Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice that originated in India and has become popular worldwide for its physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. Over the years, there have been many prominent yoga teachers who have contributed to the evolution and popularity of the practice.
Yoga has been an integral part of Indian culture for thousands of years. In recent centuries, there have been several notable proponents who have helped to popularise and spread the practice of yoga around the world. Here are 15 major yoga proponents in India in the last two centuries:
Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886)
Sri Ramakrishna was a mystic and devotee of the goddess Kali. His teachings emphasised the importance of devotion, love, and surrender to the divine.
Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902)
Swami Vivekananda was a Hindu monk and a disciple of the 19th-century saint Ramakrishna. He is credited with introducing Vedanta and yoga to the Western world, delivering a series of lectures in the United States in the late 19th century. Swami Vivekananda was a Hindu monk and a key figure in the introduction of Hinduism and yoga to the Western world. He is best known for his famous speech at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, where he introduced yoga as a science of self-realisation. He founded the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897, which is dedicated to the practice of Vedanta and service to society.
Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950)
Sri Aurobindo was a philosopher, yogi, and political leader who played a key role in the Indian independence movement. Sri Aurobindo was a philosopher, poet, and yogi who developed the concept of Integral Yoga. He believed in the evolution of consciousness and developed a system of yoga known as Integral Yoga, which emphasises the transformation of the individual and the world.
T. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989)
T. Krishnamacharya is often referred to as the father of modern yoga. He is credited with developing several styles of yoga, including Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Viniyoga. His teachings emphasised the individual needs of the student and the therapeutic benefits of yoga.
Swami Sivananda (1887-1963)
Swami Sivananda was a Hindu spiritual teacher who founded the Divine Life Society in 1936. He emphasised the importance of yoga as a tool for spiritual transformation and wrote more than 200 books on yoga and Vedanta. His teachings inspired the development of the Sivananda Yoga style. His teachings emphasised the importance of service, devotion, and self-discipline in spiritual practice.
Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952)
Paramahansa Yogananda was a Hindu guru and author of the spiritual classic “Autobiography of a Yogi.” He founded the Self-Realisation Fellowship and introduced Kriya Yoga to the West. Paramahansa Yogananda Paramahansa Yogananda was born in 1893 in Northern India and is known for bringing the teachings of Yoga and meditation to the West. He authored the spiritual classic “Autobiography of a Yogi”.
B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014)
B.K.S. Iyengar was a student of Krishnamacharya and developed his own style of yoga known as Iyengar Yoga. His approach emphasizes precision and alignment in the asanas (postures) and the use of props to aid in the practice. He is credited with popularizing yoga in the Western world and wrote several influential books on the subject. B.K.S. Iyengar was a renowned yoga teacher who developed Iyengar Yoga, a style that emphasises precise alignment and the use of props. He is known for his influential book “Light on Yoga.”
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918-2008)
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a spiritual leader who founded the Transcendental Meditation movement. He emphasised the use of meditation for stress reduction and the promotion of world peace. His teachings inspired the development of the TM-Sidhi program, which includes advanced techniques of meditation and yogic flying.
Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009)
Pattabhi Jois was a student of Krishnamacharya and developed the Ashtanga Yoga system. His approach emphasizes the synchronization of breath and movement in a dynamic sequence of postures. He is credited with popularising the practice of yoga as a physical exercise. He promoted Ashtanga Yoga, a style that emphasises a series of dynamic and challenging postures. He is known for his famous saying “Practice and all is coming.”
Swami Satyananda Saraswati (1923-2009)
Satyananda Saraswati was born in 1923 in Northern India and is the founder of the Bihar School of Yoga. He was a disciple of Swami Sivananda and founded the Bihar School of Yoga in 1964. His teachings emphasised the integration of yoga into daily life and the use of yoga as a tool for personal transformation. He wrote more than 300 books on yoga and spirituality. He authored several books on Yoga and spirituality, including the classic “Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha.” Swami Satyananda Saraswati is known for his contributions to the development of Yoga Nidra, a powerful relaxation and meditation technique.
Swami Rama (1925-1996)
Swami Rama was born in 1925 in Northern India and is known for his contribution to the popularisation of Yoga in the West. He founded the Himalayan Institute in the United States and authored several books on Yoga and spirituality, including “Living with the Himalayan Masters” and “The Art of Joyful Living.”
Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950)
Ramana Maharshi was a Hindu sage who taught a path of self-inquiry known as “Advaita Vedanta.” He is known for his famous statement “Who am I?” which encourages practitioners to inquire into the nature of the self.
Sri Chinmoy (1931-2007)
Sri Chinmoy was a spiritual teacher and athlete who emphasised the connection between the body, mind, and spirit. He advocated for a dynamic and holistic approach to spirituality through physical fitness, music, and art.
Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981)
Nisargadatta Maharaj was a Hindu guru and author of the spiritual classic “I Am That.” He taught the path of Advaita Vedanta and emphasised the importance of self-inquiry and awareness.
Jaggi Vasudev (Sadhguru) (1957-)
Jaggi Vasudev, also known as Sadhguru, was born in 1957 in Southern India. He is a spiritual teacher, mystic, and founder of the Isha Foundation, which promotes Yoga, meditation, and environmental activism. Sadhguru is known for his unique approach to Yoga, which emphasises inner transformation and self-realization.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (1956-)
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was born in 1956 in Southern India and is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation. The foundation promotes Yoga, meditation, and humanitarian projects around the world. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is known for his teachings on the importance of breath, and his courses on pranayama (breathing techniques) are popular worldwide.
Lahiri Mahasaya (1828-1895)
Lahiri Mahasaya was a spiritual teacher and yogi who is known for introducing Kriya Yoga to the world. He was born in Bengal, India and began practicing yoga at a young age. He was initiated into Kriya Yoga by his guru Mahavatar Babaji and went on to teach the practice to others. Lahiri Mahasaya’s teachings and writings have had a significant impact on modern yoga and spirituality.
Anandamayi Ma (1896-1982)
Anandamayi Ma, born as Nirmala Sundari, was a spiritual teacher and saint from Bengal, India. She was known for her profound spiritual experiences and teachings, which emphasised the importance of love and devotion in spiritual practice. Anandamayi Ma was regarded as a living embodiment of the divine and attracted devotees from all over the world.
Yukteswar Giri (1855-1936)
Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri was a spiritual teacher and author who played a significant role in the revival of Hinduism in modern India. He was born in Serampore, West Bengal and went on to study and teach the Vedas, Upanishads, and other spiritual texts. He is best known for his book “The Holy Science,” which provides a scientific explanation of the underlying unity of all religions and spiritual traditions. Yukteswar Giri’s teachings have influenced many modern spiritual teachers and practitioners.
These are just a few of the many influential Yoga proponents in India over the past two centuries. Each of them has made a unique contribution to the practice and philosophy of Yoga, and their teachings continue to inspire, guide practitioners on the path of yoga and self-realisation, and transform countless individuals around the world.