B.K.S. Iyengar Dies At 95; Sickly Child Became Yoga Guru

Commentator Sandip Roy, an editor with Firstpost in India, has an appreciation of yogi B.K.S. Iyengar. Iyengar, who died on Wednesday, helped to introduce the practice of yoga to the Western world.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


The man who helped popularize yoga in the West, B.K.S. Iyengar died yesterday in India. And commentator Sandip Roy has this appreciation.

SANDIP ROY: I learned more about B.K.S Iyengar in California than in Calcutta. India is the birthplace of yoga, but like many Indians, I didn't really grow up with the practice. B.K.S. Iyengar was the pilgrim father, bringing ancient Indian art to American shores - an unlikely on yoga pilgrim father. He came from a very poor family - a sickly boy who suffered from malnutrition, tuberculosis and malaria. He learned yoga for his health - not because it was cool. When he met violin maestro Yehudi Menuhin in 1952, he taught Menuhin to stand on his head. And Menuhin opened doors for him in the West. The Western acclaim helped bring yoga back home to India, Iyengar said in the documentary "Enlighten Up!"


B.K.S. IYENGAR: It has come back to India. The wind is blowing. It didn't blow here for years.

ROY: Iyengar became one of India's first great entrepreneurs, showing off poses in a 1938 film, writing books like "Light On Yoga," systematizing hundreds of classic poses and breathing exercises - branding it all as Iyengar yoga. His great success also helped turn yoga into a multimillion dollar industry of mats, unitards and beach retreats. But yoga today sometimes feels unmoored from its spiritual roots - a dog-eat-downward-dog business where yoga gurus chant on but sue each other. Perhaps, that's why, as an old man, Iyengar spelled out yoga's goal.


IYENGAR: Goal - one to be free from the afflictions of body and mind. So when the afflictions are gone, one is in heaven.

ROY: The day he died, his website posted a picture of the man looking like Gandalf, a wizard with bushy eyebrows and white curling locks, smiling. Underneath it says, I always tell people live happily and die majestically - signed B.K.S. Iyengar.

GREENE: Commentator Sandip Roy is an editor with First Post in India, and his upcoming book is called "Don't Let Him Know." This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.