Question to TKV Desikachar:
What is the relationship between Yoga and Āyurveda?
TKV Desikachar Response:
First of all, we believe that the same master gave us Āyurveda and Yoga: Patañjali. We worship Patañjali remembering him as the person who gave us Āyurveda for the body and Yoga for the mind.
Body and mind are so interlinked that you cannot really separate them. Since Āyurveda is a complete system, they talk also about Yoga. Yoga is defined in Āyurveda. And the language of Yoga is such that a person cannot understand the Yoga texts without understanding the concepts of Āyurveda.
At least in theory, these sciences go very well together. However, in India, the treatment given to Yoga in the Āyurveda University is very scarce, it is not even worth mentioning. So, in reality, Āyurveda people are not familiar with Yoga as much as they should be. The only exception was my father. He knew both, that is why he was able to mix both systems, according to the need.
“What Patañjali gave for the mind through Yoga,
he gave for the body through Āyurveda.”
TKV Desikachar Response:
“There is a lot of difference. As far as Yoga is concerned, we are concerned with the personality of the person, the mental aspect and the higher aspirations of the student.
He was treating not only the body but the whole person with the help of this great combination.”
”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
Question to T Krishnamacharya:
How necessary is Yoga in these modern times?
For the strengthening of the Aṅga,
Yoga Āsana practiced with long inhalation and exhalation is important.
To reduce the disturbances of the mind, to gain mental strength and to increase longevity,
Prāṇāyāma is necessary.
“Breath is indispensable for life and its absence is death.
Hence the necessity to make it longer and accumulate the Prāṇa Śakti.
Just as a rich man accumulates money slowly to get wealthy,
so also one should practice every day
through the proper use of the breath in Āsana to maintain good health.”
– T Krishnamacharya‘s response to a question on breathing.
“The teacher decides which of the Tri Krama (three steps) is the best for the student:
Śikṣaṇa Krama requires a perfect knowing to transmit a strict practice,
without any compromise, as it should be in Vedic chanting for example.
Rakṣaṇa Krama is aimed at protection and preservation;
it promotes continuity in any levels like health, abilities, knowledge, etc.
Cikitsā Krama looks for adaptation, healing, recovering…”
– TKV Desikachar speaking with his senior Western students London 1998
- 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.
“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
Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Three
In the previous two articles 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.
I would like to use this post to consider how we need to add a structure within which we can build content. Without a structure our practice in this area can easily become random in terms of length or haphazard in terms of consistency.
Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start? Part Two
Continuing on from the previous post introducing the question of where to start in our investigation of our breath in Āsana in preparation for establishing and sustaining a consistent base within a Prāṇāyāma practice.
This also needs to be a base practice that both supports our day to day needs and yet allows it, as in any relationship, to grow and develop in terms of intensity and progress.
In this earlier post on where to start there were some key points that I would summarise around:
Prāṇāyāma – Where to Start?
According to how I was taught there two possibilities, that of using ratio and that of using nostril techniques. Desikachar taught me, both for my personal practice and teaching skill base, that the journey towards Prāṇāyāma starts with the former before being enhanced and refined through the latter.
According to Krishnamacharya’s methodology around developing the breath aspect of the students practice, initially through Āsana and Mudrā and ultimately through Prāṇāyāma, begins with what happens in and to the breath in Āsana.
“It is a mistaken concept that certain Āsana are only postures for meditation.
If we look at the commentary of Vyāsa, we see that the postures
he elucidates are so complicated that we can’t be in Dhyāna.
We can feel these different postures and we can’t stay in them.
Two of these are Uṣṭrāsana and Krauñcāsana,
These are very difficult postures in which to remain.”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Ten Page 133
“However, in Āsana attention is divided between the breath and the body movement.
In Āsana we use the breath as the medium of movement to affect the body.
Since our attention is divided between body and breath,
the effect upon Prāṇa will not be as much as in Prāṇāyāma.”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Ten Page 138
“Holding the breath gives us a moment when there is nothing happening.
A moment when it should be possible to count.
In fact, the best time to introduce Mantra is not during inhalation or exhalation but while holding the breath.
It is said that a moment of holding the breath is a moment of Dhyāna.
Some Mantra are very long.
Since we do not have to concentrate on breathing while holding the breath,
these longer Mantra can be recited correctly.”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Nine Page 128-129
“Mental attitude is very important in the practice of Prāṇāyāma.
In Prāṇāyāma we have no body movement to see; it involves mostly what we feel.
The only thing dynamic in Prāṇāyāma is the breath.
Yet, we must have the same attitude of attention in Prāṇāyāma, as in Āsana.”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Nine Page 125
“We normally practice Ujjāyī for a long time before introducing Nāḍī Śodhana Prāṇāyāma”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Nine Page 121
“While we use the breath for the body in Āsana,
in Prāṇāyāma we accept the posture and forget the body.
The only requirement is that we must be comfortable and keep our backs straight.”
– TKV Desikachar Religiousness in Yoga Chapter Nine Page 117
The teachings of Krishnamacharya and Desikachar around Yoga practice were far more complex than is often presumed from the popular perception, often formed from the more well publicised work of some of Krishnamacharya’s early students.
My own experiences with Desikachar, developed over repeated study visits to Madras over two decades, may offer an insight into the practice possibilities that I became increasingly exposed to. As with many, being introduced to this tradition meant that Āsana was the starting point for our Bahya Aṅga Sādhana.
Within the energetic processes in Haṭha Yoga the concept of Candra is that
which directs Prāṇa and Apāna in order to influence the activities of Sūrya.
These and other important concepts integral to the purpose of Haṭha Yoga form the
basis of the the Art of Haṭha Energetics Module One Personal Sādhana Study Workshop.