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US media hail Iyengar as among greatest yoga gurus

August 22, 2014 09:13 IST

Mainstream American media and yoga experts have mourned the loss of B K S Iyengar, calling him as one of the greatest yoga gurus who was instrumental in bringing the physical and spiritual exercise to West.

Iyengar died this past Wednesday at the age of 95 in Pune.

"No other individual has been as influential in turning yoga into a phenomenon that somehow retains the essence of its mystical aura while being continually made and remade in the image of a modern commodity," Joseph Alter, a University of Pittsburgh anthropologist who has written widely on the history and development of yoga in the West, was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times on Thursday.

‘B K S Iyengar dies at 95; Indian guru helped popularise yoga in West’, The Los Angeles Times said in its headline.

‘B K S Iyengar, who helped bring Yoga to the west, dies at 95’, said The New York Times in a similar headline.

While The Atlantic wrote "In the twentieth century, one of the most influential figures in spreading yoga beyond South Asia was B K S Iyengar, an Indian guru", The National Public Radio had a special episode on the death of guru.

Yoga has a long history in America, but Iyengar helped shape the practices that are popular today, Masum Momaya, the museum curator at the Smithsonian's Indian American Heritage Project, told The Atlantic.

"The particular type of Ashtanga yoga he taught emphasised precision and mastery, and this appealed to many people here in the United States, especially those who came of age during the 'feel-the-burn' movement of the 1980s," Momaya said.

The Hindu American Foundation in a statement mourned the loss of Iyengar.

"Iyengar's lifelong work of teaching the whole of yoga or the understanding that yoga is not just the physical endeavour of mastering postures, but a spiritual practice rooted in the Hindu concept of dharma, has deeply informed our work at the Foundation," said Sheetal Shah, senior director of Hindu American Foundation and one of the leads for the Foundation's Take Back Yoga Project.

"Where too many yoga practitioners conflate yoga with asana, he sought to educate seekers on all of yoga's limbs and their essential spiritual aim," Shah said.

"The world has lost a true master," said HAF cofounder, Aseem Shukla. "But his teachings will continue to inspire a quest for spiritual freedom through the millions of lives he touched," he added. 

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