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Legendary Yoga Gurus of India and How They Promoted Yoga Across the World

Yoga means union and it refers to a philosophy and discipline of physical and spiritual practises for mastering one’s physique and consciousness. Yoga emerged in ancient India, in Sanatana Dharma, or Hinduism and eventually became a part of Jainism and Buddhism. In this article, we remember some of the greatest Indian gurus and how they popularised yoga worldwide.

Monk, mystic and philosopher, Swami Vivekananda, introduced yoga to the West during his tours of the United States and Europe, in the 1890s. He proclaimed that Yoga is a scientific and rational discipline of attaining the highest potential in life. He laid out a four-fold Yogic path which comprised Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga.

Shri Yogendra revived Hatha Yoga and spread it to India and the United States. He made yoga popular among the masses by focussing on the exercises that addressed health issues. It evolved into the modern form of yoga, which is therapy.

Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar founded the “Iyengar Yoga.” His failing health led him to learn yoga from his guru Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Iyengar taught yoga to famous international personalities like violinist Yehudi Menuhin and Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. Novelist Aldous Huxley followed his teachings, so does filmmaker Mira Nair and actress Annette Bening.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the pioneer of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique and isfamous for being the yoga guru of The Beatles. TM yoga involves silent chants, creates a relaxation of the body and the mind and raises the consciousness. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi toured the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Switzerland from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s and taught thousands.

Paramhamsa Yogananda popularised Kriya Yoga and meditation. To balance and unify Western and Indian philosophies, Yogananda went to the United States and taught Kriya Yoga to people there.

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