Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja was born on the night of December 14th, 1918. His mother suffered an attack during an influenza epidemic that hindered his health making him very weak. He was the eleventh child in the family, and when he was five his father moved to Bangalore. By 1931 young Iyengar had suffered malaria and typhoid giving him persistent fever. His frail health and the difficulty to secure the financial resources for his studies kept interfering with his education.
In 1927 the renounced yoga professor Shri T. Krishnamachar had become Iyengar´s brother in law after marrying his third elder sister Namagiriamma. In 1934, Krishnamachar had to travel to Mumbai and asked 15 year-old Iyengar to go to Mysore to stay with his sister Namagiriamma until he returned. He later asked Iyengar to continue his studies in Mysore and stay to live with them. After the doctors suspected Iyengar suffered consumption, he tried practicing yogasanas but his body was stiff and sore. It wasn’t until early summer in 1935 that Krishnamachar agreed to teach him and became his Guru initiating him with the Gayatri Mantra.
In the beginning he had no interest in learning the asanas. His legs and back pained, and he practiced mechanically. Despite his difficulties he gave his first public performance in the Mysore Town Hall. Soon after this performance he was asked to attend the Yogashala of Krishnamachar to train students. He continued to assist his Guru in public demonstrations, lectures and classes all over Karnataka.
In 1937 he was asked to go to Pune, as he was the only person at the Yogasahala who knew a little English. He struggled to get enough students signed up for the classes and he had no personal resources to sustain himself in the meantime. He worked hard continuing demonstrations at different schools, clubs, conferences, and organizing classes, slowly earning the respect and the heart of students and impressing some education and political authorities. Though he endured several years of difficulty in earning his livelihood he persisted and devoted all his energy and faith to his practice, regarding asanas as his prayers. Iyengar taught himself by tirelessly performing asana and pranayama, exploring and perfecting his understanding, with no other guide by then, than his own intuition and sensitivity. He continued to do so until his lat days.