Growing up as a child in southern India, B.K.S. Iyengar suffered from bouts of tuberculosis, typhoid and malaria – three major killers of that era. Throughout his life Iyengar, who died on Tuesday at the age of 95, credited the fact that he practiced yoga as the main reason he survived his illnesses.
Iyengar would grow up to become one of the most prominent yogis of this century and is widely credited with helping to bring the practice to a Western audience. A pivotal moment came when Iyengar first met the classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin in 1952. Menuhin was one of the first celebrities to fully embrace yoga and arranged for Iyengar – who he would call “my best violin teacher” – to teach yoga in London, Paris and Switzerland.
Iyengar went on to develop his own form of yoga that focused on breath, concentration and posture. His most prominent supporters included writers like Aldous Huxley, dancers, actors and musicians and he once famously taught Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, then 85-years-old, to stand on her head.
In an interview with Beliefnet in 2006, Iyengar stressed that yoga could appeal to anyone regardless of their religion or ethnic background.
“Yoga has a lot to offer to people, whatever [their faith]. It has no geographical boundary, gender, caste, or religion,” he said. “As each of us is susceptible to physical problems as well as mental, emotional, and intellectual problems, yoga can help us recover from these wants. It is an art to practice, a science to ponder over, and a philosophy that shows us the ways of right living.”
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