Yoga’s history is as vast as the ocean. The deeper you dive into its philosophy and past, the more you discover. Before you go deep-sea diving, you should know these 10 yogis and their contributions to your practice.
Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras in 400 C.E., and they are still referenced in yoga today. The sutras are guidelines for living and the foundational text of yoga. Within this text, Patanjali established the eight-limbed system of yoga.
- Yamas: moral restraints
- Niyamas: personal observances
- Asanas: poses and postures
- Pranayama: mindful breathing
- Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses
- Dharana: concentration and perceptual awareness
- Dhyana: meditation
- Samadhi: enlightenment; state of oneness
2. Swami Satchidananda
Satchidananda dedicated his life to peace. He blended the physical asanas of yoga with the philosophy of India and an approach that welcomed all faiths. By doing so, he made yoga accessible to millions.
Satchidananda founded Integral Yoga in 1966. Integral is a more peaceful and gentle yoga practice that combines postures, meditation, and breath.
3. Yogi Bhajan
Yogi Bhajan introduced Kundalini yoga to the west in 1968, breaking an ancient tradition of secrecy. Bhajan felt that Kundalini yoga would give people an alternative to the prevalent drug culture of the time.
He even spoke at Woodstock and was so well-received that he has been credited with helping to keep the peace at what could have been a very chaotic event.
Kundalini is an energy that is said to live at the base of the spine. Through asana, breath, or meditation, we attempt to awaken this energy.
4. Alan Finger
Along with his father, Mani Finger, Alan founded ISHTA yoga in South Africa in the 1960s. ISHTA focuses on the individual student’s needs, and blends Hatha, Tantra, and Ayurveda.
In 1975, Alan moved to Los Angeles and founded the Yoga Tantra Institute. Two decades later, he co-founded Yoga Zone, Be Yoga, and Yoga Works.
5. B.K.S Iyengar
B.K.S. Iyengar, who passed away in 2014, started a yoga practice that became known for its precision. Named after its founder, the emphasis in Iyengar yoga is on posture and alignment.
Iyengar authored several books, such as Light on Yoga, during his lifetime. He was a key influencer in the spread of yoga to the West.
6. Krishna Pattabhi Jois
Pattabhi Jois began ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga is a powerful practice that links movement with breath and incorporates the bandhas, or body locks.
There are six different ashtanga yoga series, which are increasingly challenging.
7. Sri T. Krishnamacharya
Krishnamacharya was a physician, healer, teacher, and astrologer. He founded viniyoga, which places its emphasis on breath, not form.
Viniyoga is a personalized practiced and is generally taught one-on-one. Krishnamacharya’s son, T.K.V. Desikachar, carried on his lineage.
8. T.K.V. Desikachar
As both Krishnamacharya’s son and student, Desikachar carried on the traditions that he learned from his father.
His teaching method is centered on the principle that yoga must always be fit to match an individual’s changing needs. By doing so, the practitioner would reap the most therapeutic benefits from the practice.
9. John Friend
Friend founded anusara yoga. This style of yoga was based on tantric philosophy and principles of alignment.
Friend based anusara on Iyengar’s system of alignment and streamlined everything into five “Universal Principles of Alignment.” The number five is significant because it corresponds with other aspects of nature, like the five elements.
10. Dharma Mittra
Dharma Mittra has been teaching since 1967 and started the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City.
He created the Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures by photographing himself in 1300 yoga poses. He then cut and pasted the pictures together to create the chart. You will see the Master Yoga Chart hung in many ashrams, studios, and yoga centers across the country.
Yoga is chock full of influential and inspirational teachers whose lessons can help guide you along your path. If you are not sure where to start researching, talk to one of your yoga teachers—they are sure to have some suggestions.
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