“Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”
— B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life
The system of yoga known as Iyengar Yoga was created and developed over 75 years ago by Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar. Mr. Iyengar devoted his life to the evolution of his approach to yoga, which is based on the traditional eight limbs of yoga taught over 2500 years ago by the sage, Patanjali. Mr. Iyengar believed that yoga goes beyond being a physical discipline- it is also an art, a science, and a philosophy, that he developed with this in mind.
Iyengar Yoga is accessible for all ages and all body types. It is known for its focus on precision and timing and the use of props, which were designed by Mr. Iyengar and help the practitioner to achieve perfection in any asana. Regular practice of Iyengar Yoga integrates the body, mind, and emotions.
Iyengar Yoga is differentiated from other methods by a worldwide, standardized system of instruction. Certified Iyengar Yoga Teachers (CIYTs) undergo rigorous training and evaluation to earn their certifications. Only CIYTs are permitted to describe their method of instruction as Iyengar Yoga. CIYTs are trained to provide clear demonstrations of each posture and are skilled in using simple props to maximize the opening and awareness of the body, providing support to the less flexible and extra extension to the more advanced student.
Teaching is oriented toward gradual but steady progress rather than quick and fleeting results. Each Iyengar Yoga class is a unique sequence developed by the CIYT to guide students through a safe and systematic progression. Through skilled instruction and practice, students learn to penetrate beyond the physical body to the inner kosas (layers) of mind, energy, and spirit, gaining vitality, clarity, and calm.
Iyengar Yoga is a powerful and sophisticated discipline that can be practiced in all stages of life. The benefits are far-reaching and will assist the practitioner in every aspect of daily living.
B.K.S. Iyengar was a sickly young boy when he was sent to live with his sister and her husband, renowned yoga teacher Krishnamacharya.
As a teenager, Iyengar started to train with Krishnamacharya. When Krishnamacharya needed a last-minute replacement for a yoga demonstration he turned to his young brother-in-law to perform.
In the two years that followed, B.K.S. Iyengar served as a sort of apprentice to Krishnamacharya, but primarily studied yoga on his own.
In 1937, Krishnamacharya sent B.K.S. Iyengar to Pune to fill a position teaching yoga at an all-girls school in Pune in Maharashtra State. Iyengar quickly became a popular instructor, developing his innovative and inspired approach to yoga through intense practice and self-study. He went on to teach yoga to his children and grandchildren, who in turn have taught yoga to their children.
Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888-1989) is often referred to as the Father of Modern Yoga. He immersed himself in learning Sanskrit, logic, ritual, law, and the basics of Indian medicine and yoga, earning several degrees and eventually teaching throughout India. He was known for having his students perform demonstrations of yoga.
It was Krishnamacharya’s marriage to Namagiriyamma Iyengar, sister of B.K.S. Iyengar that brought B.K.S. Iyengar as a young boy into the life of Krishnamacharya.
It was only after B.K.S. Iyengar went to live with his sister and Krishnamacharya, that Krishnamacharya called upon Iyengar to perform at a yoga demonstration, teaching him the yoga poses in just a few days.
Yoga is an ancient practice that encompasses art, science, philosophy and physical discipline. It has a long and continuous lineage in which study and practice have been passed down from teachers to students, who then become teachers, who teach more students, and so on. The lineage of Iyengar Yoga has its beginnings in the work of a sage named Patanjali.
More than 2,500 years ago, Sage Patanjali compiled the Yoga Sutras, a written work on the subject of Ashtanga Yoga, the eight-limbed path towards spiritual fulfillment. The eight limbs are yama (moral conduct), niyama (personal disciplines), asana (postures), pranayama (control of the breath), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (total absorption).
It was Patanjali’s unique perspective that asanas and pranayama can be a means to explore, evaluate and experience each of the other limbs. Asana can even carry practitioners through to the higher limbs of yoga, including pratyahara, dharana and dhyana, directing them toward samadhi, the complete freedom at the end of the yogic journey. Iyengar Yoga addresses this journey towards spiritual fulfillment from a perspective that is practical, experiential and intensely personal. Iyengar Yoga begins with ongoing practice of the yoga asanas (positions) and focuses on integrating the body, mind and breath starting with physical alignment. In time, students learn to penetrate beyond the outer physical layer to reach the inner kosas (layers) of mind, energy and spirit.
B.K.S. Iyengar and his wife, Ramamani, had six children: five daughters and one son. Their eldest daughter Dr. Geeta S. Iyengar (1944-2018), began learning yoga as a child by observing her father. She taught at RIMYI and around the world starting in 1962 and was the author of several books, including "Yoga: A Gem for Women," a work pioneering work about yoga for every stage of a woman’s life.
Their son, Sri Prashant Iyengar, has taught daily classes at RIMYI, written extensively about yoga philosophy and the ancient texts, and made numerous audio recordings on the yoga sutras. He is the director of RIMYI.
Abhijata Iyengar began to seriously study yoga at age 16 under her maternal grandfather's direct guidance, B.K.S. Iyengar; her aunt, Dr. Geeta S. Iyengar; and uncle, Sri Prashant Iyengar. She is a senior teacher at RIMYI.
Like her older sister Geeta, Sunita Iyengar had a lifelong practice with her father, enabling her to create sequences focused on enriching and deepening yoga practice.
From RIMYI, the Iyengar family oversees the rigorous curriculum and assessment procedures standardized throughout the world for Iyengar Yoga teachers' certification. There are thousands of Certified Iyengar Yoga Teachers (CIYTs) continuing B.K.S. Iyengar’s legacy, including more than 1,100 in the United States.
“Living is an art. Yoga enhances the quality of one’s life. Hence it is an art. It lifts up one’s thoughts and enables one to face life’s difficult situations happily and with equanimity.”
— Geeta S. Iyengar, Yoga: Gem for Women
Dr. Geeta S. Iyengar (1944-2018), the eldest daughter of B.K.S. Iyengar was one of the world’s leading authorities on yoga. She has actively taught at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) and around the world since 1962.
Dr. Geeta Iyengar (1944-2018) began her journey with yoga at the age of three and made her first public yoga appearance at seven at a demonstration that her father was giving. At the age of 8, she became seriously ill and was not expected to survive. Seeing the medicines weren’t helping, her father decided to try yoga with her. She recovered and continued with her practice of yoga.
Her mother strongly influenced her yogic life, and Geeta Iyengar started practicing daily, observing her father teach and being taught by him. A willing and conscientious student, she rarely missed a day of practice. She took note of the hundreds of people who traveled from around the globe to study at RIMYI with her father and resolved she would learn all she could about yoga and one day teach.
Dr. Iyengar adopted her father's yoga method for women, creating a weekly woman’s class at RIMYI. She wrote Yoga: A Gem for Women, which details asanas and pranayama for the stages of a woman's life. Her other books include Yoga in Action - Preliminary Course and Yoga in Action – Intermediate Course, and Yoga for Motherhood. In addition to teaching yoga, Geeta Iyengar held degrees in philosophy and ayurvedic medicine. She was the director of RIMYI until her passing in 2018.
“If you practice asanas as an end that is not yoga. Make the asanas a means. Be breath conscious and mind conscious rather than body conscious.”
— Prashant Iyengar
Sri Prashant S. Iyengar is Yogachara B.K.S. Iyengar's son, an authority on yoga and is known for his unique teaching style. Currently, he is the director of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) and teaches daily classes and specialized workshops.
Prashant Iyengar was an accomplished violinist and is a teacher, a lecturer, and a writer who has written extensively about yoga philosophy and the ancient texts. He has also made numerous audio recordings on the yoga sutras. Books written by Prashant Iyengar include the Alpha and Omega of Trikonasana, Pranayama: A Classical and Traditional Approach, Discourses on Yog, Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali: Philosophy, Religion Culture, Ethos and Practice, A Manual of Humanetics.
“What is lacking is knowledge. What is rare is wisdom. Someone can be informative. To be knowledgeable is another thing. To be wise is another thing all together.”
— Abhijata Iyengar
Abhijata Iyengar began her serious yoga study from the young age of 16 under her maternal grandfather's direct guidance, B.K.S. Iyengar, her aunt, Dr. Geeta S. Iyengar and uncle Sri Prashant Iyengar.
Abhijata holds a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and a Masters in Bioinformatics. She was contemplating a Ph.D. when her path changed, and she began teaching Iyengar Yoga under the tutelage of her grandfather, her aunt, and her uncle.
Continuing in her grandfather and aunt's tradition, Abhijata is a senior teacher at RIMYI in Pune and teaching internationally at Iyengar Yoga conventions around the world. She is in charge of the therapeutic classes at the institute. While her family's influence is evident in her instruction, she has developed her own teaching style that evinces poise, maturity, and humor.
Sunita's instruction is strong, clear, and direct, with a discerning eye directed to the needs of each individual, similar in style to Geeta Iyengar. Her lifelong practice and work with her father enables her to create sequences focused to enrich and deepen the yoga practice. Sunita leads the prayers for major Iyengar conventions and is known for the devotional resonance of her voice. She integrates the philosophical foundations of yoga throughout her work and life.
Sunita Parthasarthy lives in Pune, where she teaches at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute and manages her own studio, the Iyengar Yoga Shala. For over 30 years, she has been a key instructor in the medical classes alongside her sister, Geeta Iyengar, and her father, B.K.S. Iyengar, teaching students, as well as training teachers.