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BKS Iyengar, who helped bring yoga to the West, has died

A 2007 photo of Iyengar practicing yoga.
A 2007 photo of Iyengar practicing yoga.
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BKS Iyengar has died after a recent hospitalization, as reported by several Indian news sites and the official Iyengar website.

Iyengar had been ill for weeks, according to the Times of India, and had been suffering from heart problems. Admitted to the hospital on August 12, Iyengar's condition had worsened in recent days, and he was put on dialysis.

Better known by his initials, Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar is one of the world's best-known yoga gurus. As the New York Times wrote in a 2002 profile, "Perhaps no one has done more than Mr. Iyengar to bring yoga to the West." In 2004, Time recognized his global influence, naming him one of the world's most influential living people. His 1966 book Light on Yoga contains detailed instructions on how to perform more than 200 poses, according to Yoga Journal, and remains influential. That magazine has referred to Light on Yoga as the "Bible" of yoga.

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Different stories dispute Iyengar's age at his death. Though some Indian sources (including the Times of India and India Today) list his age at 96, the official Iyengar web site lists his date of birth at December 14, 1918, as does that Times profile, which would make him 95. It's not immediately clear why there's a discrepancy, but yoga blog Yoga Dork proposes some sources may be counting from Guru Purnima, a July festival that honors the birthday of the first yoga guru.

The style of yoga named after him has become one of the most popular schools of yoga in the US. Unlike more acrobatic or fast-paced styles like ashtanga or vinyasa yoga, poses in Iyengar yoga are held longer, and students focus on precisely aligning their bodies in the poses in the way Iyengar instructed, as Yoga Journal describes. Iyengar yoga also promotes the use of props like blocks and straps to help students get into poses.

Here is a 1977 video of Iyengar going into a series of yoga poses.

Iyengar would have been in his late 50s when this video was made, but he was still clearly more limber than many people half his age could hope to be.