Maharishi Patanjali is the ‘father of Yoga’ who compiled 195 Yoga Sutras that became the foundation of Yoga philosophy. The commentary on these sutras is called Bhasya. The core essence of Patanjali is the eightfold path of Yoga (Ashtanga Yoga) that focusses upon healthy living through Yoga.
Born in 788 AD in a village called Kaladi in Kerala Adi Shankaracharya was a philosopher of the greatest renown because he brought new life to the Vedas and restored them to their ancient glory. He revived Vedanta at a time when Vedanta philosophy was going through a period of darkness due to the excesses of ritualistic practice. His correct interpretations saw a revival in the status of the Vedas and so he was able to successfully advocate Advaita Vedanta. He founded the Dashanami monastic order and believed in worship of the Shanmata tradition. He established four Adi Shankaracharya Peeths and devoted one of the Vedas to each: (1) South – Sarada Peetha, Sringeri. (2) East – Govardhana Peetha, Jagannath Puri. (3) West – Kalika Peetha, Dwaraka. (4) North – Jyothir Peetha, Badrinath.
Born in Calcutta in 1863, Swami Vivekananda showed a desire to unravel the spiritual and realize God even when he was a child. This is why he chose Ramakrishna as his Guru because he was sure that Ramakrishna would be able to demonstrate for him the reality of God. Ramakrishna introduced him to Advaita Vedanta and also told him that all religions are true. However, the best form of worship is service to man. The credit of introducing Vedanata and yoga to Europe and America goes to Swami Vivekananda. He raised Hinduism to the pedestal of a world religion by introducing it at the Parliament of World’s Religions at Chicago in 1893 where he also gave an inspiring speech and called the people of America his brothers and sisters. Vivekananda also raised interfaith awareness. He founded the Ramkrishna Mission and Math.
Sri Aurobindo was one of the brilliant prolific spiritual personalities of India. Sri Aurobindo Ghose was a great yogi, philosopher and poet. Sri Aurobindo penned down a total 68 books on different domains of spiritualilty. His best publication is ‘The Life Divine’, which focuses upon theoretical aspects of Yoga, another one is ‘Synthesis of Yoga’ that throws light on practical facets of Yoga. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry is a great seat of spiritual practice, which is known as Integral Yoga. Auroville or Aurobindo Ashram spread the spirit of universal brotherhood. He was born in Kolkata on 15th August, 1872 and sent to London for study at the age of seven.
Born in 1883, Swami Kuvalayananda saw the renaissance of the national movement and became a freedom fighter. He was influenced by Sri Aurobindo when at college and by Paramahansa Madhavdasji at a later date. Madhavdasji was a great yogi from Bengal but lived on the banks of the sacred Narmada at Malsar near Baroda. Madhavdasji by far had the greater influence on Kuvalayananda as he encouraged his students to approach yoga scientifically. Kuvalayananda, studied the effects that yoga had on the human body and the health benefits that accrue from yoga practice. The experiments carried out at the laboratory at Baroda Hospital in 1920-21 convinced Kuvalayananda that yoga could propagate health and bring about spiritual motivation that could illuminate change in human society. He wished now to use yoga systematically to bring about health and healing to humanity. With this mission in mind he established the Kaivalyadhama Institute of Yoga at Lonavala, Pune.
Swami Sivananda Saraswati
Born in 1887 at Pattamadai, Tamil Nadu in 1887 Swami Sivananda was a Doctor in Malaysia, but he renounced his medical practice in 1924 when Swami Vishwananda Saraswati initiated him into Dashnami Sannyasa. He practiced intense sadhana, yoga and learnt the scriptures. He became a wondering monk and toured the length and breadth of India. Wherever Sivananda went, he tried to awaken the moral and spiritual consciousness of people. In 1936, he founded the Divine Life Society at Rishikesh with the main aim of spreading spiritual knowledge and serving mankind. Being a doctor he started the Sivananda Ayurvedic Pharmacy in 1945.
Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (November 18, 1888 – February 28, 1989) was an Indian yoga teacher, ayurvedic healer and scholar. Often referred to as “The Father of Modern Yoga,” Krishnamacharya is widely regarded as one of the most influential yoga teachers of the 20th century and is credited with the revival of hatha yoga. Krishnamacharya held degrees in all the six Vedic darśanas, or Indian philosophies. While under the patronage of the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV, Krishnamacharya traveled around India giving lectures and demonstrations to promote yoga, including such feats as stopping his heartbeat. He is widely considered as the architect of vinyasa in the sense of combining breathing with movement.
Paramahansa Yogananda is one of the pioneer Indian Yoga masters who introduced meditation and Kriya Yoga to the western world through his book ‘Autography of a Yogi’. In one of his other books, The Self-Realisation Fellowship Lessons, Paramahansa Yogananda stressed upon the realization of God through Yogic practices.
K Pattabhi Jois
Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois was born on 26th July, 1915. Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois is one of the multi-faceted Yoga preachers of India and known worldwide for his Ashtanga Yoga. He established Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore. He was the disciple of S.T. Krishnamacharya and his Yogic philosophy revolves around his Guru.Website: http://kpjayi.org/
Swami Chidananda Saraswati
Born in 1916 at Tamil Nadu, Chidananda Saraswati became interested in the spiritual life right from an early age. He often read books written by Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekanand and Swami Sivananda and so it was easy for him to know that he wanted sannyas. At first he tried detachment in 1936, but his family persuaded him return home. However, in 1943 he finally joined Swami Sivananda at his ashram in Rishikesh. With the guidance of Swami Sivananda he set up the Yoga Museum which housed the entire Vedanta philosophy and also a pictorial Yoga Sadhana process. He became the President of Divine Life Society in 1963 when his predecessor took Mahasamadhi.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was born on 12th January, 1918 and is one of the great Indian Yoga gurus famous across the globe equally. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the founder of ‘Transcendental Meditation Techniques’. He trained many teachers in ‘Transcendental Meditation and taught Transcendental Meditation Techniques to more than 5 million people across the globe.
B.K. S. Iyengar is popularly known as Guruji, who genuinely explains the meaning of Yoga sutras. Born in 1918, he is one of the leading Yoga personalities in the world and popularises yoga across globe. Yogacharya Iyengar’s style of teaching Yoga is unique and termed as ‘Iyengar Yoga’. B. K. S. Iyengar has command over Yogasanas, in fact, has the authority over asanas. Iyengar ji has written many books on Yoga Philosophy such as ‘Light on Yoga’, ‘Light on Pranayama’, ‘Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’, ‘Patanjali Yoga Sutra Paricay’, etc. He is the recipient of Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan. In a survey of Times Magazine, Iyengar ji is named as one of the 100 most Influential People in the World in 2004.Website: http://www.bksiyengar.com/
Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Born in 1923 in Almora, Uttarakhand Swami Satyananda showed a spiritual tendency and heightened awareness right from the age of 6 years. In 1943, he left home and came in contact with Swami Sivananda at Rishikesh and the Swami initiated him into the Dashnami Sannyas. Satyananda performed such intense nishkam seva that he was able to realize the secrets of spirituality. He studied yoga, tantra and Vedanta and kundalini yoga in such a thorough fashion that he founded the new Bihar School of Yoga in 1963 and became the pioneer of this yoga practice.
Born in 1925 at a village called Toli in the Garhwal Himalayas, Swami Rama became the holder of the Sankhya Yoga tradition. He was encouraged by his Master Madhavananda Saraswati to travel and seek out all the remote monasteries in the Himalayas including Nepal. This way Rama got to study with the various Himalayan sages as also with his Grandmaster who lived in distant Tibet. Swami Rama travelled extensively in America and Europe and took his knowledge of yoga to those continents. He is the first of the Yogis who was studied scientifically at Menninger clinic in USA. Scientists wanted to understand how he was able to control his heartbeat, body temperature and blood pressure voluntarily as these are involuntary processes. He is the founder of the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy with headquarters in USA and branches in India and Europe.
Sri Sri Ravishankar
Born in South India, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, popularly known as Gurudev could recite the Bhagavad Gita at an early age of four. By combining scientific temper with ancient spiritual wisdom, he has rekindled the traditions of yoga and meditation and has offered them in a form that works in the 21st century. Sri Sri has offered to the world powerful techniques like Sudarshan Kriya®, Chakra Kriya and Shakti Kriya for personal and social transformation. Through his silence retreats, Gurudev has brought ancient secrets of spiritual lure and has helped people re-discover themselves. His teachings have transformed millions of lives in both the mundane and the sublime. These techniques have also brought relief from stress and helped people discover inner reservoirs of energy and peace in daily life. He is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation and the International Association of Human Values and his programs and initiatives have touched the lives of over 370 million people in 152 countries. His service initiatives in the field of health, environment, conflict resolution and interfaith dialogue has found great resonance across the globe.
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev
Hailing from the glorious tradition of Southern Indian Mysticism, Sadhguru is an accomplished yogi of the highest order and is among the few rare beings known as “Chakreshwara” – one who has complete mastery over the 114 chakras in the human system. He has initiated millions across the globe into powerful spiritual processes. He developed Isha Yoga, as a scientific method to accelerate the release of physical, mental and emotional blocks, resulting in a life-transforming experience of clarity and boundless energy. Inner Engineering, Isha’s flagship program, introduces Shambhavi Mahamudra a simple but powerful kriya (inner energy process). Sadhguru is widely sought after by prestigious global forums to address issues as diverse as human rights, business values, and social, environmental and existential issues. He is the founder of Isha Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the wellbeing of the individual and the world for the past three decades.
Baba Ramdev should be credited for his exemplary work of creating awareness about Yoga across commoners around the world. Baba Ramdev specializes in different forms of pranayama which is said to cure many diseases and ailments including facilitating weight loss and lifestyle related disorders. Baba Ramdev’s pranayama modules are quite popular as yoga for weight loss. He influences Yoga practice at home by watching Yoga programmes on television, thus, taking the practice to almost every house urban and rural. Baba Ramdev was born in Haryana in 1965 and established the Patanjali Yogpeeth and Centre of Yoga awareness at Haridwar. This spiritual guru also set up a factory to manufacture various Ayurvedic medicines and products. Baba Ramdev is said to have been influenced by Aurobindo Ghose’s booklet Yogik Sadhna, which led to his deep affection for yoga and meditation in the caves of Himalaya.