family and had a difficult childhood.  His father died when he was young, and he suffered from a number of serious illnesses including malaria, tuberculosis, thyphoid fever, and malnutrition.  At age 15, Mr. Iyengar’s brother-in-law, Sri Krishnamacharya, brought him to Mysore and taught him an asana practice to improve his health.  In his 2005 book Light on Life, Mr. Iyengar describes his early life and how he came to yoga:

My poor health was matched, as it often is when one is sick, by my poor mood. A deep melancholy often overtook me, and at times I asked myself whether life was worth the trouble of living.

Seeing that the general state of my health was so poor, my brother-in-law recommended a stiff regime of yoga practice to knock me into shape and strengthen me up to face life’s trials and challenges as I approached adulthood.

Mr. Iyengar’s yoga practice began with the physical asana practice. And in Light on Life, he explains that yoga is so much more:

The practice of yogasana for the sake of health, to keep fit, or to maintain flexibility is the external practice of yoga.

While this is a legitimate place to begin, it is not the end… Even in simple asanas, one is experiencing the three levels of quest: the external quest, which brings firmness of the body; the internal quest, which brings steadiness of intelligence; and the innermost quest, which brings benevolence of spirit.

In a press conference held last Friday at Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute in Pune, India, on Friday, Iyengar discussed his past, and the present state of yoga.  In an article from Indian news outlet Daily News & Analysis, Iyengar is quoted as saying:

I believe in living in the present tense. There is no point crying about the past and speculating about the future. I had a very difficult past. I had only two students in 1939 and the people in Pune were actually hostile towards me. However, I worked harder and succeeded. Today, Iyengar yoga has become a massive tree which has spread across the world. Nobody is hostile towards me and I have so many friends. I have every reason to live in the present.

Of his own yoga practice, all three hours a day of it, Mr. Iyengar says:

Yoga is not an addiction for me. It was an addiction when I was a young man. Today, yoga inspires me. Every day, I learn something new and interesting. I cannot have my meals, without practicing yoga. My practice gives me new ideas, thoughts and feelings.

There are 300 joints, 700 muscles and 96 kms of blood circulation system in our body. When I practice a particular asana, I need to pay attention to every single part of my body. When I practice, my intellectual awareness is flows from head to toe, like the river to the sea. I find this gratifying and interesting.

Mr. Iyengar officially retired from teaching yoga in 1984, but is actively involved in the world of Iyengar yoga.  He has authored 14 books, the first of which, Light on Yoga, was published in 1966 and has since become an international best-seller and has been translated into 17 languages.

One of my favorite books Iyengar: The Yoga Master, was not written by Mr. Iyengar, but is a collection of stories written by his students and recounts the impact that he has had on individuals and the world.

In honor of Mr. Iyengar’s birthday, I invite you to leave comments here including personal stories, thoughts, or simply birthday wishes.


About Birdie Greenberg

Birdie Greenberg has been a struggling yogi since the summer of 2004, when she was stressing herself out studying to pass the bar exam. In an effort to chill her out, her mom dragged her flapping and squawking into her first yoga class. She never looked back. Four years later, she became a Registered Yoga Teacher with Temple of Kriya Yoga in Chicago. Birdie lives and works in Los Angeles, California. And when she's not yogaing or blogging, you'll probably find her hiking in the mountains with her handsome husband and her two beloved furballs. You can read more about her personal yoga journey at her blog, Yogi, interrupted.


33 Responses to “B.K.S. Iyengar Celebrates 92nd Birthday. Leave a comment!”

  1. Charlotte says:

    I had the privilege of attending an intensive in Pune with BKS and Geeta Iyengar in 1989. The depth of their knowledge is unparalleled in my experience. I went there hoping for an understanding of some of the more complicated poses, but quickly realized that the greatest gift they could offer was to help me gain a greater understanding of tadasana. I am so grateful for the depth and integrity of Iyengar's work.

  2. Charlotte…Wow! What an incredible experience that must have been

  3. Narsi says:

    Just like Charlotte I had the privilege to work with BKS and his son back in pune (around 1986). It was such a pleasure
    to learn the different poses. There was an another teacher by the name Shah in Pune who does most of the teaching. I spent
    couple of years learning and I thank the master for everything.


  4. I think that are a lot of Yoga teachers and students here in the west who have learned from his words, his great allignment for asanas, his love for yoga, his philosophy and his wisdom. We all should be happy that the world got such a great master. Than you! Namaste.

  5. I think that there are a lot of Yoga teachers and students here in the west who have learned from his words, his wisdom, his teachings, his eye for allignment, his philosphy and his love for Yoga. We are lucky with such a great master. Thank you! Namaste

  6. Narsi, thanks for posting your comment. I'll bet you have wonderful memories of your time in Pune.

  7. Hi Ellen! Thanks for stopping by and posting a comment. Yes, the world is very lucky to have learned from this man.

  8. Don Carmichael says:

    Blessings on this great man and his family. I was fortunate to participate in an intensive in Pune-led mostly by his daughter Geeta Iyengar- in the fall of 1988. Afterwards had a trekking adventure and/or pilgrimage up to Gomukh at the base of the Gangotri Glacier and the head waters of one of the tributaries of the Ganges. Though my own path in yoga has branched/blossomed, I am one yogi grateful for Mr. Iyengar's insightful teaching and profound spirituality. Thanks for the shout out.

  9. candicegarrett says:


  10. yogabird says:

    Hi Don! Thank you for sharing your story…sounds great!

  11. yogabird says:

    I know…92 years.

  12. Thanks for honoring Mr. Iyengar on his birthday, Birdie! He has contributed so much to the yoga world and, IMHO, embodies the meaning of the word "guru." He has, by way of my teachers (who have studied with him), shined a light to illuminate my path in light. That sounds a bit trite, but is true and heartfelt. Blessings to you, and may you still be doing sirsasana when you're 92. I know I hope to be! <3

  13. Angela McWilliams says:

    Oops.. I meant to say "path in life." I really need to start proofing things before I post them. And get better glasses. LOL!

  14. yogabird says:

    Hi Angela! I completely agree…sirsana at 32 sounds like a big enough challenge for me. 🙂

  15. yogabird says:

    …and for that matter, so does sirsasana. apparently, the proofing problem is contagious.

  16. Angela McWilliams says:

    LOL, Birdie. I do seem to have that affect on people. And I proofread for a living, in addition to the bolster thing.

  17. yogabird says:

    Just wanted to post the comments from Facebook:

    Susan Van Norman: oooh… Happy Birthday B.K.S. Iyengar!

    Waylon Lewis: Cheerful Birthday! I once got to interview him in a group setting with other far more senior journalists at an Estes Park Yoga Journal conference…a great honor. And those eyebrows! ~ Waylon

    Maria Renna: Iyengar was the first style of yoga that captured me. Thank you and blessings, Shri Iyengar!

    Pamela Cleminson: There isn't anyone in yoga he hasn't helped. I wonder what he does on his birthday?

  18. sonyata says:

    I did not know that B.K.S Iyengar was Krishnamacharya's brother in law. Being a student of Ashtanga, I have mostly read about the connection between Pattabi Jois and Krishnamacharya (who was an amazing yogi). They generally speak of the two as two branches of the teachings of yoga, and then go into the differences of the two practices. That is so interesting. And I do believe that it was "A Light On Yoga" which led so many in the West to begin practicing asana, and eventually set out to India to find the gurus, whom they then brought back to America.

    It is amazing to read such tales as "Autobiography of a Yogi", by Yogananda, and see how the masters intended to bring the knowledge of yoga to the West. It has only been 100 years now, and it took some time to get the teachings out there. But upon experiencing the benefit of yoga, many are immediately convinced of its value. Yoga is the hope of bringing our cultures together, in a language we can all understand and practice together. And we still have a long ways to go.

    What an amazing man Iyengar is, and yes, a true guru. Thank you for the post, and I wish him a happy birthday.

  19. lorraineya says:

    Happy Birthday Guruji! I appreciate your wisdom, your knowledge, and the good you have done for me and many other practicing yogis.

    I have not personally studied with Iyengar but have several of his books, my favorite being "The Tree of Yoga." I have studied with a handful of Senior Iyengar teachers and found my yoga home in Iyengar.

  20. Hi Lorraineya! Such lovely birthday wishes. Thanks for participating!

  21. Sonyata, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I love what you said: "Yoga is the hope of bringing our cultures together, in a language we can all understand and practice together."

  22. Max says:

    Many blessings & a BIG thank you to Mr Iyengar & all the joy & peace his yoga teachings have brought to people all over the world… He certainly changed my path some 14 years ago….

    A grateful & dedicated student & teacher of yoga x x x

  23. I am so grateful to Mr. Iyengar for his teachings and making Yoga accessible to everyone through his innovations with props. He is truly a beacon on this marvelous path. I thank him for teaching my Guruji, Ramanand Patel. I am blessed to be a part of such an inspiring lineage. Shri Guru Bhyo Namaha. Hari Om. Peace and Love, Nicole Soteropoulos

  24. Max,

    Thanks for your post.


  25. LouisvilleYogi,

    Thank you for your comment…"A beacon on this marvelous path…" What a beautiful image.

  26. RFMullane says:

    Happy Birthday to Mr. Iyengar!

  27. […] heart and suddenly my belly was resting on my own thighs in a forward bend that would probably make Mr. Iyengar throw up in his mouth a little. I felt the lengthening in my low back that had always eluded me. […]

  28. […] encouraged students to become aware of their own bodies and to not compare themselves to others. ‘We have to always observe our own self because every […]

  29. […] “The yogi realizes that his life and all its activities are part of the divine action in nature, manifesting and operating in the form of man… His body is a temple which houses the Divine Spark. He feels that to neglect or to deny the needs of the body and to think of it as something not divine, is to neglect and deny the universal life of which it is a part….The yogi does not look heaven-ward to find God for he knows that He is within, being known as the Antaratma (the Inner Self). He feels the kingdom of God within and without and finds that heaven lies in himself.” -Light on Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar […]

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  31. Murali says:

    I am proud to say i belong to bellur village where Guruji was born.