The story of a simple man, his relentless efforts, and his journey towards conquering the body, intellect and mind.
Iyengar was born in the village of Bellur, the 11th of 13 children. His father Sri Krishnamachar was a school teacher, and his mother Sheshamma a homemaker. The conditions at the time of his birth were especially difficult. His family was poor, and his mother contracted influenza while pregnant with him. Indeed, India was in the grip of the deadly world influenza pandemic of 1918.
Iyengar was a sickly child who suffered from tuberculosis, typhus, malaria and malnutrition as a child. In his 2005 book Light on Life, he describes his weak physical condition: "my arms where thin, my legs were spindly, and my stomach protruded in an ungainly manner. So frail was I, in fact, that I was not expected to survive."
At the age of 14, he went to live with sister and her husband Shriman T. Krishnamacharya, a great yogi residing in Mysore. His brother-in-law suggested he undertake the practice of yoga to improve his health. Iyengar went on to spend his teenage years being initiated and immersed in Ashtanga Yoga by T. Krishnamacharya.
According to Iyengar, "this was to be the major turning point in my life - the moment when destiny came to meet me, and I had the opportunity to embrace it or to turn away."
Krishnamacharya's guru was Ram Mohan Brahmachari, who lived in the Himalayas. Therefore, Iyengar became part of a great lineage of yogis.
Yoga is founded upon "eight petals or limbs" which serve as the pathway of guiding practices and principles leading us to a healthy life.
During this initial period, Iyengar suffered from tuberculosis and was instructed only in the asanas - the poses and postures of yoga which contribute to the strength and maintain the health of the body. "Perfection in asana" was the only guru mantra he received.
For many days, he would practice intensely in front of his guru's photograph. He thought if God had brought him to Pune, God would find a solution.
Whenever his neighbours saw him, he was engrossed in his sādhanā: a discipline undertaken in pursuit of a goal. It consists of practice, reflection, observation, and study. They thought he was a mad man since he was practising so many hours a day.
Under these circumstances, what would have gone through Iyengar's mind?
Should I leave Pune, should I look for other means of earning money? Enough of Yoga?"
"Every occurrence has a reason. Sometime it is evident, sometimes it is not."
"After many strides forward, when one looks back, things seem to fit."
"Unknown place, unknown people, unknown language... Mere survival was uncertainty magnified."
"Even if the answer to any of these questions was a 'yes', it would have only been natural. Looking back now, that the answer to these questions was a 'no' seems vital for yoga."
By 1950, Iyengar's renown had spread. By this time, Iyengar had a very large number of students. many of whom were famous Indians, he was little known outside of his home country.
This photo records him giving a yoga demonstration to Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the head of the Republic.
In 1952, Iyengar met and became friends with the great violinist Yehudi Menuhin, who had been invited by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India, to give a series of concerts.
It would prove to be another turning point in Iyengar's life.
Two years after meeting Iyengar, Yehudin invited him to Switzerland and from that time forward he began what was to become regular visits to Europe.