If a teacher is unable to follow the unique conditions of each student……

“In a group class, if a teacher is unable to follow the unique conditions of each student, it would be unfortunate, since not only we would not understand Yoga, we might also be discouraged.”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Two Page 15

Religiousness in Yoga Study Guide: Chapter Two Practice

g class=”aligncenter wp-image-2024″ style=”font-size: 1.5em; line-height: 1.5em;” src=”https://yogastudies.org/wp-content/uploads/Desikachar_teaching_gaunts_house.jpg” alt=”TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House” width=”290″ height=”200″ />

‘Religiousness in Yoga: Lectures on Theory and Practice’ by the University Press of America,
a transcript of recordings of a one month Yoga Programme in Colgate University in 1976, published in 1980.

Unlike the later redacted edition, re-published in 1995 as the ‘Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice’, it captures the evolution of the retreat with the days lectures and Q & A dialogues as they alternated between ‘lectures on the principles and purposes of Yoga and discussions related to the practice of Yoga with special reference to the postures and the breathing techniques’.

TKV Desikachar, in his forward to the original version wrote:

“These lectures and discussions, printed words put before persons I might never meet,
are but reflections of that deeper result that grew out of a living face-to-face encounter.
Coming to learn of Yoga only through reading leaves much to be desired.
Yet, something worthwhile about Yoga might be shared through the medium of the printed word.”

A chapter by chapter Study guide is offered below with added Yoga Sūtra verse and word cross-references to support a a deeper linking with the teachings within these lectures and Q & A sessions.

Chapter Two Practice: The Principles of Practice – Pages 13-30

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What appears as Yoga to an outsider is mainly the physical aspects……

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House“What appears as Yoga to an outsider is mainly the physical aspects of our practice.
They will not be aware of how we breathe, how we feel the breath,
and how we co-ordinate breathing with physical movement.
They tend to be interested only in our flexibility and suppleness.”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Two Page 13

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Just because one person can bend more than another does not prove……

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House“Just because one person can bend more than another
does not prove or disprove that the former is better in the practice of Yoga.
Such comparisons cannot be the basis of happiness based upon superiority,
or the opposite, unhappiness over inferiority.
Often this unhappiness is so severe that it makes us quit our pursuits.”

– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter One Page 7

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Natures Cakra Wheel – The Five Elements in Bloom

IMG_1541The Sound of the Chimes cools the Ears
The Touch of the Breeze delights the Skin
The Sight of Flowers softens the Eyes
The Taste of Summer fills the Mouth
The Smell of Jasmin flares the Nostrils

Āsana offers a purpose more than just physical.

pascimatanasana

Āsana offers a purpose more than just physical.
Āsana offers a link of the mind to the physical.
Āsana introduces the concept of Dhyāna as a practice.
Āsana seeks to minimise the Saṃskāra or habitual patterns which dull the mind.

In doing so it seeks to increase our sensitivity to ourselves,
what is around us and its corresponding influences,
and to what sustains us.

– Extract from my personal notes taken during 121 lessons with TKV Desikachar on the ‘Principles of Practice’ in Madras during April 1980.

Common to Yoga is the Practice of Prāṇāyāma

nadi_sodanaCommon to Yoga, whether working at Yoga with Citta Sādhana or with Prāṇa Sādhana,
Prāṇāyāma is seen as a means to engage the Élan Vital, the vital force or creative principle.
Whether working from the perspective of Patañjali,
where Prāṇāyāma was the primary Bahya Aṅga,
or from the perspective of Haṭha Yoga,
where you were taught to practice at each of the four transitional points in the day.

It is clear that no examination of the body will reveal Cakra.

2visuddhi

“It is clear that no examination of the body will reveal Cakra. The ancients knew this well and my father often repeated it. The system of Cakra is a subtle vision of the Yogi, in accordance with his own personal experience. For this reason there are different descriptions.

If we want to concern ourselves with the Cakra, we must accept them and recognise them in this way. This is why it is a a waste of time to argue about it, as people tend to do these days. Why does it matter if this or that Cakra is one or two centimetres higher or lower, if it is vertical or horizontal, blue or green.

On the contrary, it is a question of showing that we are concerned with particular inner images and to avoid this ridiculous situation of having useless arguments.”

– ‘Concerning the Cakra’ by TKV Desikachar

I wonder what kind of breathing you recommend in general?

Email Question:

“I wonder what kind of breathing you recommend in general,
the one that Desikachar recommends, or other?”

Email Response:

“What could be recommended would depend on the person, their current situation and future potential.
This means looking at many aspects of their life and how they choose to live it.
Of course there are ideals or goals however, more importantly, there are also starting points.
It seems that Yoga today highlights the former and tends to ignore the latter.
Sadly without the latter in place, the potential of the former is compromised.
This is the teaching of TKV and TK.”

TKV Desikachar and Generations circa 1980

TKV_LM_1980_2
Picture I took whilst studying and living in Madras through 1980,
of TKV Desikachar then aged 42 at a concert at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.
To his left is his mother Namagiriamma, T Krishnamacharya’s wife and BKS Iyengar’s sister, aged 68.
To his right is his eldest son Bushan aged 10.
Beyond him is Raghu Ananthanarayanan, a senior teacher at that time at the KYM.

This guiding principle of seeing the person rather than the problem……

Yoga for Every Body (220px)

Yoga Practices for Therapeutic situations

As the basis of this book is Yoga for Every Body I would now like to focus on this aspect of Yoga. To help in understanding how to proceed we will firstly discuss some basic principles for Yoga as a form of therapeutic intervention. From here we will look at different examples of practices for different students each with a unique story accompanied by unhelpful symptoms arising from their particular life story.

It is tempting here to propose a technique and then state that this technique will help this particular situation or problem. However, my teacher taught me that Yoga is to be tailored to the needs and aspirations of each person rather than fitting the person to some ready made technique.

“It appears that modern Yoga Therapy is increasingly angled at looking at a persons problems,
rather than looking at a person with problems.”

Thus with this guiding principle of seeing the person rather than the problem or disease and the acceptance that we are not working just with a preordained technique we can continue.

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Downloadable ‘On Yoga and Health’ in the KYM with TKV Desikachar

Whilst living and studying in Chennai through 1980 Desikachar gave me a  video of an Indian TV programme about the work of the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in the field of Yoga and Health. In 2012 I had the video cassette digitalised and offered it as a dropbox downloadable format for students personal collections.

From here it seemed to have made its way to YouTube as a view or embed only film, so am offering it here as a resource for all in both a viewable and embedable format, as well as an easily downloadable video.

Religiousness in Yoga Study Guide: Chapter One Theory

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House
‘Religiousness in Yoga: Lectures on Theory and Practice’ by the University Press of America,
a transcript of recordings of a one month Yoga Programme in Colgate University in 1976, published in 1980.

Unlike the later redacted edition, re-published in 1995 as the ‘Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice’, it captures the evolution of the retreat with the days lectures and Q & A dialogues as they alternated between ‘lectures on the principles and purposes of Yoga and discussions related to the practice of Yoga with special reference to the postures and the breathing techniques’.

TKV Desikachar, in his forward to the original version wrote:

“These lectures and discussions, printed words put before persons I might never meet,
are but reflections of that deeper result that grew out of a living face-to-face encounter.
Coming to learn of Yoga only through reading leaves much to be desired.
Yet, something worthwhile about Yoga might be shared through the medium of the printed word.”

A chapter by chapter Study guide is offered below with added Yoga Sūtra verse and word cross-references to support a a deeper linking with the teachings within these lectures and Q & A sessions.

Chapter One Theory: The Meaning and Purpose of Yoga – Pages 1-12

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But we need to know how to help the person……

we need to know how to help the person

Question from Paul Harvey

So to conclude from what you are saying, because somebody comes in with a particular problem and Yoga helps that person with a problem we cannot turn it around and say therefore that Yoga helps that problem in all situations.

 Response from TKV Desikachar

We help the person, because we help the person certain illnesses are reduced
but we need to know how to help the person.

Extract from Interview with TKV Desikachar by Paul Harvey in 2000
on ‘Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy’.

Clarity and confusion follow each other in cycles……

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House“In the Yoga Sūtra it is said that in the beginning of one’s Sādhana,
clarity and confusion follow each other in cycles, like a wave form”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter One Page 9

Religiousness in Yoga with TKV Desikachar – Still the best book on Yoga

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‘Religiousness in Yoga: Lectures on Theory and Practice’ by the University Press of America, a transcript of a one month Yoga Programme in Colgate University in 1976, published in 1980. Currently available through Amazon US or Amazon UK, it still remains for me to this day in all but layout, one of the finest modern expositions on Yoga.

Also, for me, far superior to the later redacted version and re-published in 1995 under the title ‘The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice’ by Inner Traditions, with many family photographs being added within a more ‘visual friendly’ presentation and a simplified less complex ‘reader format’. Personally described to me by Desikachar as ‘old wine in new bottles’.

I still do not know the answer until I meet the person……

I still do not know the answer until I meet the person

Question from Paul Harvey

If I may conclude with an awkward question. For somebody reading this interview they would perhaps understand from it that Yoga is not a straightforward means of for this problem this solution.

Yet there are many, many Yoga books already on the marketplace that offer precisely this, almost as a glossy self-help manual with quite specific links between postures and diseases or breathing techniques and diseases, between techniques and illnesses.

What have you to say to the reader with this respect, because there is this large body of, I cannot say evidence of, there is this large body of information that is there. What is the reader to do? With all this what can help?

Response from TKV Desikachar

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We make sure of that in our School that there is a strong internship……

desikachar_ph

Question from Paul Harvey

So we as students come to Yoga. How do teachers evaluate, if from what you are saying it could be that the same symptom. If we take stress for example, similar stress could produce five different responses. One person gets blood pressure, one person will get digestive problems, another person will have headaches, and another person will get sleep problems and another person it will effect their relationship.

How do you evaluate? What are the principles on which we can evaluate in order to decide what could be helpful for a problem when there are so many variables based on the same, even on the same symptoms such as in particular stress which can produce some of the results.

Response from TKV Desikachar

First I must have the training, anybody can have good training. I can work on the computer but I must have training. I know nothing I must have training. Training includes certain knowledge of the basics of Yoga, knowledge of the human system, personal pride so that you have some conviction of what you are talking about which means personal experience, internship where we see how the more experienced teacher is doing that work she is doing. We make sure of that in our School that there is a strong internship.

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That is why in Yoga the word for earning confidence is ‘Atha’……

atha

Question from Paul Harvey

Would you say that this response is true for the West, because I know in India the role of relationship, especially with the teacher, is much more pronounced, much more prominent, much more an accepted part of society, whereas in the West we tend to live in a more remote way and therefore using books, using videos is much more acceptable for us in terms of relationships.

Do you feel that your words, which have come out of another culture in our society, can have the same impact for us in the West where we are much more used to going to the bookshop, much more used to being able to do it ourselves.

Also, it is almost for us in the West to be seen as a failure if I have to go to somebody. Sometimes when people go into therapy they regard it as a failure that they have to go to a therapist and talk to someone because I am not able to do it myself.

Response from TKV Desikachar

You know Paul I am not just of India, I am also of South India and there people like you come to see me in India. Once there is some confidence I do not see much difference between East and West, it is a question earning the confidence.

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That is the difference between what we get out of a book and……

desikachar_ph

Question from Paul Harvey

In today’s society we see many books on positive attitude, positive thinking, so what is it about Yoga that is different from say going into a bookshop and picking up a book that says ’think positive’.

What are the qualities in Yoga that makes it unique and different than from say reading a book on positive action, trying to cultivate positive action because in some sense it could be less effort to just pick up a book.

Why Yoga and how does Yoga work in this area of positive attitude?

Response from TKV Desikachar

This eminent neuroscientist who had the by-pass who also was shocked by the by-pass he has said a lot of things, he was written a lot of books, he is a great scholar and what in fact they had was intellectual but when he went to a teacher, in this case me, when I spoke to him it had a stronger impact to the extent that it stayed, it stayed and became a part of his life.

That is the difference between what we get out of a book and when somebody is in front of you, you trust this person, you are ready to listen to this person and that person says something it has a power, it is coming from a human being. I am not rejecting books, books influence, books influence me but in this a person is more profound.

– Extract from Interview with TKV Desikachar by Paul Harvey in 2000
on ‘Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy’.

A positive approach has a positive effect on the immune system……

desikachar_ph

Question to TKV Desikachar:
So we can consider then that the effect of Yoga is not seen to be directly on the symptom as in modern medicine, it appears from what you are saying it is more to do with the relationship with that problem.

At what level is the human system changing? Because there must be some change in order for that change to reach to the level of the symptom or to my relationship with the symptom. At what level of the human system do you think these changes are occurring at?

Response from TKV Desikachar:
I have asked this question to experts because one of my jobs is also to write about these things. I have asked people how does it happen. Positive attitudes they say produce positive things in your immune system. There are a lot of technical terms for that. Negative attitudes produces negative immune system. Attitudes influence how the immune system functions.

Somebody who is asthmatic who is so miserable who thinks she cannot do anything, when she starts she can do something, she is not so unfit, she can raise the arms, she can breath a little more than she thinks she can. When she gets confidence in herself she becomes more positive about herself, even the medicine she takes has a more positive effect as we have seen sometimes when people do Yoga with this affection, with this love, the need for medicine is reduced.

So I think from the scientific point of view a positive approach has a positive effect on the immune system and the rest is a question of time.

– Extract from Interview with TKV Desikachar by Paul Harvey in 2000
on ‘Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy’.

If I love my body my body will heal……

If I love my body my body will heal

Question from Paul Harvey

So if we find that Yoga is difficult to evaluate in terms of Science and I appreciate that it does not work in the same way that Western medicine does in that Western medicine looks at the symptom then tries to tackle the particular symptom. How in your opinion does Yoga work, what is in Yoga that is so precious, so special?

Response from TKV Desikachar

I had an expert medical doctor, super expert doctor she had some problem with headaches. An extremely competent person but nothing could help, she is a surgeon also, a great writer and then somebody suggested why don’t you try Yoga, that is all. She came to us. I did not teach her, I asked one of my colleagues to teach her. After one month she just said, this is magic. I cannot explain it and the science to it, I have done research, I tried meditating, nothing happened, and this is magic, that is all I can say. She is very grateful for this. I asked her how do you explain some of simple things that we taught you. One thing I must say she said is that you seem to know more about the body than we do. You seem to know about the intricacies of the body but we do not know how the body moves, we do not know what is stiffness what is flexibility, we do not know how to make a body flexible.

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The problem is what does this word ’Yoga’ mean……

The problem is what does this word ’Yoga’ mean

Question from Paul Harvey

On the question of clinical conditions, the Western way treats disease in terms of the use of drugs and has a consistent response to disease and this is seen as something that is of great interest to people in the West.

In terms of Yoga research could you talk more about what exists in terms of research into Yoga in India from a medical viewpoint.

Response from TKV Desikachar

We have a lot of data to say that somebody had a problem, they went to some Yoga courses and then they got better. We have enormous data back in India. This is because India has many Yoga teachers, reputable teachers and not so reputable teachers. When I look at the journals and newspapers many Institutions are doing a lot of good work where people feel better after going to Yoga.

The problem is what does this word ’Yoga’ mean. Because science is exact, science expects that we know what was given and what were the conditions in which it was given and what are the effects and science expects this to be repeated again and again. A particular medicine is given for a particular condition again and again and again and when it was not given it does not work and when it is given it works, this is why they have this double blind test.

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The situation today is that more Indians come to Yoga for clinical conditions than for any enlightenment.

desikachar_ph

Question from Paul Harvey

This link with Science and Yoga appears to have given way to more of a link between Yoga and medical conditions, what we call clinical conditions, pathology, to what was originally as you say the power of mind over body. It has become now much more of an interest in problems of the body and problems of the mind.

Could you talk more about how you saw this link developing, because on the one hand we have these as you say feats, these tremendous feats, you gave examples of these feats and now we have this interest in Yoga for clinical conditions. Do you have some understanding of how this has evolved into looking at Yoga in this way?

Response from TKV Desikachar

When these scientists, also medical scientists, became interested in Yoga they began to read books on it. Some of these books were translated into English at the beginning of the previous century. Some great English scholars translated some of the ancient Yoga books into English. Some of these books i.e. The Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā talk about the effect of Yoga practise on illness. They talk about certain postures, Āsana, curing certain diseases. This is not the only book; quite a few books talk about the curative aspects of Yoga.

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So this is the initial relationship between Science and Yoga……

Question from Paul Harvey

It is a very broad area that we want to look at around science and medical conditions, as there is a tremendous interest in Yoga as a therapy in the world today.

I would like to start by maybe getting a historical perspective on Yoga and asking questions on your understanding of it. Where do you feel that this link started between Yoga and Science? Because Yoga originally was something that was not associated with science.

It was something that was done for personal development, spiritual development, or even perhaps physical development and somewhere we seem to have made this link with science, which was predominantly something that was growing up in the West whilst at the same time Yoga was growing or has grown in India, with less connection directly with science.

So I am wondering if you could help develop this question about the link between Yoga and Science.

Response from TKV Desikachar

If we look at the history of India, for centuries and centuries for different reasons India has always fascinated the West. More people have travelled to India from the West than from other parts because the Chinese could not come because of the mountains. There has been silk; there has been a lot of mix about India’s great history; also many conquerors came.

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