Founders and Gurus of Yoga


Patanjali A SaiviteNatha siddha (ca 200 bce), who discovered the ancient yoga philosophy which outlines the path to enlightenment through purification, control and transcendence of the mind. It is one of the six classical philosophical systems (darshanas) of Hinduism, known as Yoga Darshana. It is believed that Maharishi Patanjali was the avatar of AdiShesha - the Infinite Cosmic Serpent upon whom Lord Vishnu rests. He is considered to be the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, along with being the author of a commentary on Panini's Ashtadhyayi, known as Mahabhasya. He is also supposed to be the writer of a work on the ancient Indian medicine system, Ayurveda.

His Life

The life history of Patanjali is full of legends and contradictions. There are no authentic records regarding his birth.

Patanjali Yoga Sutras

It is said that once, while watching a dance by Lord Shiva, AdiShesha found it unbearable to support the weight of Lord Vishnu. Amazed at this, he asked Lord Vishnu the reason for the same. Lord Vishnu said that this was because of his harmony with Lord Shiva's energy state, owing to the practice of Yoga. Realizing the value and benefits of Yoga, AdiShesha decided to be born amongst humans as 'Patanjali', to teach them the great art.

Yoga Sutras are considered to serve as the basis of the yogic techniques. Maharishi Patanjali, "The Father of Yoga", compiled 195 sutras, which serve as a framework for integrating Yoga into the daily routine and leading an ethical life. The exact date of the compilation of the Yoga Sutras is not known. However, it is believed that they were written somewhere around 200 BC. The core of Patanjali's teachings lies in the eightfold path of yoga. The path shows the way to live a better life through yoga.
Paramahansa Yogananda

ParamhansaGuru ParamahansaYogananda was one of the distinguished yogis of India. He was the one responsible for taking the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga to the western countries. He was also the author of a very renowned book 'Autobiography of a Yogi', which has introduced people time and again to the timeless wisdom of India.

Early Life

One can easily know about the life history of ParamahamsaYogananda in his book 'The Autobiography of a Yogi'. He was born as MukundaLalGhosh in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, into a Bengali family. From a very young age, Mukunda demonstrated great awareness about the spiritual realm. His youth was mostly spent in finding a guru (teacher), who could provide him with guidance and correctly direct him towards the path of spirituality.
Meeting Swami Sri YukteswarGiri

The search of ParamhansaYogananda came to an end when he met Swami Sri YukteswarGiri. At that point of time, he was only seventeen years of age. Thereafter, he completed his Intermediate (in Arts) from the Scottish Church College, Calcutta and did his graduation (in religious studies) from the Serampore College, Calcutta University.

Joining the Monastic Swami Order

In 1915, ParamahansaYogananda formally joined the monastic Swami Order by taking his vows. He, thus, became 'Swami YoganandaGiri'. Paramhansa started his journey in the world of spirituality by establishing a boy's school, Dihika, in a remote hamlet of Bengal. The school got relocated to Ranchi a year later and today it is known as YogodaSatsanga Society of India, the Indian branch of Yogananda's American organization.

Other Events in the Life of Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramhansa visited USA in 1920 as an Indian delegate, to attend the International Congress of Religious Liberals, being held in Boston. In the same year, he established Self-Realization Fellowship, a vehicle for preaching Yoga and meditation worldwide. He spent the next few years abroad, teaching Yoga and its philosophy. In 1925, he set up the headquarters of the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles. In 1935, he came to India and established YogodaSatsanga of India. He also visited Mahatma Gandhi and a number of famous personalities during that time. He went back to USA the next year and it was there that he completed his journey in this world, in the year 1952.

Paramhansa visited USA in 1920 as an Indian delegate, to attend the International Congress of Religious Liberals, being held in Boston. In the same year, he established Self-Realization Fellowship, a vehicle for preaching Yoga and meditation worldwide. He spent the next few years abroad, teaching Yoga and its philosophy. In 1925, he set up the headquarters of the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles. In 1935, he came to India and established YogodaSatsanga of India. He also visited Mahatma Gandhi and a number of famous personalities during that time. He went back to USA the next year and it was there that he completed his journey in this world, in the year 1952.

Autobiography of a Yogi

ParamahamsaYogananda wrote his own life story by the name of 'Autobiography of a Yogi', in the year 1946. It served as a major vehicle for the introduction and promotion of meditation and yoga in the western countries. Till date, it has been translated into almost 18 languages and still counts amongst the bestsellers. In the book, Yogananda has tried to explain certain verses and events of the Bible, along with his rendezvous with a number of leading spiritual personalities.
BKS Iyengar

BKS Iyenger The full name of BKS Iyengar, one of the most renowned yoga gurus in the whole world, is BelurKrishnamacharSundararajaIyengar. Popularly known as Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar, he is man who founded the Iyengar Yoga. The guru has been teaching people the art of yoga since the past sixty years and at the same time, is the author of numerous books on yogic practice and philosophy, along with several definitive yoga texts.

His most popular books include 'Light on Yoga', 'Light on Pranayama' and 'Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali'. The majority of credit for the introduction of yoga in the west goes to Sri BKS Iyengar only. One can find Iyengar yoga centers even in the remotest corners of the world. Today, the great man is over 80 years old and still stands as strong as ever. With this biography, you will get a brief introduction on BKS Iyengar.
His Life

Sri B.K.S. Iyengar was born on 14th December 1918 in the Belur district of Karnataka. He faced difficulties in the early stages of life itself. Iyengar was born into a large poor family and immediately after his birth; he fell in the grips of an influenza epidemic that left him totally frail and unhealthy. Then, the poor boy lost his father at the tender age of nine years. Thereafter, he went to live with his brother in Bangalore. Throughout his childhood, BKS Iyengar experienced one illness or the other, including malaria, tuberculosis and typhoid, along with malnutrition.

When he turned fifteen, he went to Mysore to stay with his eldest sister and her husband, a scholar and a yogi, Sri T. Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya used to teach yoga to people in his own school, which was situated in the Palace of the Raja of Mysore. It was in this school that Iyengar learnt the basic asana of Yoga, which led to a considerable improvement in his health. In the year 1937, his Guru asked him to go to Pune and teach yoga there. There, he faced great difficulty because of little knowledge of the English language and lack of schooling.

At the same time, B.K.S. Iyengar has little experience or theoretical knowledge in the field of yoga. Still, he decided to first learn by trial and error and then, practice thoroughly to make himself perfect. This period turned out to be another difficult phase in his life, when he survived on a diet of mostly bread or rice and kept practicing for hours at a stretch. With time, the number of students attending his yoga classes began to increase. However, the monetary compensation was still not too great. In 1943, BKS Iyengar got married to Ramamani.

International Recognition

Slowly and gradually, B.K.S. Iyengar gained recognition as a yoga teacher in the Indian subcontinent. However, international recognition still seemed to be a distant task. It was in 1952, when he met violinist Yehudi Menuhin, than he started moving on the road to international appreciation. Menuhin made arrangements for taking Iyengar to countries like London, Switzerland and Paris, where he was supposed to teach yoga to the people. With this, he came into contact with people belonging to different countries and different walks of life.

The fame of BKS Iyengar started growing day-by-day and he began writing books on yoga. His first book 'Light on Yoga' was published in the year 1966 and went on to become one of the international bestsellers. The latest book of BKS Iyengar, 'Yoga: The path to Holistic Health' was published in 2001. The guru opened his own institute in Pune, by the name of 'RamamaniIyengar Memorial Yoga Institute', in the memory of his wife. He still stays and, at times, teaches at the institute.

BKS Iyengar officially retired from teaching in the year 1984. However, he continues to take medical as well as yoga classes, at special events. At the same time, he is also actively involved in the promotion of yoga throughout the world. These days, classes are being conducted by his daughter Geeta, his son Prashant and other senior teachers.

Iyengar Yoga

Yoga comprises of eight different aspects, namely Yama and Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. Iyengar yoga is a form of yoga, which serves as a way of life to all. It is meant for each and every individual and makes use of props. An individual uses things like wooden gadgets, belts, ropes, etc, to achieve perfection in any asana. Regular practice of 'Iyengar Yoga' leads to an integration of the body, the mind as well as the emotions.

The efforts of BKS Iyengar in the filed of Yoga were recognized by the Government of India, which then awarded him with two awards.
  • Padma Shree (1991)
  • Padma Bhushan (2002)

Bikram Choudhury

Bikram Choudhury Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram Yoga, is one of the most popular fitness gurus in Hollywood. He is also the founder of the worldwide Yoga College of India. With this biography, you will get to know more about Bikram Choudhary as well as Bikram yoga.

His Life
Bikram Choudhury was born in the city of Calcutta (now Kolkata), in the year 1946. He was introduced to the technique of yoga at the tender age of four years only. Bikram underwent yoga training under Bishnu Ghosh, one of the most popular physical culturists of that time, at his 'College of Physical Education'. Bishnu is the younger brother of ParamahansaYogananda (Author of 'The Autobiography of a Yogi' and founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles).
Bikram practiced yoga rigorously, devoting four to six hours every day towards it. When he was only thirteen years old, he won the National India Yoga Championship and kept claiming the title for the next three years also. Thereafter, he retired as the undisputed 'All-India National Yoga Champion'. At the age of seventeen years, Bikram Choudhury got badly injured in the knee during a weight-lifting accident. Renowned doctors, from as far as Europe, gave up the chances of his ever walking again.

However, having faith in his teacher, Bishnu Ghosh, and his yoga techniques, Bikram went back to his school. Six months later, he experienced total recovery in his knee. Thereafter, Bishnu asked Bikram Choudhary to start a number of Yoga schools in India. Bikram received fantastic response from people and his yoga schools become extremely successful. Then, again at Bishnu's insistence, Bikram traveled to Japan and opened two yoga schools. Since that time, he has being promoting the curative techniques of Yoga therapy around the world.

Bikram Yoga
Bikram Choudhury introduced a new style of yoga, known as the Bikram Yoga or Hot Yoga. This style is practiced in a room that has been preheated to a temperature of 105 deg F (40.5 deg C) and has a humidity of 50 percent. The training course goes on for nine weeks, during which the temperature is slowly taken to, as high as, 130 deg F. The entire course involves the training of 26 postures and two breathing exercises.
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Sri K. PattabhiJois Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, or Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois, counts amongst the world-renowned yoga teachers of India. A student of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, he is currently teaching at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute of Mysore, founded by him. His yoga shala attracts thousands of foreign students every year. Let us move on further to explore the complete biography of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

His Life
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois was born as Krishna on 26th July, 1915 in the village of Kowshika, situated near Hassan city of Karnataka. It was at the age of twelve years that Krishna realized his aim in life. In his twelfth year, i.e., 1927, he attended a lecture and demonstration given by S. T. Krishnamacharya in the Hassan city. Pattabhi Jois got so impressed by the lecture that, on the very next day, he became Krishnamacharya's student and continued his study for the next twenty-five years.
In the year 1929, Jois ran away from his home and went to Mysore, in order to study Sanskrit. By coincidence, Krishnamacharya also left Hassan to teach somewhere else. Somehow, he also made his way to Mysore and met Jois once again after a gap of two years. During this time, Krishnamacharya had cured Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar, of a very seriously illness. As an expression of his gratitude, the Maharaja had established a Yoga shala for him on the palace grounds.

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois remained with his Guru until 1941, when he left for Madras. However, Jois continued staying in Mysore afterwards and married a young woman named Savitramma (popularly known as Amma), with whom he fell in love. The marriage took place in June 1937 and they were later blessed with three children Saraswati, Manju and Ramesh. In 1948, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois managed to buy a home in a section of town, called Lakshmipuram, with the help of his students.

After buying the house, he established the 'Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute' there. Jois taught yoga at the Sanskrit College for a number of years and became a professor in 1956. In 1958, he started writing Yoga Mala, which was published in India in 1962. The first English version of the book came out in 1999. Even today, Jois teaches yoga, with his daughter Saraswati and his grandson Sharath, at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, which is now located in the neighborhood of Gokulum.