Reflecting on the relationship between Svadharma and Dharma

TKV Desikachar teaching at Gaunts House

“Once I am very clear about what is to be known – Svadharma,
then I can be clear about what is universal Dharma.”

Reflecting on this quote  from TKV Desikachar posted on February 15th 2014 on the relationship between Svadharma and DharmaI feel we first need to understand our personal place within our inner world, only from there can we understand our universal place within our outer world.

This is a concept that can appear to be contrary to the more usual expectations within the Yoga world whereby we are often given a set of universal standardised principles which we are told to constantly aspire to and strive towards realising.

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Progress must be seen as the distance from the starting point……

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‎”Progress must be seen as the distance from the starting point,
rather than the more usual reference of the distance from the finishing point.”
TKV Desikachar England 1976

Design an Āsana Practice according to the principles taught by TKV Desikachar


Design an Āsana Practice for around 45′ according to the planning principles taught by TKV Desikachar.

The Vinyāsa Krama or planning steps in the practice will be a total of 90 breaths based around:

  • Standing Āsana 24 Breaths
  • Lying Āsana 12 Breaths
  • Inverted Āsana 12 Breaths
  • Prone Backbend Āsana 12 Breaths
  • Sitting Āsana 24 Breaths
  • Closing Counterpose Āsana 6 Breaths

In this instance the practice will not include any sitting Mudrā, or seated Prāṇāyāma or Dhyāna.
In the structure link Āsana such as Samasthiti, Śavāsana, Vajrāsana, do not count in the breath tally.

  • State the aim or purpose of the practice in terms of the Āsana goal or goals
  • Indicate the primary or crown Āsana you are choosing to build the practice around
  • Justify your choice of supporting or compensatory Āsana within the scheme

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Use Samavṛtti in Prāṇāyāma to reduce the power of Rajas & Tamas.

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‎”Use Samavṛtti in Prāṇāyāma to reduce the power of Rajas and Tamas.”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on Bhagavad Gītā Chapter Five verse 27

The taste in the water cannot be seen……

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“The taste in the water cannot be seen.
Only when we put the water in our mouths.
So it is with Bhakti.”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on Bhagavad Gītā Chapter Seven verse 8

No medicine can reduce Duḥkha, only Kriyā Yoga.

“No medicine can reduce Duḥkha, only Kriyā Yoga.”
– TKV Desikachar commentary on Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 1

The teacher follows the student and will use many methods……

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“The teacher follows the student and will use many methods
to see the student grasps the teachings.”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on Bhagavad Gītā Chapter Eleven verse 1

Learning Support for Chanting the Durgā Gāyatrī

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Learning Support for Chanting the Durgā Gāyatrī
– From the Taittirīya Upaniṣad Chapter 4 verse 1 Sakha Gāyatrī
From my personal library of recordings from my studies with my teacher TKV Desikachar.
To Download or Listen
To Download the Chant Sheet with Romanised Saṃskṛta and Notations

Meditation is the process of moving backwards.

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‎”Meditation is the process of moving backwards.”
– TKV Desikachar commentary on Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verses 10-11 January 10th 1995

Yoga has been adapted to life in the modern day.

  • Yoga has been adapted to life in the modern day.
  • Any posture far removed from the normal posture is a problem and therefore risky if there is any problem with the body.
  • Inverted postures present problems because of the tension that people carry in their necks.
  • Postures that create tension should be avoided.
  • Moving into the posture after the exhale is an adaptation.
  • Krishnamacharya designed aids to help people achieve postures.
  • Slow movement has a different action on the muscles, it is harder work.
  • The role of Āsana, its purpose and goal must be respected.
  • Opposite postures are a handicap but can help us to appreciate something different in a posture.
  • We must feel ourselves and what is happening in a posture.

From study notes with TKV Desikachar England 1992

Śikṣaṇa Krama – do something perfectly or correctly……

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Śikṣaṇa Krama – do something perfectly or correctly.
Anything is taught to achieve perfection in the practice of Āsana and Prāṇāyāma.
In other words teaching children and healthy people where you can take risks with no problems.
Not a valid approach for groups.
We need to use intelligence and Viveka,
not follow the idea of no pain, no gain to become painless,
or to get to a point without suffering.”
– TKV Desikachar France 1983

True liberty is what relationship you have with your habits.

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

Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Four

Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Four

In the previous three articles in this series we discussed Krishnamacharya’s teachings around his understanding of and approach to the viniyoga or application of Prāṇāyāma.

Firstly in terms of Āsana being the starting point for exploring the breath in order to set a starting point and as a guideline for the direction of our Prāṇāyāma.

Secondly the importance of considerations around Prāṇāyāma as a process in terms of being in it for the long haul, rather than only looking at practices which offer immediate fruits after a single practice or class.

The second post also commented on the need to leave more than enough time during our Yoga practice for Prāṇāyāma, rather than it being the token twiddle at the end of the practice.

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108 Sūtra Study Pointers – 12 – The witness cannot be witnessed.

The witness cannot be witnessed.
– Reflections on Yoga Sūtra Chapter Four verse 18

Link to Series: 108 Sutra Study Pointers

Saṃśaya (Doubt) is the Fire that consumes Wisdom.

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Saṃśaya (Doubt) is the Fire that consumes Wisdom.”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on Bhagavad Gītā Chapter Four verse 40

When dominated by Kleśa, Citta is not a friend.

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“When dominated by Kleśa,
Citta is not a friend.”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on Bhagavad Gītā Chapter Six verse 6

Fasting is not eating between meals.

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“Fasting is not eating between meals.”
– T Krishnamacharya

Tapas is Proper Diet, Mantra Chanting and Self-Inquiry.

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Tapas is Proper Diet, Mantra Chanting and Self-Inquiry.”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on Bhagavad Gītā Chapter Six verse 46

(Refer also to Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 1 with its Kriyā Yoga and additional commentaries from Krishnamacharya and Desikachar)

The practice of Āsana without breathing and without remembering Ananta has no value.

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“The practice of Āsana without breathing and without remembering Ananta has no value.”
– Śrī T Krishnamacharya commentary on Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 47

If we recognise a person as they are now……

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“If we recognise a person as they are now,
not as they were yesterday,
we realise that what we see is not eternal.”
– T Krishnamacharya commentary on Bhagavad Gītā Chapter Thirteen verse 28