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The People Who Globalized Yoga

by Marianne Navada

The United Nation’s General Assembly declared June 21 as international yoga day in 2015. To celebrate, here are the people who pioneered the globalization and modernization of yoga. This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good starting point.

Swami Vivekananda

Source | Commons

Swami Vivekananda traveled around Asia and to the West (1893-1897) giving lectures on Hindu philosophy and Raja yoga. This type of yoga is centered on meditation and control of the mind and emotions.

Swami Vivekananda was influenced by Patanjali and the Yoga Sutras, which focused on yoga philosophy as it applies to life. These scriptures are usually taught in yoga teacher training and still incorporated in yoga classes.

The writing on the picture was written by Swami Vivekananda: “one infinite pure and holy – beyond thought beyond qualities I bow down to thee.”

Tirumalai Krishnamacharya

Shri T. Krishnamacharya
source | delight yoga

Krishnamacharya is widely considered the father of modern yoga. He developed the concept of vinyasa, which is the foundation of what is sometimes referred to as power yoga.

He trained B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois, and Indra Devi, all credited for globalizing yoga.

He advocated an inclusive yoga community, one that was not bound by religion or gender.

Ironically, he never traveled outside of India, but his work on Hatha Yoga is arguably the most popular aspect of yoga philosophy. Hatha Yoga is a branch of yoga that deals with asanas (poses) and pranayama (breathing exercises).

Vinyasa is a type of yoga, wherein movement is used to transition between poses accompanied by controlled breathing.

Krishnamacharya in Extended Side Angle or Utthita Parsvakonasana
Source: Uplift

B.K.S. Iyengar

source | India Today

Iyengar is the author of “The Light on Yoga” which is considered the ultimate manual of yoga asanas.

Iyengar is credited for using yoga as a therapeutic tool. To this day, his cues on the health benefits of postures are still used.

If you have used a prop during yoga, whether it’s a strap, blocks, blanket…that’s Iyengar. He is responsible for the use of support and modifications when performing certain poses.

Usually associated with Hatha Yoga, Iyengar is also known for teaching proper alignment. His cues are an integral part of modern-day yoga classes.

“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.”

B.K.S. Iyengar
Source: ABC News
B.K.S. Iyengar gives a yoga demonstration to tennis players at a pre-Wimbledon party in a London suburb in June, 1960.

K. Pattabhi Jois

Source | Ashtanga Yoga Torino

Pattabhi Jois pioneered Ashtanga Yoga, a type of yoga which involves a series of postures done sequentially in vinyasa style.

Because the poses are set, Ashtanga Yoga is usually practiced individually even if you are in a group setting. This means that the student enters a studio and starts practicing. The teacher is there to adjust students during certain poses, but the teacher doesn’t always provide verbal cues for everyone to hear.

Unlike Iyengar type yoga, props are not used. The teacher adjusts you personally.

99% practice, 1% theory.

K. Pattabhi Jois
Source | Daily Cup of Yoga

Digital Age

While Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois travelled the world spreading yoga, the digital age has made it possible to spread the word of yoga through social media. YouTube, Instagram, and the power of visuals have made it possible to learn new poses and philosophy without taking a teacher’s class or meeting them in person.

Kino MacGregor


Kino currently has more than 500,000 followers on Youtube, 1.1 million followers on Instagram, co-founder of Miami Life Center, and the founder of OmStars, a yoga TV network.

She is a certified Ashtanga teacher and studied in Mysore, India with Pattabhi Jois.

Kino paved the way for the many influencers on social media who share their love of yoga.


Of course, there’s Hollywood. To all the celebrities who have professed their love of yoga.

Commit to living.