With the global rise of the popularity of Yoga, one of the commonly asked questions is who are the most popular and famous yoga teachers? The global popularity of Yoga in some last decades has been unparalleled.
The practice of Yoga has been confined to India for most periods of history, but in an unprecedented manner, it has reached around the world including the USA and the rest of the Western world.
The arrival of Yoga on the world stage has been frequently seen as a soft power exercised by India on the world.
The discipline of Yoga practice is in its origins Indian and more specifically Hindu. Lord Shiva is referred to as Adiyogi.
1. What Does Yoga Stand For?
Yoga is an ancient spiritual discipline which aims to bring harmony between mind and body. The word Yoga comes from the root word Yuj which means ‘to unite’. The word Yoga is first encountered in Rigveda.
It is in essence an art to live healthy and young. The practise of Yoga was codified in the classic text of Yoga Sutras written by Hindu sage Patanjali.
Even much before that, we find much historical evidence of the practice of Yoga in the Indian subcontinent. It is believed to be around 5000 years old practice.
The Yogic scriptures state that the Yoga philosophy leads to the merging of individual consciousness with universal consciousness.
One who experiences the oneness of the vast universal existence is known as Yogi, the one who has mastered the art of Yoga.
Such people have attained Moksha or Nirvana (freedom) from all the material desires of the world. This spiritual discipline is vital to the all-round upliftment of mankind.
1.1. How Did the Ancient Wisdom of Yoga Spread in The World?
The ancient wisdom of Yoga practice is regarded as one of the best cultural exports of India to the world.
While it was once largely confined to the Hindu ascetic monks, with time the positive effects of Yoga on the health and personality of a person received attention from many internationally celebrated Yoga teachers.
Many Yoga instructors opened yoga schools to teach Yoga students. A Yoga practitioner was received with a curious mix of interest and reverence.
Carving out the Yoga philosophy for the modern world, Swami Vivekananda 1896 wrote a book ‘Raja Yoga’ which significantly impacted the thinking of the Western world about practicing yoga.
Swami Vivekananda was the propounder of modern yoga practice and caused a wave in the western audience through his eclectic outlook.
Modern yoga has its humble origins in the teachings of Swami Vivekananda who profoundly influenced and shaped the perception of Yoga in not only India but also around the world.
There’s no doubt that Swami Vivekananda was the first internationally celebrated Yoga teacher. He was succeeded by a flurry of great Yoga teachers who spread this great spiritual practice to the masses around the world.
When the band group Beatles visited Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh in 1968, Indian spirituality and Yoga received international attention and it was a huge moment for the revival of the art of Yoga. Practicing Yoga started becoming mainstream and it was posed as a mark of a healthy lifestyle.
1.2. Role Of Yoga Journal
The role of Yoga journal magazine can never be underestimated in the diffusion of knowledge of Yoga. It was founded in 1975 in California.
It aimed to bring about the essence of traditional Yoga with an essential combination of scientific knowledge. It produces Yoga DVDs and organizes many seminars and events related to Yoga.
The calm and intense and prolonged contemplation of Yogic teachings has never found a more remarkable expression than in the yoga journal which has created a vast network of Yoga communities around the world.
2. Foremost Yoga Teachers
The foremost Yoga teachers who transported Yoga to the whole world have been Indians with a sense of connection with their cultural roots.
The most influential Yoga teachers teaching Yoga were passionate about the beneficial and therapeutic effects of Yoga on the common people. Today the Yoga culture has spread to the masses with an amazing diffusion.
It has been made possible with the help of Yoga DVDs, Yoga videos on the internet and Yoga online classes, it has been made possible because of the consciousness of people who are aware of their health issues and constantly work on them.
Let us now dive into the learning of who are the most popular and famous yoga teachers.
3. Most Famous Yoga Teachers
The most famous yoga teachers in India and world are dozens in number. There have been many schools of Yoga propagated by influential Yoga teachers mastering different forms of Yoga.
These Yoga teachers were professionals with complete teacher training that revolutionized the Yoga field. The growth of Yoga schools and Yoga studios in recent decades defy the expectations of experts.
A Yoga studio is a place where instructions on Yoga are given by Yoga teachers. A Yoga school is a place exclusively devoted to the teachings of Yoga in a sophisticated manner.
Leading teacher training is also conducted in the Yoga schools. Most of the Yoga teachers who belong to countries other than India often come to India to learn Yoga and they participate in Yoga workshops and learn things.
The devoted students practicing yoga become teachers at a stage where they immerse their self in the service of humanity.
3.1. B. K. Iyengar of Iyengar Yoga
Iyengar Yoga is a famous yoga school developed by B. K. S. Iyengar. Iyengar school of Yoga is credited with reaching Yoga to the masses and sceptics in huge numbers.
He was the most excellent Yoga teacher of his era whose method of teaching Yoga made him one of the best Yoga instructors ever.
He became so popular in his lifetime that Time magazine selected him as one of the most influential people in 2004.
He wrote several books on the subject of Yoga, one of which is named “Light on Yoga” which became an international bestseller and is considered one of the foundational books on Yoga.
Iyengar Yoga redefined and repackaged the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali into a new Iyengar school. He made an extraordinary contribution to the spreading of simple techniques of Yoga to the masses.
He popularized the form of Hatha Yoga in the Western world. Today Hatha Yoga is arguably the most popular form of Yoga in Western countries and this could not have been possible without the superlative efforts of Iyengar and his family. Iyengar’s family has made a huge contribution to this achievement.
Iyengar Yoga emphasizes the physical alignment of the body of the person with the help of some very specific postures. It includes more than 200 asana practices and 14 types of Pranayama.
The practice of Iyengar Yoga is broken down into several simple parts to ensure that even a layman could perform seemingly difficult steps easily.
It is considered one of the easiest and most accessible forms of Yoga and there’s very little difficulty in achieving perfection in performing Iyengar Yoga.
This yoga has numerous benefits. Through its central focus on alignment, it develops flexibility and strengthens capacity in the body of the individual.
The asanas involved in this Yoga help in the balance of the body and mind of the individual. This practice promotes not only the physical enhancement of an individual mutual, but it also enriches their spiritual component to a greater extent.
3.2. Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya left an everlasting impact on the Yoga world. For his illuminative teachings in the Yoga world, he became a source of vital inspiration for everyone.
This internationally celebrated Yoga teacher came to be referred to as the ‘Father of modern Yoga’. He was a Vinyasa Yoga teacher. He refined the Vinyasa Yoga through his eclectic thoughts and the practice of Vinyasa Yoga acquired a unique composition in the way he taught Yoga to the world.
A Yoga teacher like him was in some way unparalleled in the whole history of mankind. His contributions to humanity also included his method of Ayurvedic healing.
He was also a prolific writer and scholar who gave the world the concept of Vinyasa Yoga. He taught Yoga to many other Yogi legends including B. K. S. Iyengar, P. Jois and T. K. Desikachar. The way of teaching Yoga for him was essentially a form of formidable devotion.
Tirumalai Krishnamacharya lived for 100 odd years, what more evidence do we require for the beneficial effects of Yoga on our health.
The lifespan of this Yoga teacher points to the fact that those who are engaged in the pursuit of Yoga considerably live longer than the rest who remain idle for the most proportion of their life.
As a Vinyasa Yoga teacher, he was quite concretely aware of the fact that many diseases can be avoided just by sticking to the Yoga schedule in our life and putting oneself in a fixed framework.
The way of teaching Yoga was based on what an individual wants and according to his likes and dislikes and comfort. His approach to Yoga emphasises the therapeutic Yoga system where an individual was free to do, whatever he filled was appropriate.
As a Yoga teacher under the patronage of Mysore’s kings, he spread Yoga to the masses. He is credited with the revival of Hatha Yoga and developing the novel technique of Vinyasa Yoga which became very popular in Western countries. He was the first person to connect breathing and Yoga movements and thus Vinyasa was created by him.
3.3. K. Pattabhi Jois
K. Pattabhi Jois was an Indian Yoga guru who mastered the form of Yoga known as Ashtanga Yoga. He established a famous institute for the dissemination of Yoga to the masses in Mysore, it was named Ashtanga Yoga research institute.
As Jois was himself a Yoga and meditation teacher, he knew how to create future yoga teachers. A manual of Yoga teacher training was prepared and a Yoga class was heralded as a key to the precise knowledge of the practice.
Jois popularised Ashtanga Yoga through his virtues of discipline and perseverance which caused admiration in the public.
Ashtanga Yoga practice is a dynamic form of yoga where movements of the body are connected to the breath, they both are in sync with each other. It symbolises the harmonious nature of our body and soul.
Ashtanga Yoga demands the constant practice of a set of movements through which one can harmonise with body and soul.
Ashtanga Yoga’s word comes from Patanjali’s description of eight-folded Yoga. There are some key features of the practice of Ashtanga Yoga.
Breath, Drishti, Vinyasa (breathing system), Bandhas (Body lock) and daily practice are those key features.
If followed properly with a certain level of determination, one can hold mastery over Ashtanga Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga is a rigorous and vigorous system of Yoga and needs proper guidance and training because it is difficult to master.
3.4. Swami Sivananda Saraswati
Swami Sivananda Saraswati was a Yoga teacher and a famous Hindu spiritual teacher born in the nineteenth century.
He was the author of more than 200 books on Yoga and Vedanta and many other subjects. He founded Divine Life Society (DLS) in 1936 on the banks of the river Ganga.
A builder of Institutions, he founded Yoga Vedanta forest academy in 1963. Sivananda settled himself in Rishikesh and continued to treat patients who used to come to him impressed with his manifested healing capabilities. He distributed spiritual literature free of cost to the common people.
Practising Yoga was not just an art but a lifestyle for Swami Sivananda Saraswati. The kind of Yoga he disseminated was called the Yoga of synthesis which combined four yogas of Hinduism namely Bhakti yoga, Karma yoga, Jnana yoga and Raja Yoga. His style of Yoga combined knowledge, devotion, action and meditation at once.
3.5. Swami Krishnananda Saraswati
Swami Krishnananda Saraswati was a disciple of Swami Sivananda Saraswati. He served as a general secretary of divine life society from 1958 until 2001, till his death.
He authored more than forty texts and his topic of lectures revolved around Yoga, religion and metaphysics.
He is considered a great theologian, Yogi and philosopher. Like his Guru, he too preached the Yoga of synthesis to the world.
3.6. Swami Satchidananda Saraswati
Swami Satchidananda Saraswati was an Indian Yoga guru who attained a large-scale following in the masses of the west.
He founded his version of Yoga known as Integral Yoga where he synthesized six branches of Yoga philosophy: Hatha, Bhakti, Karma, Jnana, Raja and Japa Yoga.
This version of Yoga aimed to integrate the body, mind and soul of the individual by using various physical postures and philosophical insights which helps in Yoga union.
He was called by a famous Hollywood director to come to the USA. He came to the USA and spent five months in 1966. In 1969, he arrived at a music festival in the Lotus position to speak.
He gave the opening address echoing the famous phrase used by Swami Vivekananda “brothers and sisters of America” and the crowd reacted rapturously to the chants of Hari Om.
In 1970, he established a branch of his integral Yoga institute in San Francisco. In over 50 years of his public service, he made eight world tours covering countries like Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Britain, Germany, Italy, Venezuela, Switzerland, Finland, the Soviet Union, countries of eastern Europe and the Middle East.
3.7. Judith Hanson And Restorative Yoga
Judith Hanson Laster is the pioneer of restoration Yoga. She’s a famous physical therapist and Yoga teacher. She has published ten books and in these books, she has expounded her version of restorative yoga to her readers.
In this act, Yoga asana practice is done by the individual with the help of some props like a folded blanket which helps in reducing stress and relaxation of the body.
Judith Hanson was an early disciple of B. K. S. Iyengar and she developed her brand of Yoga with the important input from her guru.
Restorative yoga allows the body to stretch the normal asanas for more time than the conventional time and henceforth allows it to relax after some sessions.
The teaching workshops and Yoga classes of restorative yoga have profoundly changed the outlook and lifestyle of the people.
The healing of body and mind through simple postures is easily accessible to most people with the combined help of some props. Many people were found to have a sound sleep after the intensive practice of restorative yoga.
3.8. Dharma Mittra
Dharma Mittra is a famous Yoga teacher who propagated a style of Yoga known as Dharma Yoga. He became a Yoga practitioner in his late teenage years when he went to New York City.
He called his Guru to New York City. He devoted his ten years of life to practising Yoga and more particularly to the teaching of Karma yoga.
Dharma Mittra demonstrated the postures of Yoga in the whole of New York City while being on a tour with his Guru. For many years he was the only Yoga teacher in New York City who knew the advanced postures and techniques.
He dedicated his whole life to the Yogic teachings and is immersed in the transformation of millions of individuals through the power of Yoga. He is very famous for expounding a master Yoga chart of 908 postures.
3.9. Beryl Bender Birch
Beryl Bender Birch is a Yoga teacher who created a new form of Yoga known as power yoga. Power Yoga is a derivative of energetic Vinyasa Yoga in exercise form.
Power Yoga is an active and athletic form of Western Yoga in which one has to move swiftly through the poses and each pose is held for three to five breaths. Those who seek Yoga in a sporty and adventurous way like this form of Yoga.
Beryl Bender Birch came to learn Yoga in India. She spent six months under Munishree Chitrabhanu and studied Yoga. She went back to the United States and opened a Yoga school to teach students the poses of Yoga.
She learnt Ashtanga Yoga from Norman Allen and began to reach it in New York City. New York city consists of many Yoga studios and Yoga teacher training is also to be found to a certain degree.
3.10. Sharon Gannon And Jivamukti Yoga Method
Sharon Gannon is a very eminent personality in the domain of Yoga. She’s a renowned yogini. She along with David Life founded the Jivamukti yoga method.
She has also ventured to explore the possibility of a relationship between veganism and Yoga. She authored a book titled Yoga and vegetarianism’.
She has engrossed herself not just in animal rights activism but is actively involved in spiritual service and activism too.
The Jivamukti Yoga method is a radical way of seeking connection between people and the earth. It implies that our relationship with the earth should be beneficial and joyful.
This yoga form dismantles the harmful notion of the materialistic world that the only way our relationship with the earth is and should be extraction of maximum benefits from the earth.
It dismantles the err notion that we should be able to exploit the earth in whatever way we seek to.
This form of Yoga focuses on the enlightenment of the individual by the power of self-realization. It promotes individuals to see the world as a whole, the distinctions and separateness of all kinds should disappear from the world and we should perceive ourselves as being an insoluble part of the whole.
The realization of the oneness of the whole is to embark on the journey of lifelong happiness and peace.
We attach a great deal of significance to trying things perfectly even though we’re acutely aware that perfection is indeed impossible. The Yogic life is to be known widely as a life of hardship and detachment and is far from perfection as well.
But there is a sense of heavy ecstasy and pure joy in the people who practice this life. The consciousness of such individuals who practice Yoga is incomparable to a layman who has no pursuit of knowledge about this ancient wisdom.
One should always endeavor to make their life in harmony with the Yogic way of life to grow and live healthily.