Reflections on TKV Desikachar’s Teaching and Svatantra……

As his pupil my teacher worked at guiding me towards becoming increasingly independent in developing and refining more and more my personal practice skills so I became less and less dependent on him being the vehicle for if, when, where, what and how well I practice.

I have always respected this aspect of his 121 teaching in that, like a parent with a child, he progressively facilitated my learning to enable me to grow into an intelligently consistent, situation adaptive and yet long term developmental self-practice, initially through, then much more than just Āsana.

Especially as, like any art that we wish to become accomplished in, this self-skill was cultivated primarily within my home environment with all its hues and moods that inevitably influence, or are driven by deeper motivations within our current intentions and situation realities.

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The target of Yoga is ‘svatantra’……


“The target of Yoga is ‘Svatantra’ 
which means to discover our own technique.
Sva’ means self and ‘Tantra’ means technique.
The techniques are in oneself and we must discover them;
if not we will depend on others.
This is ‘Svatantra’.”
– TKV Desikachar

Saṃkalpa is mainly the intention to do something……


Saṃkalpa is mainly the intention to do something,
to be serious about my goal; it is something I feel I must do.
Saṃkalpa must be on both parts: student and teacher,
like when we chant ‘saha nāvavatu…’.
Saṃskāra means the purification,
like cleaning a vessel before I use it for another purpose.
It’s a kind of Viyoga or separation.
It concerns how I prepare for the situation.
The Saṃskāra is an effort in both directions: student and teacher.
Saṃyoga means there is a good exchange;
something begins to happen, something is given and something is received.
The best teaching has all three of these.”
TKV Desikachar speaking with his senior Western students London 1998

The study of Yoga is a vast undertaking that requires sustained effort……


Picture courtesy of KYM Archives

अथ योगानुशासनम् ॥१॥
atha yogānuśāsanam
Now follow the teachings of Yoga.
– Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 1

“The study of Yoga is a vast undertaking that requires sustained effort and guidance. The term Atha signifies auspicious beginning, uninterrupted continuity, and an appropriate end.

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Yoga Postures in Practice – A series on Āsana by Paul Part 1 Samasthiti

Part One – Moving into our Bodies with Samasthiti.

This is the first in a series of articles presenting the core principles for āsana practice as taught to me over many years of personal lessons in India with my teacher TKV Desikachar.

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Kayena Vāca – Yoga Sūtra Chanting Closing Prayer with Translation

Yoga Sūtra Chanting Closing Prayer

This post follows on from yesterday’s post introducing the use of and intention within the practice of closing chants that follow the study of chanting, or the study of associated Yoga texts. Traditionally chant practice or textual study was also preceded with an invocatory passage to help forge a link between the chanters, what is about to be chanted and its purport, as well as setting a context for study.

Thus each area of study that the teacher and student were about to venture into was preceded by an appropriate Dhyānam Ślokam, or set of verses that specifically linked the chanters with that particular area of study or practice. Therefore the opening verses would differ according to whether the focus was Veda Chanting, the Upaniṣat, the Bhagavad Gītā, the Yoga Sūtra, etc.

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Kayena Vāca – Veda Chanting Short Closing Prayer with Translation

Veda Chanting Short Closing Prayer

In this lineage this particular dedication is a vital part of the closing process within a chant practice or textual study context and was important to and constantly used by Krishnamacharya throughout his life.

He also taught it to those of his direct students who studied chanting or the chant practices inherent in the study of associated Yoga texts with him within a traditional learning setting.

It is also called a Sāttvika Tyāga. This relates to the concept of not giving up the action, just changing your relationship with your expectations around the fruits of the action. This Bhāvana is inherent in the meaning of the chant and is linked to the teachings around the surrender of the self.

Further reflections on Krishnamacharya’s teachings on the concept of Sāttvika Tyāga within the Bhagavad Gītā will be offered within a future post.

kāyena vācā manasendriyairvā
budhyātmanā vā prakṛteḥ svabhāvāt |

karomi yadyatsakalaṃ parasmai
nārāyaṇāyeti samarpayāmi ||

sarvaṃ śrī kṛṣṇārpaṇamastu ||

” My body, speech, mind, senses,
intellect, essence, or outer and inner tendencies,

All that I will do over and over,
to the supreme Nārāyaṇa I offer.”

“All to the esteemed Kṛṣṇa I consign,
let it be so.”

View or download this Chant and Translation as a PDF.
View or download this post Chant and Translation with chanting notations as a PDF.

Begin your practice from where you are……

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House

“Begin your practice from where you are,
finish your practice where you are going.”
TKV Desikachar Switzerland 1978

The Yoga Sūtra is divided into four chapters……

The Yoga Sūtra is divided into four chapters

“The Yoga Sūtra is divided into four chapters.
The first chapter called Samādhi Pādaḥ assumes the aspirant
has progressed adequately to be in a state called Samāhita.
Such a person is not easily agitated.
They have a clearer perception to comprehend concepts such as Īśvara and Vairāgya.”
– T Krishnamacharya introduction to Yoga Sūtra Chapter One

Whether or not I like it, I should know where I am……

Whether or not I like it, I should know where I am

“Whether or not I like it, I should know where I am.
Otherwise we try to draw the line from where we are not to where we want to be.
Therefore the first point must be understood and then we can go to the next point.”
– TKV Desikachar France August 1983

All these Kleśa are variable in their potency……

“All these Kleśa are variable in their potency.
They can be so weak, that they hardly matter.
Sometime they take a feeble form, when they can be easily contained.
If not they rise to dominance.  When in domination, only one takes over.
For example in the most evolved stage when Rāga is dominant,
other Kleśa such as Dveṣa are not apparent.”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 4

Yoga as Exercise, Exercise as Yoga……


The image that heads this article is one such example of a document that I accumulated from my early studies in Western anatomy, physiology and kinesiology in the 1980’s. It was from a Final Theory Examination for a Teacher Training Course within  the Woman’s League of Health and Beauty. Founded in the 1930’s it now operates under the title of the Fitness League.

Curiously, in researching the current incarnation of this organisation I looked at a promotional video of their ‘style’ on their website and have to comment I would find it quite difficult to distinguish from some of the current offerings around for Yoga Classes.

If you teach using background music, incorporate moving or dance style sequences, or use postures such as two foot support, or cobra, or half locust or seated forward bend, amidst a fitness based approach, then the differences between Yoga Āsana and Exercise Postures become increasingly blurred.

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Three Tools for the Application of Yoga 2016

Three Tools for the Application of Yoga
Āsana – Prāṇāyāma – Yoga Sūtra
For Body – Breath – Mind

Four Days of Yoga Training with Paul Harvey
January 13th – 16th 2016 in Herzliya, Israel


  • Theme 1. Planning Āsana Practices
  • Theme 2. Observing and Adapting Āsana
  • Theme 3. Planning Prāṇāyāma Practices
  • Theme 4. Chapter Two of the Yoga Sūtra

Our time together will explore the application of each of the above four themes.

We will spend our mornings focused on Yoga Sūtra Study and Planning Āsana Practices and our afternoons will be spent around Planning Prāṇāyāma Practices and Observation & Adaptation of Āsana.

We will immerse ourselves in the teachings of T Krishnamacharya on the application of Yoga as well as his study of Haṭha and Rāja texts drawn from my 23 years of study in Personal Lessons with TKV Desikachar.

Follow Link to Read or Download a PDF of the Course


Posting this travel and teaching news evoked a reflection and realisation that this visit marks a 20 year anniversary since my first teaching visit to Israel in 1996.

The theme for that 1996 visit was “Prāṇa, Patañjali and Practice”.

A continuing and developing thread it seems to this day except that over this time a community of committed students has evolved so I find myself not just introducing, but being able to expand and deepen the exploration of these three primary Yoga themes. That of Haṭha, Rāja and Sādhana.

It is also a welcome aspect not just to be able to return and deepen teachings but also to be able to leave knowing there are home resources in place for interested students to be able to follow up with and from.

My gratitude, thanks and love around this to Ziva Kinrot for a friendship and studentship that stretches back to 1995 when we first met, curiously enough, in Switzerland.

The confidence that I feel in being able to visit and share more teachings, from the wellspring that Krishnamacharya tapped into and left available, knowing that I am able to leave students in the capable and respectful hands of Ziva, along with those who trained with her, is what draws me back here again and again.

Thus I look forward to this visit and to returning in 2017 and 2018, with dates in the diary and teaching themes already in place as part of a three year project.

Sometimes we try to transmit what we cherish……


“Sometimes we try to transmit what we cherish.
This is not viniyoga.”
– TKV Desikachar France August 1983

We never know when we are going to die……

We never know when we are going to die.

“We never know when we are going to die.
So we must prepare for death.
Because at the moment of death you become what you think.”
– TKV Desikachar France 1983

If we start from Kleśa our action will be faulty.

If we start from Kleśa our action will be faulty.

“If we start from Kleśa our action will be faulty.”
– TKV Desikachar France 1983

Yoga Practice is about a re-turning towards our inner life.

Yoga Practice is about a re-turning towards our inner life.

Yoga Practice is about a re-turning towards our inner life. However, even without outer obstacles, we can encounter inner feelings that arise and manifest as obstacles to that re-turning.

Here it might be helpful to reflect on the four pillars of Maitrī, Karuṇā, Muditā and Upekṣā and the role they can have in helping to transform the unhelpful aspects of these inner feelings.

Bhāvana is a beneficial attitude that is consciously cultivated despite tendencies to the contrary”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 33

With the spirit of Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 33 in mind, the cultivation of the four pillars is a practice that can support a stepping, rather than stalling, onto our mat or seat through:

  1. Maitrī
    Cultivating a feeling of friendliness towards our own attempts,
    let alone other’s demands, to distract ourselves.
  2. Karuṇā
    Cultivating a feeling of compassion towards our bodies and minds,
    whatever state we find them in.
  3. Muditā
    Cultivating a feeling of looking for the positive spot in ourselves
    and what we can do well and now, rather than what we can’t do well or now.
  4. Upekṣā
    Cultivating a feeling of keeping distance from the self-deprecation that can so often accompany our attempts to improve the quality of our inner life and old responses to inner tensions and memories.

– Personal commentary on Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 33

Manasika Sādhana – Mind has a part to play……

Manasika Sādhana – Mind has a part to play.

Manasika Sādhana
Mind has a part to play.
We can either direct or restrain.
Mind mentioned a lot in Yoga texts.
i.e. Attitude of Saṃtoṣa – mental contentment also a Sādhana.

Also Bhāvana.
Also Yama and Niyama.
When Yama and Niyama accomplished they become Siddhi.

Svādhyāya example of Sādhana – Study to know something about oneself or others.
Adhyayayana – To repeat exactly what is said by your teacher.
Based on three steps:

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Aindriyika Sādhana – Concerning the Senses……

Aindriyika Sādhana – Concerning the Senses

Aindriyika Sādhana – Concerning the Senses.
FoodDiet – Temptation – Restraining the tongue.
Many things concerning senses of smell, taste, sight, touch, hearing.”
TKV Desikachar France 1983

Śarīrika Sādhana – Keeping the body fit and well……

Śarīrika Sādhana – Keeping the body fit and well.
In the language of Patañjali Āsana is mostly Śarīrika Sādhana.”
TKV Desikachar France 1983