The history of Yoga, according to my ignorant mind: Yoga got its start in the early 1980s by a few Southern Cal vegan hipsters who wanted to, like, totally find inner-peace through deep breathing, sitting in a lotus position, and doing the “om” chant. Now for some reality: while it is true that yoga didn’t take off in America until the 80s, it’s actually an ancient Indian practice that originated 5,000 years ago. It’s evidently effective enough that on December 11, 2014 the UN passed a resolution (with a record 175 countries endorsing it) that recognized Yoga as providing “a holistic approach to health and well-being” and called for more awareness about its health benefits on the world population. Let’s take a look at 10 famous yoga gurus who left an indelible mark.
1. Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888-1989)
He’s considered the “Father of Modern Yoga” after all. He’s known for creating the Vinyasa method as well as the rival of Hatha. For most of his life he toured around India espoused the benefits of yoga as a means of restoring health. He was able to control his heartbeats and it is said that he could even hold the beats. Whatever he was doing it certainly worked. The guy lived to the ripe age of 100 after all.
2. Bikram Choudhury (1944)
He’s famous for introducing Bikram, which involves 26 types of postures (with each pose benefiting a particular part of our body) that are intended to be practiced in temperatures of 40°C with the goal of bringing the body back to the brain.
3. K Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009)
His method of yoga is known as Ashtanga Yoga, which is based on an ancient text called Yoga Korunta. Sting, Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna were just a few of the adherents of his yoga practices.
4. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918-2008)
He could be considered the first Yogi of the stars, having attracted the attention of the likes of the Beatles with his transcendental meditation technique, which is a form of mantra meditation that is practiced with your eyes closed.
5. Swami Sivananda (1887-1963)
They say laughter is the best medicine. I know this for a fact because whenever I feel sick, I just start laughing like a madman and I’m instantly healed. Okay, so I’m lying again. But according to Sivananda, who was in fact an actual doctor, humor is the top characteristic that a yogi must possess. In fact, when he wrote a song about the 18 traits that a yogi should have, he stated that humor belongs at the top. His main yoga technique was Trimurti Yoga, which combined the methods of hatha, karma and master yoga.
6. Jaggi Vasudev (1957)
More commonly known as Sadhguru, Vasudev is a philanthropist who founded the Isha Foundation, a non-profit organization with net revenues of $2.5 million that offers yoga programs around the world. He also dedicates himself to helping prisoners serving a life sentence by providing them with yoga classes. In addition, he held a yoga session with the Indian national field hockey team.
7. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (1956)
He founded the Art of Living Foundation in 1981, a volunteer-based NGO which dedicates itself to helping provide social support to those in need. He is famous for popularizing the breathing practice of Sudarshan Kriya, which according to studies can reduce stress, improve the immune system, and provide relief for anxiety and depression.
8. B K S Iyengar (1918 – 2014)
Iyengar was one of the first students of Krishnamacharya and is credited with popularizing yoga abroad. As a child, he suffered from multiple diseases that rendered him extremely weak. This inspired him to take up yoga and the rest is history. He gave the world what we today call “Iyengar Yoga.” He had millions of followers around the world and his book Light on Yoga, which many regard as the bible of yoga, has sold more than three million copies and has been translated into 19 languages.
9. Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952)
His claim to fame is introducing the teachings of meditation to the West. His method of yoga – known as Kriya – utilizes breathing techniques and has the goal is to seek the path of God, Truth and Self-Realization.
10. Baba Ramdev (1965)
Although he is known today as a controversial political figure, his contribute to making Yoga mainstream cannot be denied. In essence, he demonstrated that Yoga is something that anybody can practice, not just yogis. He gained a following as a result of his morning yoga TV program on the Indian channel Aastha.