What is the Yoga of Krishnamacharya?

The word Yoga is by now well known outside India. In fact over the last five decades we have seen it quietly and steadily taking root within our Western culture and language. Yet if you ask any number of people what Yoga is you are likely to get many different responses. Furthermore, these responses are often diverse, and sometimes contradictory.

However, Yoga Practice and Study was seen by T Krishnamacharya as embracing three interwoven threads:

– Firstly Śakti Krama or Yoga Practice as a Self-Empowerment

Yoga can be used to link the body and the mind. It is the ability to achieve something through intense physical and mental effort or Śakti Krama, through either Śikṣaṇa Krama (Practice with No Compromise), or Sṛṣṭi Krama (Practice for Children).

For instance, to cultivate and maintain a state of concentration or to develop the body and the breath through the refinement of various postures and breathing techniques. The consequences are power over and within the body and the mind.

“What good is the sword of wisdom (jñāna asinā),
to cut away the chains of illusion (avidyā),
if the holder is too weak to bear it.”
– T Krishnamacharya

As such, Yoga can be seen as an art and offers a fascinating and helpful pursuit for many people looking to develop these qualities.

Traditionally this aspect is only a means towards a more important goal.

– Secondly Adhyātmika Krama or Yoga Practice as a Self-Inquiry

Yoga can also be used as a tool for a deeper understanding of ourselves by inquiring both into and beyond what we view as the everyday self, its actions and its motives or Adhyātmika Krama (the Journey towards our Essence).

Here Yoga can be utilised to appreciate and sustain a quality of attention. This attention offers a space that can allow our actions or especially reactions to be less influenced by the more usual patternings within the mind.

“True liberty is what relationship you have with your habits.”
– T Krishnamacharya

With a more sensitive and consistent attention we can lessen the effects of our conditionings. As a consequence, we can experience a deeper sense of well-being and have the potential for action with greater awareness within our life, work and relationships.

Yet we all experience problems, poor health or illness from time to time.

– Thirdly Cikitsā Krama or Yoga Practice as a Self-Healing

Yoga, as a restorative recovery and preventative healthcare, can be a therapeutic process to help us work at changing or anticipating the effects of personal problems and illness in our lives, through either Cikitsā Krama (Restorative Recovery), or Rakṣaṇa Krama (Preventative Healthcare).

Here the approach must be different for each person as our potential to practice Yoga will be affected by the problem or the problem by our attitude towards working with it.

Also according to traditional Indian medicine, those diseases that are chronic and cannot be cured by medicine alone can also be helped by using Yoga techniques. So Yoga can be used as a support alongside or complement to other forms of healthcare.

Utilising Yoga concepts it is possible, within careful individual Yoga teaching, to introduce practices that both respect the problems or illness and support our intention to reduce their negative effects in the future.

“The patient must be his own doctor, must observe himself,
use his own intelligence 
and find the right tools.
Fundamentally, the solution is in the patient’s discernment.

No one can understand for the patient.”
– TKV Desikachar

However, practising Yoga as a means of therapeutic healthcare also presumes that we are willing to accept responsibility for making changes within our own situation.

These three aspects of Yoga practice as power, self-inquiry or therapeutic healthcare, are mutually supportive in helping to sustain physiological vitality, enhance psychological clarity and support spiritual purpose within the commitment and challenges of life, work and relationships.

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