“The Āsana are presented in
Vinyāsa Krama, the way it was
taught to children in the Yoga Śāla.
This should not create the impression
that T Krishnamacharya taught
in this manner to everyone.”
– TKV Desikachar Introduction to Yoga Makaranda
“In the Yogavallī, T Krishnamacharya’s commentary on the Yoga Sūtra,
Śraddhā has been seen in a different, very interesting way.
In it, he has said that Śraddhā is a symbol for a special meditation
and he calls this meditation, Ahaṃ Graha Upāsana.
Ahaṃ is the I, Graha is to grasp and Upāsana is to stay near.
Where a person wants to grasp the true nature of the I,
it is called Ahaṃ Graha Upāsana.”
– TKV Desikachar on Yoga Sūtra Chapter One verse 20
YOGA AND THE 21st CENTURY
TKV Desikachar was in Narbonne, in the South of France, for a symposium on “Yoga and the XXIst Century” during May 1999. The purpose of the symposium was to consider the role of Yoga for the coming century in the three fields of Health, Psychology and Spirituality.
The following interview was an introductory presentation.
1. The relevance of Traditional Teaching.
Do you think that the teaching you received from your father is still relevant today, particularly in the West?
It looks like it because, wherever I speak, more and more people come, and from all sorts of different backgrounds. It is relevant, and it is going to be.
You studied the Yoga Sūtra of Patañjali many times with your father. Could you say a few words about this text, and since it is about 2,000 years old, do you think its message is still valid today and for the future?
This text is very old, and it deals with the mind. Anything we do, or intend to do, involves this instrument, and all pains and pleasures are rooted here.
Patañjali was very prophetic, because he spoke not only of yesterday’s mind, but also of tomorrow’s. His message concerns clarity, and it will become more and more pertinent as time goes by, because people are now questioning much more than before.
Earlier there was belief, and so people did not have to question, or even to think. Now, we all want to have more responsibility in what happens to us. Therefore, we need to have a clearer mind, and this is why the Yoga Sūtra is still valid and will remain so.
I believe that, unless a new religious order comes to the world in which case belief will take over, this text will have a wider and wider impact in times to come.
Yoga and Modern Medicine
TKV Desikachar talks to Dr Uma Krishnaswamy – from ‘The Hindu’ June 1998
TKV Desikachar: Some doctors like you send your patients to us, though we have not been trained in the field of health and sickness. The patients too come to us and report back to you. So, I am sure you are not washing your hands of your patients! How is it that you are so confident about us, who are not technically competent in your field?
Dr Uma Krishnaswamy: Despite the fact that modern medicine has made such enormous strides as far as management of illness is concerned, there are certain areas where we are unable to proceed beyond a particular point. Consequently, we as practitioners of medicine and as impartial scientists honestly acknowledge that there are limitations to our system of healing.
We acknowledge the fact that we can go thus far and no further. On account of this, we tend to be always on the lookout to see how else we can help the patient. This may be in conjunction with what we have done or what we hope to do with the patient or it may take the patient completely away from our hands. Either way, it does not matter, as long as the patient benefits. Among the various alternative systems of healing, I feel comfortable with Yoga, because it is a system of healing which concentrates on physical movement very deeply.
Of course one is not blind to the fact that this concentration on the body is towards a spiritual end – but, that is a different dimension altogether. As Yoga teachers, you know more about the physicalities of the body and its requirements for health than most other systems of healing. For example, you know which particular Āsana or posture can relax a muscle or which can help joint mobility.
From my point of view, these are all very well defined and very precise areas of anatomy and physiology that you understand instinctively, by habit, by practice, by study or by tradition! You may not view anatomy or physiology the way we do. But I see that you are working on human anatomy and physiology, albeit in a different manner. This gives me confidence that Yoga has the potential to help some of my patients.
YOGA: SURGERY SANS INSTRUMENTS
Dr Uma Krishnaswamy talks to TKV Desikachar – from ‘The Hindu’ June 1998
Dr Uma Krishnaswamy: There is a tremendous current revival of interest in Yoga and also a public awareness about what Yoga can do. What has brought about this revival of interest?
TKV Desikachar: The revival of interest is essentially due to two factors, both of them related to the field of health. Though Yoga has an important philosophical aspect to it, it’s bearing upon health has an obvious appeal to the common man. Firstly eminent doctors, confronted by intractable problems like, say, asthma, have started recognising that western medicine, despite its unquestionable scientific basis, does not have all the answers. Secondly, they have started seeing the need for a more holistic view of human suffering in all its dimensions, such as are seen in other systems, especially Yoga.
Dr Uma Krishnaswamy: Yoga emphasises both the prevention of disease as well as treatment. What aspect of Yoga is of greater interest to the public? Is it the preventive aspect or the therapeutic health aspect?
TKV Desikachar: I think it is the second. Preventive health is a self-discipline and only a minority seeks Yoga as a preventive measure to prevent illness. Most people seem to seek Yoga only for therapy. But it must be remembered that the essence of Yoga is discipline. Essentially it is the discipline of the body, it is the discipline of the mind and it is also the discipline of the spirit. But prevention does not interest people even though it is of obvious importance. People get interested only when they are in trouble. So we now need to develop strategies using the salient principles of Yoga practice, so that it can be adapted to people with specific problems.
Dr Uma Krishnaswamy: When these individuals approach you, do they come because they are convinced that Yoga is going to help them or do they come because they are so desperate, that they will try any remedy?
TKV Desikachar: Desperate yes, but yet with some hope! Desperate, because as far as they are concerned, whatever they have tried has not produced the result they had expected. They perhaps wonder ‘so many experts have not been able to help me, how can some ancient system of Yoga, taught by someone who does not even know human anatomy, do any good?’ But, they are also hopeful because people would have told them: ‘I had the same problem, I went here and there, to this doctor and that doctor but without any results. Then I went to this place and got results. You must also definitely try it, it may help you.’ So you see, there is also hope.
But it must be remembered that the essence of Yoga is discipline.
Essentially it is the discipline of the body,
it is the discipline of the mind and
it is also the discipline of the spirit.
But prevention does not interest people
even though it is of obvious importance.
People get interested only when they are in trouble.
So we now need to develop strategies
using the salient principles of Yoga practice,
so that it can be adapted to people with specific problems.”
YOGA: SURGERY SANS INSTRUMENTS
– Interview with TKV Desikachar from ‘The Hindu’ 1998
TKV Desikachar talks on Śraddhā in the light of the Yoga Sūtra
at the KYM and responds to questions.
“Śraddhā is essential for progress,
whether in Yoga or any other endeavour.
It is a feeling that cannot be expressed or intellectually discussed.
It, however, is a feeling that is not always uncovered in every person.
When absent or weak,
it is evident through the lack of stability and focus in a person.
Where present and strong,
it is evident through the commitment, perseverance
and enthusiasm the person exhibits.
For such a person, life is meaningful.”
The means by which certain qualitative changes in the mind are brought about is called Sādhanā. There is also the possibility that certain individuals may develop such a mind without effort. That is, the qualities are inherent in that individual and mature on their own to manifest one day in the form of some extraordinary capacities. However, such persons are few. For the rest of us, the same changes are possible but it is a question of time and practice. The end result is the same, it is only the time taken to achieve it that will differ.
Religiousness in Yoga
Lectures on Theory and Practice
Chapter by Chapter Study Guide Compilation
‘Religiousness in Yoga: Lectures on Theory and Practice’, by the University Press of America, is 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.”
Over the past five years a study guide to Religiousness in Yoga has been posted in a chapter by chapter progression. Each chapter was supported with added textual verse and word cross-references. The chapter posts were preceded with illustrative quotes reflecting the content of that particular lecture or discussion. All were offered to support a deeper linking with the teachings within these lectures and Q & A sessions.
All in all it has been a longish project, nevertheless one within which it has been for me, as if listening to him speaking. He had such a knack of saying something that could go ‘straight to press’. Though here my thanks also goes to the editors, especially the late Mary Louise Skelton and their efforts and priorities in preserving the essence of Desikachar’s style. This direct transmission, nurtured from within the ancient succession of oral teachers, is seemingly a dying flame within the embers of India’s old school traditions.
This day, August the 8th marks TKV Desikachar’s passing one year ago.
Two posts from this time are shown below.
To honour his memory one year later, this article from the Darśanam Journal is offered.
Questions on T Krishnamacharya – Answered by TKV Desikachar
“Though familiar with some well known details of his early life, the students of the Mandiram were keen to know more about their teacher, T. Krishnamacharya. T.K.V. Desikachar answers a wide range of questions giving us details that were not known before. It covers his views on subjects as diverse as his early orthodoxy, Mahatma Gandhi, the qualities he respected, his diet and entertainment.”
Śīrṣāsana as a Viparīta Karaṇī Mudrā
This day, for so long TKV Desikachar‘s birthday, is the first since his death last August.
In memorium is the article below:
“In the scheme of Haṭha Yoga where the harnessing and channelising of one’s life energy is the goal, the Viparīta Karaṇī Mudrā occupies a special place.
A person’s full potential is realised when this energy moves to the top of the head.
There are various techniques that the ancient seers had formalised to remove the obstacles in the path of this energy and to aid its movement.
All these techniques culminated the Viparīta Karaṇī Mudrā, the principle of inversion,
one form of which is Śīrṣāsana.
TKV Desikachar explains this concept starting with the most basic requirements of the practice and moving step by step through the various techniques, all of which are used in Śīrṣāsana.”
Introduction to the Yoga Makaranda by TKV Desikachar
Extract from the issue of KYM Darśanam published in November 1993,
it was written by TKV Desikachar as an introduction to a serialisation of the Yoga Makaranda
which ran over 10 issues of the magazine until February 1996.
“I would like to bring to the notice some important aspects of this book to help understand the context in which it was written and to avoid misinterpretation.
“A great number of postures, notably most standing postures,
have doubtless come to us directly from the Professor,
who would have introduced them as appropriate
to the needs of modern times.
Amongst the standing postures, Uttānāsana, Parśva Uttānāsana,
Utthita Trikoṇāsana and Utthita Parśva Koṇāsana,
are examples which the Professor himself codified.”
– Claude Maréchal was a student of TKV Desikachar from 1969-2002.
This is an extract from Claude talking about what
Desikachar told him about his father, Krishnamacharya.
Question: What were his favourite foods?
Response: You might be surprised that he relished good food. He was from Andhra and so, relished food that was hot and spicy. He was very fond of sweets and would eat them in great quantities. With all this he would always have ghee. Ghee formed a very important part of his diet and whatever the food, it would be accompanied with large quantities of ghee.
Of course, he was also doing Āsana for three to four hours daily in addition to his Prāṇāyāma. His practice was extremely rigorous and that may account for his being able to handle these large quantities of spicy and sweet foods.”
Low Back Pain is an endemic disorder afflicting a large percentage of people. The aetiological factors are mostly psychosomatic along with postural defects, occupational predispositions and sendentary life styles. Though several rehabilitative techniques are prescribed, no systematic analysis of these are available.
The present study evaluates several simple Āsana on the basis of biomechanical principles. These studies also select a set of Āsana which work on the back with increasing intensity. A series of tests are evolved to assess the physiological debility of a patient. These test results form the basis of selection of Āsana to be prescribed to the patient. A chart is finally provided to enable the therapist to increase the intensity of Āsana so that the muscles of the low back can be strengthened systematically and progressively.
The results of clinical trials on 16 patients using this method of Āsana selection and rehabilitation indicates the usefulness of this method for the management of low back pain, Only regular practitioners of these exercises improve while indifferent or improper practice has no rehabilitative value.
by TV Ananthanarayanan – Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram and
TM Srinivasan – Founder Member, Biomedical EngineeringDivision, I. I. T., Madras
Originally published in The Yoga Review Vol. III, No. 1, 1983
“The greater the Śraddhā, the more meaning there is in the techniques such as Āsana, Prāṇāyāma, Dhyānam, Bhāvana and all the others. Without Śraddhā, these techniques have little effect on the state of the mind and the progress to Citta Vṛtti Nirodha.
However, sometimes some minor benefits that we get through Āsana or Prāṇāyāma practice, open up the Śraddhā within us. Śraddhā is within each of us but is covered. It could be any experience that uncovers it.”
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.
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.