Indian guru who took yoga global dies aged 95
B.K.S Iyengar, the Indian yoga guru credited with helping to fuel a global explosion in the popularity of the ancient spiritual practice, died yesterday aged 95.
He started his yoga school in 1973 in the western city of Pune, developing a unique form of the practice that he said anyone could follow.
He trained hundreds of teachers to disseminate his approach, which uses props such as belts and ropes to help novice practitioners achieve the poses.
He wrote many books on yoga, which has been practised in Asia for more than 2,000 years, and has in recent decades become hugely popular around the world.
His insistence on perfecting the poses - or asanas - won him a huge following, among them celebrity fans ranging from cricketer Sachin Tendulkar to writer Aldous Huxley.
It was an encounter with the violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who came across Iyengar during a trip to Mumbai in the 1950s, that prompted his move to take his practice global.
"Perhaps no one has done more than Mr Iyengar to bring yoga to the West," said the New York Times in a 2002 profile of the guru.
"Long before Christy Turlington was gracing magazine covers, decades before power yoga was a multimillion-dollar business, Mr Iyengar was teaching Americans, among others, the virtues of asanas and breath control."
United States model Turlington famously graced the front cover of Time magazine in a cross-legged pose for a 2001 report on the explosion in yoga's popularity.
Critics say the global expansion of yoga into Western gyms and fitness centres has taken the practice too far from its spiritual origins.
But Mr Iyengar said it was unfair to blame yogis. "It all depends on what state of mind the practitioner is in when he is doing yoga," he said last year in an interview with the Indian newspaper Mint.
"For the aberration, don't blame yoga or the whole community of yogis."
Mr Iyengar died in a hospital in Pune at 3.30am, Panduranga Rao, secretary of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, said in a telephone interview. He was admitted to hospital five days ago after complaining of breathing difficulties, Mr Rao added.
Despite suffering a heart attack at 80, he had continued to practise yoga into his 90s.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a yoga lover, tweeted that he was "deeply saddened" by the guru's death.
"Generations will remember Shri BKS Iyengar as a fine guru, scholar and a stalwart who brought yoga into the lives of many across the world," he said.