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Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar (14.Dec.1918 – 20.Aug.2014) was born in the tiny village of Bellur, Karnataka. After several years of battling childhood illnesses, he began to improve his health by practicing yoga under his brother-in-law and reknown master Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya in Mysore, India. He began teaching women’s classes in Pune in 1936 under the insistence of his guru, and since then his teachings have spread to all corners of the world. Iyengar continues to practice and teach today, assisted by his son Prashant and daughter Geeta, at his Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India. There are also Iyengar institutes all over the world where his methods are taught, and many yoga centers offer Iyengar classes. In addition to developing and popularizing his style of practice, Iyengar’s books are highly revered and have become classic yoga texts. Chief among them is Light on Yoga, first published in 1966, which outlines basic yogic philosophy, as well as describes and illustrates hundreds of yoga asanas (poses) and many breathing techniques.
Other important books by Iyengar include Light on Pranayama, which focuses on breath work, and Light on The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which is a translation and interpretation of the ancient Yoga Sutras, from which Iyengar drew the philosophical groundwork for his method of yoga.
What is the Iyengar Method?
Iyengar’s method, rooted in the Ashtanga (Eight-Limbed) philosophy of Patanjali, is a form of hatha yoga (yoga of willpower), that strongly emphasises the physical alignment of the body in the asanas, creating a sense of balance and lightness that will be reflected in the mind in the form of inner awareness and equanimity. One of Iyengar’s major innovations is in the use of props. Today it is quite common to see blankets, blocks, straps, pillows, chairs, and bolsters being used in yoga studios. The use of these props is comparatively new in the history of yoga and comes directly from Iyengar. The purpose of the props is to assist the student in attaining ideal alignment, thus allowing them to have experiences that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.