One of the important rules is that……

One of the important rules is that we should know what not to teach

“One of the important rules is that we should know what not to teach.”
– Extract from Interview with TKV Desikachar by Paul Harvey in 2000
on ‘Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy’.
n.b. This ‘rule’ was one of the primary foci for my first years 121 lessons
on Pathology and Yoga Cikitsa with Desikachar when living in Madras through 1980.

When somebody comes to us they are not coming with one problem……

they are not coming with one problem

Question by Paul Harvey

So from what you are saying it appears that it is not really possible to evaluate Yoga in the terms that would satisfy Western science, in terms of having several study groups, one group practising Yoga, one group practising some placebo, one group not practising; measuring the different groups and trying to determine the effect over the same period of time.

Response from TKV Desikachar

It is a challenge. Now I am not saying that people have not done this type of study, I always want to call it study, I do not call it a conclusion, study is being done by scientific people interested in Yoga, studies are being done but there is a tendency to make a hasty conclusion. There are many Institutions in India that say we have done these studies

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We do not have a specific solution for a specific problem……

Question by Paul Harvey

“And yet in many places around the world there are attempts being made to link Yoga to specific diseases, can you talk more about this and what is happening in your own Institute in this area.”

Response from TKV Desikachar

“Even if you take a particular illness, which is known as an illness according to medical parlance like asthma or blood pressure, what we offer to these people is not the same thing. We do not have a specific solution for a specific problem.

For example, somebody may have blood pressure because of some family history, somebody else may have blood pressure because of some stress, somebody may have blood pressure because of anxiety, somebody may have blood pressure because of that period in their life, somebody may have blood pressure, high blood pressure suddenly because of a broken relationship.

We need to take into account all these factors to exactly form a programme of Yoga. It could be relaxation for somebody, it could be some breathing exercises for somebody, it could be some Āsana for somebody, it could be some meditation for somebody, and for somebody it could be just talking to the person, just to establish a friendly relationship and console them.

The condition is the same and these are all Yoga. As far as the doctor is concerned it is blood pressure. For somebody else maybe none of these things work but maybe we have to talk to them about their diet or their lifestyle.”

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

So how can we establish a link between Nāḍī and Cakra?

Unknown

“So how can we establish a link between what has been said about Nāḍī and Cakra
and the practice of Yoga?
What role does Yoga practice have here?”
– ‘Concerning the Cakra’ by TKV Desikachar

Concerning the number of Cakra, we also find different ideas……

ajna

Concerning the number of Cakra, we also find different ideas. The most frequent is that which considers there to be seven. However in his book ‘Yoga Makaranda‘ my father talks of ten. There are other ideas as to the number elsewhere, the form in which they are visualised varies according to tradition.

Many Yogins visualise them as circles or wheels. According to other sources, they are described as lotuses or Padma with varying number of petals. Compared to the idea of a wheel, which evokes more the idea of movement and rotation, the lotus evokes more the idea of creation.

If we analyse all this seriously, we see, in the respect of the Cakra, that the sages, during meditation, did not always have the same experiences and visions. There is no need to discuss this, because it depends on the personal experience of each seer. However, it is important to be aware of these differences and the consequences that they can have for the way in which we imagine the experience.”

– ‘Concerning the Cakra’ by TKV Desikachar

Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy

Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy

Interview with TKV Desikachar

By Paul Harvey in 2000 whilst studying with TKV Desikachar in Chennai

Paul thanks Desikachar for agreeing to give time for this interview and Desikachar replies with thanks.

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.

Through these travels people from the West, which is the source of modern science, heard about many things that are happening. Among the things that they came to know about were some of what we call the ‘feats’ of Yogis. In fact long, long ago Yoga was linked only to all these feats, levitation, flying, etc.

In the 18th and 19th Century, in the beginning of the 19th Century, there was an observation made during the time of the great King, Ranjit Singh in the Punjab, which fascinated some of the travellers of the West. There was a Yogi who was kept in a box and buried underground. He was there for a number of days and he did not die.

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The model of the Nāḍī and Cakra can never help to explain……

anahata

The human energetic system is very complex and it is even harder to understand the mind, the structure, the limitations and possibilities, the relationship with the body and vice versa.

On the other hand, we can easily say to someone that there are seven Cakra, that they are like this or that, that there are found here or there in the body etc in all simplicity. But we must be aware if we do that we haven’t really said anything, and the person will not be any the wiser.

The risk of confusion is even greater when we try to show the model of the Cakra scientifically, or to give spiritual characteristics some sort of scientific basis. Some try to do this, by linking Mūladhāra with the kidneys or the sacral plexus, or Viśuddhi with the thyroid, etc.

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Yoga Sūtra on Stress – An interview with TKV Desikachar

Sainte_Baume-April_1998_1Yoga Sūtra on Stress
– Interview with TKV Desikachar by AV Balasubramanian and Paul Harvey
Downloadable as a PDF
– Originally published in KYM Darśanam February 1995.

The Cakra are points of concentration for the mind.

anahata

“The Cakra are points of concentration for the mind.”
– ‘Concerning the Cakra’ by TKV Desikachar

Yoga and modern medicine – Dr Uma Krishnaswamy talks to TKV Desikachar.

Yoga and modern medicine – A Dialogue:
Dr Uma Krishnaswamy talks to TKV Desikachar.
Special issue with the Sunday Magazine from the publishers of THE HINDU Well-being : March 12, 2000

Talking about the alternative healing system……

Claude Paris 1999
Claude Marachel:
Talking about the alternative healing system, I think we have to be very careful. Sometimes in Western countries, we see that everything is mixed. In the field of alternative systems, a lot of Viveka or discernment is needed.

TKV Desikachar:
What has happened to some of these alternative systems of therapy, including Yoga, is that things have become a bit shallow. It happens that in one week someone can become an expert in massage. With the help of postal courses you become an Āyurveda expert. The intentions are good, some people may want to learn fast, but what happens is that this state of things brings disrepute to some of the great ancient traditions like Āyurveda. It has taken me three years to convince an Indian to go to an Āyurveda doctor. This is because of the bad reputation the tradition now has.

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My concern now is how I can behave with people……

Matsendrasana2

“My concern now is how I can behave with people.
It took such little time to twist the body into Pūrna Matsyendrāsana.
But what of it? I was so lean, and I was working hard.
But now it is so painful if I make a mistake with somebody.
This is the hard part, this is the Yoga part.”
TKV Desikachar from an interview in the Journal Viniyoga Italia on Yoga and Well Being.

I am very impressed by what you said about your father giving some……

Desikachar_France_1999

Viniyoga in Italia:
I am very impressed by what you said about your father giving some students an oil bath. Do you think that sometimes a Yoga teacher needs to give a massage or has to touch the student?
TKV Desikachar:
Well, if a person comes with a backache, you have to examine him or her. You have to touch the person and feel the person. As a part of observation, we need to do that. Sometimes as a part of encouragement we can do that. At times, I take the pulse, so they feel that I care. But I have not and I don’t like to massage our students. I always ask the family to do that.
Viniyoga in Italia:
It could also create a dependence.
TKV Desikachar:
Not only that, but if you do it for one, you will have to do it for others. I want the students to be on their own. It is an education in Svastha.
TKV Desikachar from an interview in the Journal Viniyoga Italia on Yoga and Well Being.

Do you think it is important for Yoga teachers to mention diet and……

TKV_5

Question to TKV Desikachar:
Do you think it is important for Yoga teachers to mention diet and lifestyle to students?

TKV Desikachar Response: 
As you know, here in Madras, when people come to the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram or to me personally, they come because they have some problem. Every day they come, every day with some problem. If we have a problem, especially if it is a chronic problem, it is both in the body and in the mind, whether it manifests as asthma, diabetes, headache, or blood pressure. Thus we cannot help but talk about everything. That is why we, here in Madras, need to know something about Āyurveda, Yoga and western medical science. For these reasons our teachers are taught physiology, anatomy, Āyurveda and Yoga.

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In this context what about Āyurveda?

TKV_5

Viniyoga in Italia: In this context what about Āyurveda?

TKV Desikachar: Āyurveda, is, in my opinion, the most complete system of life God ever created, because it encompasses everything in nature. And it is a positive system of health. It is called Āyurveda, or knowledge of life. I have no hesitation to say that this system takes into account every aspect, it is not only medicine, not only food, not only life-style, but it is also the philosophy, the religion and the mantra-recitation. I have never come across a system that is so complete for the health of the body as Āyurveda. Unfortunately, it is nearly dead. We don’t have many people. Because Āyurveda is so complete and vast that a doctor would need an enormous experience.

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Today in Europe there is a going back to what is called alternative……

TKV_5

Viniyoga in Italia: Today in Europe there is a going back to what is called alternative medicines, like herbal treatment and the traditional dietary laws, thermal baths and other traditional treatments. Do you think these traditional approaches have a relevance in today’s world?

TKV Desikachar: Today these are even more relevant than before. Because we are becoming like machines. My mother used to give baths to my children. The love and care of the grandmother was there for the child. My father used to give baths to some of his students. He was giving oil-baths to his students, that is how he knew exactly what was happening to their body. He would massage and thus know. Today everything is mechanized. Today, when people take a bath, they have the phone, the radio, the television. Are they really bathing? Mostly it is just the bathtub that is having a bath.

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TKV Desikachar interviewed by Leslie Kaminoff in October 1992.

Originally posted to e-Sutra on April 24, 1999. Now available on-line through Leslie Kaminoff’s Teaching Organisation Yoga Anatomy.

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