BKS Iyengar was born into a large but poor family. The omens for his survival were not good. As he put it: ‘I looked sickly with thin arms and legs, a protruding stomach and a heavy head. My appearance was not prepossessing’. He was weak and sickly, and his childhood was marked with one bout of ill health after another. Most notably, he was a victim of malaria, typhoid and tuberculosis. The general malnutrition caused by poverty merely exacerbated the situation, and sometimes he would have more than one of these ailments to contend with. At one point, the doctors predicted that he would not live past 20. The constant bouts of ill health kept him away from school for long periods, and his education suffered. Fortunately, however, the school he attended taught English, a subject that would stand him in extremely good stead later.