India is known as birthplace of yoga. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal, 21st June has been declared as an “International Yoga Day”. Even before Modi’s effort to popularize yoga there have been many yoga gurus in India who have popularized yoga all over the world.
Top 10 Yoga Masters in India
Some of the prominent gurus of India who have popularized yoga both nationally and internationally are being discussed below:
1. B. K.S. Iyengar
He had been a pioneer of Iyengar style of yoga and is one of the most reputed Indian yoga practitioner. He popularized yoga abroad and was one of the students of T. Krishnamacharya. He is known for his wonderful nature and aura. He created Iyengar yoga by redefining Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and is one of the famous yoga teachers in India. He has written a book “Light on Yoga” which had been translated in many languages and is popular among masses.
2. Krishna Pattabhi Jois
He is known for his ashtanga style of yoga and is one of the great yoga guru in India and is a famous yoga preacher all around the world. Ashtanga yoga style has attracted many international celebrities like Sting, Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow.
3. Swami Kavalayananda
He is majorly known for his research in the scientific foundations of yoga. He had a profound influence on modern yoga. He wrote Yoga Mimamsa, which is the first scientific journal completely devoted to studying yoga.
4. Swami Sivananda Saraswati
He was a doctor before becoming a monk. He combined bhakti yoga, karma yoga, jnana yoga and raja yoga and spread it across the whole world. He taught yoga, did intense sadhna and learnt scriptures throughout his life. He called his yoga as yoga of synthesis. He wrote 200 books on Vedanta, yoga and other topics.
5. Swami Chidananda Saraswati
He had set up a yoga museum which depicted yoga sadhana through pictures and illustrations and housed the whole Vedanta philosophy. Sivananda Saraswati encouraged him to become a yogi.
6. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Mahesh Yogi has been popularly known as the guru of Beach Boys, Beatles and many other celebrities. He taught Transcendental Meditation Technique which is a mantra meditation practiced with closed eyes. He has been one of the major yoga gurus in India.
7. Parmahansa Yogananda
He had spent his major life in US and inspired others to follow yoga. He popularized kriya yoga and meditation. He wrote a book named “Autobiography of a Yogi”. He was the first yoga guru who taught yoga in the west.
8. Swami Satyananda Saraswati
He was a great Indian yoga teacher and guru. He has written eighty books on yoga. One of his most prominent works is “Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha”. The book has been translated into many languages and is read across the world. He had been the founder of Bihar School of Yoga and International Yoga Fellowship. He had been one of the famous Indian yoga gurus.
9. Yogi Amrit Desai
Yogi Amrit Desai has earned honor in US as well as abroad. He had been awarded Vishwa Yoga Ratna by President of India and has been given the title of Jagadacharya which means Universal Teacher. He also has Doctorate in Yoga. He has been one of the popular yoga gurus in India.
10. Mata Nirmala Devi
She introduced and popularized Sahaja or Siddha yoga. She knew energetic counterparts and had a complete understanding of the nervous system since the very beginning in her life. She had been awarded with “Personality of the Year” by the Italian Government. She had a complete self-realization when she was born.
Related Post – Types of Yoga – Your Guide to 9 Major Yoga Styles
Top Spiritual Leaders of India
Some of the leaders besides practicing yoga also emphasize spiritual side of the human body. Some of the prominent leaders in this field are being discussed below:
1. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
He has popularized “Sudarshan Kriya” and is the founder of Art of Living and has been one of the best yoga gurus in India. He is a humanitarian and spiritual leader. He had been conferred with Padma Vibhushan and 16 Honorary Doctorates internationally. He conducts many yoga programs, both nationally and internationally. He has touched the lives of many people through his programs.
2. Adi Shankracharya
Adi Shankracharya was born in Kerala. He revived the Vedas which had been forgotten by all and was the first yoga guru in India. He travelled all over the country to spread his teachings and emphasized upon the teachings of Advaita Vedanta. He believed that you can attain moksha knowledge through the purity of mind which can be achieved only by yoga.
3. Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
He is popularly known as the “Father of Modern Yoga”. He played a great role in developing Vinyasa yoga and revived Hatha yoga. He restored health by mixing the knowledge of Ayurveda and yoga. He become one of the famous gurus in India by promoting yoga under the patronage of Mysore’s Maharaja. He was an expert in holding the heartbeats and had a good control over this art.
4. Dhirendra Brahmachari
Dhirendra Brahmachari is considered to be one of the controversial yoga gurus in India. He owned Vishwayatan Yogasahram in Delhi and introduced yoga as a subject in Delhi schools and promoted yoga on Doordarshan. He was famously known as Indira Gandhi’s yoga teacher. As a yoga teacher, he had written books in Hindi and English to spread yoga knowledge among people.
5. Swami Rama
Swami Rama was the holder of Sankhya Yoga tradition. He had been the first yogi to claim that he can control heartbeat, body temperature and blood pressure. He acquired spiritual training from various institutes in India and Europe.
6. Sri Aurobindo
He was a great philosopher, poet and yogi. Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry lays emphasis on spiritual practice commonly known as Integral Yoga. This Ashram spreads brotherhood among everyone. He has written 68 books out of which “Synthesis of Yoga” highlights practical knowledge of yoga. “The Life Divine” has been his best publication which gives the knowledge of theoretical aspects of yoga.
7. Maharishi Patanjali
He brought together 195 Yoga Sutras which became a base for the foundation of yoga philosophy. The core component of Patanjali’s philosophy is Ashtanga yoga which focuses on a healthy lifestyle through yoga. The commentary on the sutras is together called Bhasya. He is known as the “Father of Yoga” and is one of the popular yoga gurus in India.
8. Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda made a great contribution in spreading the knowledge of yoga throughout the western world through lectures and discussions. Philosophical work of Swami Vivekananda includes Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga. He had been a great spiritual and social leader.
Modern Yoga Gurus of India
Some of the modern yoga gurus of India who have invented different forms of yoga which are practiced by people all over the world are being discussed below:
1. Baba Ramdev
The regular practice of Kapalbhati and Anulom Vilom pranayama goes to Baba Ramdev. He has made yoga accessible to everyone through his watch and do yoga programs on television. His yoga camps became very popular with the masses.
2. Bikram Choudhury
Bikram Choudhury is the pioneer of Bikram yoga. It is a type of hot yoga in which a series of 26 hatha yoga postures are performed in hot environment of 40 degree Celsius. It helps in bringing back the body to brain. Every pose is aimed to benefit a definite part of human body.
3. Jaggi Vasudev
Jaggi Vasudev is one of the most popular yoga practitioner alive today. He had transformed the lives of many people ranging from corporate gurus to life term prisoners. Popularly known as Sadhguru and being one of the best yoga gurus in India. He is the founder of Isha Foundation which teaches yoga all around the world.
4. Bharat Thakur
He is known as the pioneer of Artistic Yoga and is an internationally known yoga leader. With the help of Artistic Yoga, he focuses on spiritual and physical domains of a human body. The focus of this yoga is on bandha, mudra, meditation, kriya, shatkarma, pranayma and asana. He has written many books on yoga and conducts yoga workshops all around the world.
5. Suneel Singh
Suneel Singh has pioneered many new forms like Hasya Yoga, Yoga Chi and Zodiac Sign and is perhaps one of the best modern yoga gurus in India. He has a very flexible body and has strong command over the asanas. He teaches yoga philosophy in modern light.
There have been many yoga gurus in India who have helped to popularize yoga internationally. There are many people who come to India today specially to learn this divine art. Yoga has helped people to cure health disease and stay fit both physically and mentally.