Today is being observed as International Day of Yoga around the world.
This ancient physical, mental, and spiritual practice that originated in India has manifold benefits towards maintaining one’s overall health.
According to Sadhguru of Isha Foundation, “The word “Yoga” essentially means, “that which brings you to reality”. Literally, it means “union.” Union means it brings you to the ultimate reality, where individual manifestations of life are surface bubbles in the process of creation.”
On this Yoga Day, here are a few famous Yoga gurus whose contributions towards spreading Yoga across the world have been massive.
Widely regarded as the Father of Modern Yoga, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya was born on 18th November 1888 in the remote village of Muchukundapuram located in modern day Karnataka. He was not only a yoga guru but also an ayurvedic healer and a scholar. Krishnamacharya was also the Yoga guru for many yoga masters such as B. K. S Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois.
It is known that in 1925-1926, the Maharaja of Mysore Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar visited the city of Banaras, where Krishnamacharya had settled. Realizing that a man from his province was being hailed as one of the greatest scholars, he invited him back to Mysore. Krishnamacharya accepted the invitation and returned to Mysore, becoming a trusted advisor of the King.
He also authored many books on Yoga, the most famous being ‘Yoga Makaranda’ – a two-volume encyclopedia on Yoga, which was published by Mysore University in 1934.
Also, the concept of Hatha Yoga, which is today called the modern yoga, was preached by Krishnamacharya.
Swami Sivananda was born on 8th September 1887 in Pattamadai in the Tirunelveli district of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He felt a strong urge to work for humanity and, thus, became a medical doctor. However, in due course, he began to believe that a more profound approach to healing is needed and that only medicine could not end suffering of people. This was when he renounced his career and began practicing meditation.
An author of more than 200 books, Swami Sivananda also founded the Divine Life Society, a spiritual organization, in 1934.
Born on 5th January 1893 in Gorakhpur in modern day Uttar Pradesh, Paramahansa Yogananda preached the doctrine of Kriya Yoga, a meditation technique that uses energy and breath control, called pranayama.
He was the founder of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), which propagated teachings on Yoga and meditation. The first meditation center of the SRF was started in Boston. He traveled extensively across the length and breath of America, speaking to thousands about the benefits of meditation. In fact, he was the first prominent Indian Yoga teacher to settle in America.
His life story was published in the form of a book – ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ in 1946. It is widely regarded as a modern spiritual classic and has been a perennial bestseller. It has sold over four million copies since it was first published and has been translated into many languages.
B. K. S Iyengar
Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja (BKS) Iyengar was born on December 14, 1918 in Bellur in Karnataka. He was introduced to his Guru, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, at the age of 16.
In 1975, he founded the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune, named after his wife Ramamni who passed away in 1973. By the early 21st century, he had milions of students in all countries across the world.
B.K.S Iyengar is also the founder of a technique called Iyengar Yoga, which uses props such as ropes, chairs, and belts to help practitioneers achieve the perfect asana or pose when practicing Yoga.
He was a prolific author and his teachings were first published in 1966 as ‘Light on Yoga’, in which he described meticulously over 600 asanas and their benefits. This book has been translated into more than 20 languages since it was first published.
For his contribution to the field of yoga, he was awarded three of India’s highest civilian honours: the Padma Shri (1991), the Padma Bhushan (2002), and the Padma Vibhushan (2014).
K. Pattabhi Jois
Pattabhi Jois was born on 26th July 1915 in Hassan in Karnataka. Considered one of the best teachers of this practice, Jois is also credited with developing the method of Ashtanga Yoga, an energetic form of Yoga that synchronizes breath with movements.
A student of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, Jois established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore in 1948 to help propagate Yoga across the world.
Born in 1965, Swami Ramdev is widely credited with popularizing Yoga and bringing it to the masses by broadcasting his yoga classes for the TV audience. He has set up a wide range of trusts and foundations across the world that conduct yoga camps. To get rid of chronic health issues, he also focuses on pranayamas or breathing exercises.
On this International Day of Yoga, let’s pledge to make Yoga a part of our daily life to ensure a healthy mind, body, and soul.