10 Yoga Gurus You Should Know
Yoga is an ancient practice that’s been done for centuries. Over the years, there have been many important figures in the yoga community who have fostered and encouraged its growth as a movement. These people refined the yoga practice as a whole and often helped introduce aspects of both traditional yoga and new techniques to the masses. But what exactly is a yoga guru? And who are some yoga gurus you should know about? Keep reading to find out!
What is a yoga guru?
The word guru comes from Sanskrit, and translates to ‘heavy’ or ‘venerable.’ Its modern meaning has become another word for teacher or instructor. In the Hindu tradition, the term is used to represent a yoga teacher who is ‘heavy’ with knowledge and should be respected for their enlightenment. Gurus are often considered to be trusted spiritual masters (along with their instruction of specific yoga poses). In some yoga traditions, an intimate relationship is formed with one’s guru, as one would form with a higher power. This connection is considered essential to achieving enlightenment. In Western culture, gurus are the link between Eastern philosophy and the Western world.
What is the role of a guru?
A guru is not only an instructor of yoga; they also have many other roles to fulfill. Gurus should act as teachers who can be examples for their students. They must create a learning experience as a mentor and guide to help their students’ progress and refine their yoga practice. Their classes should be accessible to a range of students (of varying abilities) and must involve both the mind and the body as one unit. A good teacher is focused on their students and keeps the main goals of yoga at the forefront, including spiritual enlightenment and becoming at one with the universe.
Gurus must also work to continue to broaden their own knowledge of yoga and to study and grow, as well as to always stay aware of the gurus that have followed before them. Gurus should have a high moral standing and approach their students with care and a willingness to guide them on their spiritual journey.
Who is well known for yoga?
There are many famous yoga gurus that have earned a reputation for starting new techniques or for bringing yoga to the masses. Here’s a look at some of the most famous names:
1. Tirumalai Krishnamacharya
Krishnamacharya was the founder of Ashtanga Yoga, which is now practiced all around the world. He incorporated the specific asanas with breathing techniques and chanting (which helps unite the mind, body, and spirit). Krishnamacharya is often known as the father of modern yoga and toured around India to promote the practice. It was rumored that he was such a master of his own body that he could actually control his heartbeat.
2. Swami Vivekananda
Vivekananda is best known for introducing yoga to the West through his inspiring speeches and lectures, where he introduced the theory of the importance of yoga. He was said to use Trimurti yoga, which combines Hatha, Karma, and Master yoga. Vivekananda was also a social activist; he established the Shri Ram Krishna Mission, which now has more than 125 branches all around the world.
3. BKS Iyengar
Iyengar was actually a student of Krishnamacharya. He had struggled with illness in his childhood, and this is what led him to yoga. He refined a guru named Patanjali’s yoga sutras to create his own form of yoga called Iyengar Yoga. When he died at age 95, it was said that he could still perform a headstand for half an hour (something we’d love to have seen!).
4. K Pattabhi Jois
Jois popularized what is known as Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, which is taken from the ancient text known as Yoga Korunta. Jois was quite the star-studded guru, recruiting many well-known celebrities to practice under his tutelage such as Madonna, Sting, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
5. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
This guru was one of the first to specialize in transcendental meditation (a type of mantra meditation that is practiced with closed eyes). It’s known for increasing concentration, relaxing the mind, and decreasing stress levels.
6. Paramahansa Yogananda
Yogananda introduced a type of yoga called Kriya to the Western world. Kriya is a form of yoga that emphasizes meditation in the pursuit of uniting with the ‘Infinite.’ He was the first Indian teacher to settle in the US and was even hosted at the White House by President Calvin Coolidge in 1927.
7. Jaggi Vasudev
Vasudev is more commonly known as Sadhguru. He established the Isha Foundation, which offers yoga programs all over the world. He’s also the author of several books, including Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy (put it on your TBR list).
This guru popularized a breathing practice called Sudarshan Kriya and is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation. In addition to his yoga practice, in 1997, he established a charity called the International Association for Human Values (an NGO that does relief work in rural developments).
9. Baba Ramdev
Ramdev is one of the main reasons yoga has become so popular nowadays. His yoga TV programs have made him a household name in India (and around the world). He’s also become quite active in Indian politics.
10. Sri Dharma Mittra
Mittra is a yoga maestro who represents the newer, more modern yoga world. As the director of the Dharma Yoga Centre in New York, his life’s work has been teaching yoga and the creation of a chart of 908 poses one can do to reach a higher level of consciousness and health. (Why not create yourself a Mittra bingo chart and try out all of them?!)
You can find yoga gurus anywhere you go to take yoga classes, but if you’re interested in more well-known gurus, there is a lot more information online and in books to help you out. Happy researching!