T Krishnamacharya’s accomplishments should not be defined just by his more well known characterisations……

Picture courtesy of KYM Archives

I feel Krishnamacharya’s accomplishments should not be defined just by his more well known characterisations, such as his remarkable philosophical background being applied to contextualising traditional Indian texts from within a Yoga viewpoint, or his unique access to Haṭha teachings and texts and innovating from these resources when choreographing modern postural Āsana synthesises for children and young adults.

“All of Krishnamacharya’s and Desikachar’s
life work focused on the training of students,
some of whom then went on to become teachers.”

However, what he is less well known for is his work with individual students, probably because it happened behind closed doors and students rarely had cause to speak about it to others. Nor would they have reason to want to teach it to others as it had been taught to them, as it was given at a particular moment in time, within a unique situation, with a specific purpose and within a private, rather than a public group setting.

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One could say that I have taught Yoga to hundreds of people……

“One could say, of course,
that I have taught Yoga to hundreds of people,
of different ages, states, origins,
but by Yoga I mean only postures and breath control,
and do not count meditation or interpretation of the texts.

These I have only taught to a few people and
only to those I deemed worthy after several interviews,
designed to give me an idea of their personality
and the firmness of their intentions.

I discouraged those who appeared to have superficial reasons for learning Yoga,
but never those who came to find me because of health problems and
who had frequently been turned away by the medical profession.”

– From interviews with T Krishnamacharya by Sarah Dars,
published in Viniyoga Review no 24, December 1989

Yoga is the least systematic of exercises……

Picture courtesy of KYM Archives

Picture courtesy of KYM Archives

“Yoga is the least systematic of exercises.
If one practices postures without addressing needs,
no routine is established,
because needs change from day to day.
One should act on the present and the future
and not worry too much about the past.”
– From interviews with T Krishnamacharya by Sarah Dars,
published in Viniyoga Review no 24, December 1989

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Introduction to the Yoga Makaranda by TKV Desikachar

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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.

1. This was to be the first volume of a series. With the death of the Mahārāja, the other volumes were not written. Hence it is an incomplete work on Yoga.

2. Its purpose was to discuss different techniques of Yoga, whether relevant or not. Therefore T Krishnamacharya has explained some of the Kriyā such as Netī and Dhauti which he himself did not recommend.

3. 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.

4. The use of conscious breathing in Āsana practice, a distinct aspect of his teaching, is constantly emphasised throughout the book.

5. Being an incomplete book it does not cover Prāṇāyāma, Dhyāna and other Sādhana.

6. The disciplines prescribed reflect the regimen of that period.”

TKV Desikachar

Who is competent to teach Yoga and what are the responsibilities?

Picture courtesy of TKV Desikachar

Question to T Krishnamacharya:
Who is competent to teach Yoga and what are the responsibilities involved?

“Competence requires a deep study of the texts (Śāstra) and
also taking all of one’s duties and responsibilities seriously (Svadharma).”

Personal picture showing T Krishnamacharya and BKS Iyengar sitting together……

Whilst living in Madras from 1979-1981 I was at an event in Chennai in June 1980 where BKS Iyengar was invited to give a Yoga lecture and Āsana demonstration in a tribute to his Guru T Krishnamacharya.

Krishnamacharya consented to attend as the guest of honour and I was able to take a number of personal photos during this event, including Mr Iyengar demonstrating Āsana.

This particular picture shows T Krishnamacharya and BKS Iyengar sitting together during the salutary addresses.

A collation of articles by Srivatsa Ramaswami around the teachings of T Krishnamacharya

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A collation of articles by Srivatsa Ramaswami around the teachings of
T Krishnamacharya published in the ‘Indian Review’ circa 1979-1981.

View or Download this Series of Articles as a Single PDF Collation

List of Articles and Indications of Content:

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At what age can one start practicing Yogāsana?

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Childrens Āsana Class with Desikachar Madras 1980

Question to T Krishnamacharya –

Q: At what age can one start practicing Yogāsana?
A: A person is fit to practice when they can eat by themselves.
Śrī Krishnamacharya – The Pūrnācārya
– published by the KYM in 1997

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What must form an essential part of a person’s daily practice?

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Question to T Krishnamacharya –

Q: What must form an essential part of a person’s daily practice?
A: A minimum of ten minutes in Antaḥ TrāṭakamṢat Mukhī Mudrā
or Mahā Mudrā is essential.
Śrī Krishnamacharya – The Pūrnācārya
– published by the KYM in 1997

Sample Practice by T Krishnamacharya for a student with diabetes……

TK_Diabetes_PracticeA handwritten copy of a sample Practice by T Krishnamacharya for a student with diabetes.
It was shared with me by TKV Desikachar from his father’s teaching files.
Download or view this practice as a PDF

Downloadable ‘100 Years of Beatitude’ around Śrī T Krishnamacharya

Downloadable film ‘100 Years of Beatitude’ digitalised from a video of a 1989 documentary honouring  Śrī T Krishnamacharya at the time of his centennial celebrations.

The research and commentary for the film was by Sarah Dars, who also contributed several articles to the special December 1989 edition of the Viniyoga Journal on Krishnamacharya’s life.

The introduction to one of her articles, entitled ‘At the Foot of the Mountain’ read:

“Yogin, Āyurveda physician, teacher of the Mahārājah , master of Mīmāmsā, Nyāya, Sāṃkhya,…..
It is impossible to come to the end of the long list of areas in which Krishnamacharya excelled, as he was also an astrologer, multi lingual , Saṃskṛta scholar, poet, musician………
A totally exceptional person, wreathed in legend, to whom one listens as if seated at the foot of the mountain…”

Amongst my various meetings with Krishnamacharya I remember attending public lectures and the phrase ‘to whom one listens as if seated at the foot of the mountain’ captures the spirit of his understanding of Yoga.

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T Krishnamacharya Cikitsā Practice excerpt aged 96

A short clip extracted from a video of T Krishnamacharya practising as part of his Yoga Cikitsā or Yoga therapeutics when recovering from a hip fracture from a fall in 1984 when aged 96. Apologies for the quality, the original cassette is a bit flakey.

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This picture shows BKS Iyengar demonstrating Āsana at an event……

This picture shows BKS Iyengar demonstrating Āsana at an event in Chennai in June 1980 where he was invited to give a Yoga lecture and Āsana demonstration in a tribute to his Guru T Krishnamacharya. I remember he introduced his presentation with the words “I am an artist and I am going to show you my art”.

In 1970, TKV Desikachar asked his father and guru, Shri T. Krishnamacharya……

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In 1970, TKV Desikachar asked his father and Guru, Śrī T Krishnamacharya ten fundamental questions about Yoga. The following is an extract of one of the questions in the interview, which took place in the Kanada language.

“5A. Why are there so many different methods to hand down the teachings of a master? What are the reasons for this?
This situation comes from the absence of loyalty to only one master. The traditional method of teaching and of handing down the teaching is the Guru Paramparā. For a disciple, it consists of receiving the instructions of a master day after day, until there is enough knowledge. At the end of an assiduous study with the Teacher, the student progressively becomes a teacher himself and he starts teaching other disciples. This continuity, from teacher to student, in the same tradition, constitutes the Guru Paramparā. The high number of present methods is due to interruptions in the traditional system of handing down the teaching. It can also be due to the weakness of certain teachers.

5B. What are the consequences of these different methods?
The lowering of the average level and the weakening of the knowledge of the students of Yoga.

5C. What solutions can be proposed to mitigate this situation?
Nowadays, there is no solution to this problem.”

Rāmānuja, Yāmunācarya, Krishnamacharya and Viśiṣṭādvaita

Ramanuja_embracing_Lord_Varadaraj

Rāmānuja, was a disciple of Śrī Yāmunācarya. Śrī Yāmuna, composer of texts such as the Gītārtha Saṃgraha, Siddhi Traya and Stotra Ratna, was the grandson of the 9th century sage Śrī Nāthamuni and a forebear of T Krishnamacharya.

Krishnamacharya’s personal devotional philosophy and practices were grounded in the teachings that arose from these great sages and evolved into what became known as Viśiṣṭādvaita or qualified non-dualism (One of the three primary schools of Vedānta).

Rāmānuja agrees with the Advaitin that the scripture
teaches the non-twoness (Advaita) of reality.
But, he denies the Advaitan’s conclusion
that this oneness is attributeless,
pure being or consciousness and that plurality
with regard to soul and material world is falsely
imposed on this one Being due to ignorance.”
Rāmānuja on the Yoga – Dr. Robert C Lester 1976.

T Krishnamacharya – Downloadable Film from 1938

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Tirumalai Krishnamacharya was 50 when the film was made in 1938. He is now seen as one of the the most influential teachers in establishing what Yoga is identified as in today’s society. His students included Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar, Indra Devi, and his son TKV Desikachar.

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