Thousands of yoga gurus have existed in the world over the years - from the "Adhi Yogi" Lord Shiva, the Maharishis, Siddhars and sages, to the current modern gurus such as Jaggi Vasudev, who is better known as Sadhguru, and guru Ramdev - the founder of Pathanjali Pvt Ltd.
The fundamental purpose of these gurus are to propagate the art of yoga to all, for the health and spiritual benefits of all mankind.
Yoga is said to help in reigning in diseases such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and also decreases stress levels and calms a hectic mind. Yoga is also believed to help align the mind and the body, with the universe.
Today, yoga has become one of the most popular fitness exercises and a multi-million dollar business - both as a service, and in the product-based market.
While many new-era yoga gurus and political leaders have promoted yoga to the world, let us remember some of the greatest modern-time yoga gurus in India who have brought the art to the West, and the rest of the world.
Tirumalai KrishnamacharyaThis "Father of Modern Yoga" is known for his vinyasa yoga practice and for reviving "Hatha Yoga". Knowledgeable in both yoga and ayurveda, Krishnamacharya used both of these proportionately to restore health.
This great guru, who died in 1989 aged 100, is said to have had control over his heartbeat, and mastered the art of holding his breath as well.
He was one of the first gurus to combine the breathing and physical exercise aspects of yoga, and integrated meditation with asanas (poses).
Krishnamacharya ran yoga schools in Mysore, Karnataka and trained many renowned disciplines, such as Indra Devi, Pattabi Jois, and B.K.S Iyengar, who popularised yoga worldwide.
Paramahansa YoganandaParamahansa Yogananda, born Mukunda Lal Ghosh on the 5th of January 1893, was the first yoga master of India to take yoga and travelled throughout the United States. He introduced Yoga, specifically meditation and Kriya Yoga to the westerners.
His critically-acclaimed book "Autobiography of a Yogi" has sold over four million copies since its first publishing. It is also listed as one of the "100 best spiritual books of the 20th Century".
Maharishi Mahesh YogiMaharishi began his yoga teaching tour to the Westerners and declared 1959 as "the year of global awakening". There, he founded the transcendental meditation technique. This techniques, which involves the use of mantra with the eyes closed, is believed to help in strengthening mind power and concentration.
It is also a proven method to relax the mind and decrease stress levels. The famed British band The Beatles are one of Maharishi's followers. In 1967, the band members met Maharishi at a tour in London and decided to learn meditation from him.
Swami SivanandaA doctor by profession, Swami Sivananda is another great yogi of the 20th century. He is famous for his humorous way of presenting his message. He even wrote a song describing the 18 characteristics that a Yogi must have, and this of course, included being funny.
He founded the Divine Life Society an had even served as a doctor in then British Malaya for 10 years, till 1924, providing free medical treatment for poor patients. Swami Sivananda entered Mahasamadhi on 14 July 1963, in his Kutir on the bank of the Ganges, in Sivanandanagar.
B.K.S IyengarOne of the earliest students of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, Iyengar suffered from various issues since he was small and resorted to yoga as a tool to overcome them. Iyengar also redefined Patanjali's yoga sutras and founded the world famous "Iyengar Yoga", which uses props in yoga asana practises. He was able to perform complicated yoga poses, including the Sirsasana (headstand) for half an hour, until the passed away at the age of 95 in 2014.
Thousands of yoga gurus and teachers have imparted their knowledge to the world, for the good of mankind. Let's try and embrace this beneficial artform for our own wellbeing.
Nizha Periaswamy is a yoga instructor and freelance writer.
Photo source: delightyoga.com, iymv.org, sivanandayogafarm.og, cesamargio.com.