Famous Yoga Teachers and Gurus of India
Yoga, an ancient practice that originated in India, has become a global phenomenon in recent years. Behind this vast popularity lies the wisdom and guidance of some of the most renowned yoga teachers and gurus in India.
Here, we celebrate the contributions of these top yoga masters of India, who have dedicated their lives to spreading the knowledge and wisdom of yoga.
FAQs About Yoga Gurus of India
There are many famous female yoga teachers in India who have made and are making significant contributions to the practice of yoga.
Here are the notable lady yoga teachers on our list:
Abhijata Sridhar Iyengar
Amina Sarkar Bharatram
Aruna V N
Dr Fharzana Siraj
Dr Latha Satish
Dr Vineeta Ketkar
Dr. Rajvi H Mehta
Padma Shri Meenakshi
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati
Smt. Hansa Jayadeva Yogendra
Srimati Menaka Desikachar
Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani
The warrior pose is named after Virabhadra, son of Lord Shiva. Virabhadra symbolizes resilience and determination, born from unbearable suffering after the loss of Shiva's wife Sati.
The Virabhadrasana pose, also known as the Warrior pose, has a powerful message to offer. By embodying the fearless spirit of a warrior on a divine mission, one can tap into renewed strength and vitality in both body and mind. This yoga posture teaches us to stay grounded in the present moment and remain true to our inner selves, even in the face of adversity.
Hanumanasana, commonly known as 'the splits', is a challenging pose that demands persistence to achieve. It is linked to the monkey god, Hanuman, who epitomizes devotion and strength.
The posture represents his ability to jump vast distances, as depicted in the legend of Rama and Ravana in the Ramayana. Hanuman jumped from India to Lanka to console Sita. Mastering Hanumanasana may take time, but it can assist in the development of flexibility, patience, and focus.
Vasistha, one of the seven great Rishis in Hinduism, is a revered and influential sage. He is renowned for writing a significant portion of the Rig Veda, one of the holiest texts in Hinduism. Vasistha means ‘richest,’ ‘most excellent,’ ‘wealthy,’ or ‘best’ in Sanskrit.
The posture involving balancing on one side of the body, commonly known as the ‘side-plank,’ requires strength and balance.
The cosmic dance of Shiva is captured in one of his most recognized forms - the Nataraja. Derived from Sanskrit words 'nata' and 'raja', this asana is also known as 'king of the dancers'. Shiva's multi-faceted persona takes shape in several forms, and the Nataraja represents the universe's ceaseless dance - a reflection of the ebbs, flows, and changes that life brings us.
Although movement can be wobbly and challenging, a calm mind is key to staying balanced. When we apply this lesson to life, we find that staying centered amidst the chaos is possible with the right mindset.
Matsyendrasana, also known as Seated Spinal Twist or Ardha Matsyendrasana, gets its name from Matsyendra, the 'Lord of the Fish'. This asana honors a revered 10th-century man who is considered an embodiment of the boddhisatva of compassion by Nepalese Buddhists.
According to legend, Matsyenrdra had a remarkable birth story. Born under inauspicious circumstances, he was thrown into the ocean where he was swallowed whole by a giant fish. This fish journeyed to the bottom of the sea where Shiva was revealing the mysteries of yoga to his wife Parvati.
For two years, Matsyenrdra remained in the belly of the fish and listened intently to the wisdom of Shiva. When he emerged, he was full of knowledge and understanding.
Astavakrasana is a yoga pose named after the revered Vedic sage Astavakra, who was born with eight physical handicaps. In Hindu mythology, his story begins in the womb, where he corrected his father's mistakes in reciting the Vedas.
Astavakra's father was so angered and humiliated that he placed a curse on his son, causing him to be born with a severely twisted body. Despite his physical limitations, Astavakrasana possessed vast knowledge and wisdom.
This challenging posture serves as a powerful reminder that we can overcome any obstacle with strength, perseverance, compassion, courage, and patience.
Maitreyi, the wife of Yajnavalkya, stood out as one of the wisest Advaita Vedanta philosophers of her era. Her discussion with Yajnavalkya on spiritual practices and immortality holds a profound significance in the Upanishads. This spiritual discourse stands as a testament to her profound knowledge and spiritual acumen.
Meera Bai was a 16th-century Bhakti Yogini from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Despite coming from a royal family, she broke all social barriers by considering Lord Krishna as her husband. Her devotion to the divine made her an icon of Bhakti Yoga, and countless bhajans were named after her.
Sharada Devi, the spiritual partner, and wife of Swamy Ramakrishna, was a revered mystic saint. While she didn't leave any written texts, her spiritual teachings continue to inspire yogis and yoginis throughout India.
Anandamayi Ma was a spiritual leader who believed in God-centered living and advocated for gender equality in spirituality. Her simple yet profound teachings were conveyed through songs, humor, and practical advice.
Swami Sivananda once called her "the most perfect flower the Indian soil has ever produced," while Paramahansa Yogananda described her as a "joy permeated mother" in his book, "Autobiography of a Yogi."
Yoga has a rich history dating back to the Classical period, with Patanjali being a highly influential figure. Swami Vivekananda, an Indian yoga teacher, continued this legacy and introduced yoga to the West in the late 19th century.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Nationalists and teachers in India promoted the practice of yoga, leading to the establishment of Hatha Yoga schools across the country, emphasizing its effectiveness in achieving enlightenment through asanas and breathing techniques.
Then came Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) though Yogananda’s teachings focused on using breathing techniques, his legacy lies in the practice of Kriya Yoga which emphasizes also mantra chanting and mudras (symbolic gestures).
The modern era (1873 – Present) saw Krishnamacharya, also known as the "father of modern yoga", creating a style that combines movement and breath. He believed yoga practices should adapt to the student's needs and situation.
He taught famous students such as Patthabi Jois and B.K.S.Iyengar, who went on to develop their styles of yoga- the Ashtanga Vinyasa style of yoga and the founder of the Iyengar style of yoga, respectively.
During the period when Hatha Yoga practices were gaining popularity, there were several Natha Yogis who played a leading role in this movement.
These personalities, including Matsyendaranatha, Gorkshanatha, Cauranginatha, Swatmaram Suri, Gheranda, and Shrinivasa Bhatt, were particularly influential and helped to spread the teachings and practices of this tradition far and wide.
The 1700-1900 period is recognized as the Modern era, characterized by the contributions of renowned Yogacharyas like Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Paramhansa Yogananda, and Vivekananda. Their work helped advance Raja Yoga, which saw the flourishing of Bhakti yoga, Nathayoga, and Hatha-yoga.
The impact of renowned yogis like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Paramahamsa Yogananda, and Ramana Maharishi extended far beyond their immediate spiritual circles. Their legacy influenced the Western world and helped shift the perception of yoga from a religious doctrine to a secular, spiritual practice.
In modern times, there is a widespread belief in the myriad benefits of practising yoga for overall health and wellness. This ancient practice has been popularized worldwide thanks to the teachings of revered leaders such as Shri T. Krishnamacharya, and BKS Iyengar, among numerous others.
Indra Devi, the trailblazing woman who became the first student of Krishnamacharya and went on to spread yoga teachings worldwide. Devi's pioneering spirit led her to open one of the first yoga studios in Hollywood, California, in 1948.
The contributions of these great personalities have helped to make yoga a household name and underscore its importance in promoting both physical and mental well-being.
In Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism (including Tibetan and Zen traditions), the Guru-Shishya tradition, or parampara, represents a lineage of teachers and disciples. Each parampara has its gurukuls for teaching and belongs to a specific sampradaya.
This succession of teachers and disciples has been vital to the preservation and transmission of knowledge in these religions.
Yoga is not tied to any specific religion or belief system, making it an accessible tool for all individuals seeking inner well-being. With involvement and practice, anyone can benefit from yoga, regardless of their cultural background, ethnicity, or faith.
Various philosophies and Guru-Shishya parampara have contributed to the development of different Traditional Schools of Yoga, like Jnana-yoga, Bhakti-yoga, Karma-yoga, Raja-yoga, Patanjala-yoga, Iyengar Yoga, etc.