THE YOGA VIPs
I call these people the Yoga VIPs because between them they created modern yoga, popularised it and brought it to the West.
Patanjali wrote The Yoga Sutras which are said to be the foundation for classical yoga. The Sutras give people guidance on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life without suffering, through the art of yoga. We do not know a lot about Patanjali. In fact, we are not even completely sure when he lived, but it is believed to be somewhere between 200 BCE and 200 CE.
Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
Often referred to as 'The Father of Modern Yoga'. He was the teacher and influencer of many people including other Yoga VIPs such as Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, his son Desikachar and Indra Devi. Krishnamacharya was taught asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises) by his father from an early age. A lot of his teenage years were spent travelling India learning about the six darsanas (Hindu philosophies), of which one is yoga. He studied Sanskrit and teaching at University, and he also trained to be a physician of Ayurvedic medicine. Although Krishnamacharya could have had many well paid jobs, one night he had a dream encouraging him to spread the message of yoga. And so he committed to yoga and lived in poverty for most of his life. His way of teaching was said to have therapeutic benefits and there were a number of cases where his yoga treated incurable illnesses. Due to popular demand Krishnamacharya gave lectures and demonstrations all around India, which caught the eye of many influential Yogis.
Iyengar is the founder of Iyengar yoga. Iyengar was the brother-in-law of Krishnamacharya. Iyengar was a very sick child and throughout his childhood he suffered from many illness, such as malaria, tuberculosis and influenza. When he was 15 years old, his brother-in-law told him to come to one of his classes. Over the next few years, Iyengar learned and mastered many asanas which changed his health and his life forever. He realised how important correct alignment is during asanas and how helpful props were in yoga for people who were ill or weak. And this is the basis of Iyengar yoga.
Pattabhi Jois is said to be one of the great Indian yoga teachers who developed Ashtanga yoga and popularised it in the West. At the age of 12 Pattabhi Jois attended a demonstration in his school by Krishnamacharya. The next day he was his student, and for two years Pattabhi Jois practiced with Krishnamacharya every day before school. He studied Sanskrit to further his education, and he would assist and demonstrate in many of Krishnamacharya's classes. He spent over 20 years travelling to and from USA and Australia teaching and spreading the word of Ashtanga.
Also known as 'The Mother of Modern Yoga', she spread the benefits of yoga far and wide through her teachings and best selling books. Indra Devi was a Russian actress and dancer who travelled to India and soon became a star of Indian films. While living in India, she married and Indian man, and became a considerable socialite. The frequent parties and gatherings took their tole on her health and treatments were proven unsuccessful, which is why a close friend encouraged her to practice yoga. After lots of persuasion, Krishnamacharya agreed to accept Indra Devi as one of his students. She was his first female student, but like his other students she followed a strict regime of long asana practice and diet restrictions. Her health soon recovered. Due to her husband's work, she moved to China and opened a yoga school. Unfortunately, her husband died a number of years later, which is why she decided to move to USA and open another yoga school in Hollywood. She caught the attention of movie stars and other famous people. Indra Devi also spoke about the benefits of yoga on the TV and radio as well as at conferences all over the world.
Being the son of Krishnamacharya, Desikachar was immersed in yoga from a very young age. He devoted his life to studying and teaching yoga that his father had passed to him. He was the author of the great text 'The Heart of Yoga', which gives us access to the teachings and beliefs of Krishnamacharya on how to develop your personal practice. Through realising the importance of individualising each yoga class to suit a persons age, interests, physical and emotional condition, Desikachar formed Viniyoga, which is practiced all around the world.