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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Through Yoga reverse Tamas……

sirsasanamaha_mudra_UB
“Through Yoga reverse Tamas – Śīrṣāsana, Uḍḍīyāna Bandha.
Both practices carry risks.
Breathing can be chosen for the less adept.”
– TKV Desikachar 1980

Sthira Sukha should both be present in Āsana……

sthirasukha

Sthira Sukha (Yoga Sūtra Chapter Two verse 46) should both be present in Āsana.
It also implies one should be able to choose the breath ratio.”
– TKV Desikachar England 1980

Be with your breath……

Be with your breath,
as if with your lover,
both passionate and tender,
present with body and mind,
within the fullness of soul.

The Benefits of employing Kumbhaka during Āsana……

kumbhaka

An extract from, and link to a post from Anthony Grim Hall’s extensive Blog site.
http://grimmly2007.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/case-study-benefits-of-employing.html

CASE STUDY:
“The Benefits of employing Kumbhaka (retaining the breath in or out) during Asana.”
– Guest post by Mick Lawton

“For well over a year I’ve wondered why Krishnmachrya’s breath retentions that are mentioned in Yoga Makaranda are not employed by the Ashtanga community.

It seemed odd that Pattahbi Jois did not mention breath retention when he wrote Yoga Mala. (Although, he kind of makes reference to breath retention when writing about Kukkutasana – he tells us to perform Nauli – which can only be effectively performed during rechaka Kumbhaka).
I was troubled by the fact that “this rather significant” part of Krishnamacharya’s method had just fallen by the wayside. How could this be?

It was about this time that I became aware (through Anthony Hall’s extremely informative blog) that Srivatsa Ramaswami also advocated Kumbhaka in certain Asana.
Considering that Srivatsa Ramaswami was a student of Krishnamacharya for over 30 years, I started to think it very odd that these breath retentions were generally being overlooked in other traditions that recognised Krishnamacharya as their primary teacher.

I decided that I would conduct an experiment to see if there were any benefits/disadvantages to employing Kumbhaka during Asana.”

I would add a further personal musing to Mick Lawton’s observations:

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BBC Radio 4 Series Beyond Belief – On Yoga

“Yoga is big business. Its worth $10bn a year in America alone. Does the growth in yoga’s popularity, particularly in the West, mean that its spiritual content and religious roots are being neglected? Can yoga be practised aside from these roots? Are there even dangers in doing so?”

Ernie Rea is joined by Jim Mallinson from SOAS, University of London, Suzanne Newcombe from the charity Inform and Ramesh Pattni from the Hindu Forum of Britain.

First broadcast: Monday 10 February 2014, Duration: 30 minutes

Download Broadcast as an MP3 or listen Online below.

Āsana demonstration from Yogāsanagalu by T Krishnamacharya

A selection of Āsana from the book Yogāsanagalu by written by T Krishnamacharya in 1941. The third edition, published in 1972, contained Āsana demonstration pictures of Krishnamacharya then aged 84. Featured in this post are further examples of Standing Āsana, click to enlarge image or view:

Personal Sādhana and Professional Teaching Today……

Personal Sādhana and Professional Teaching

Chatting recently with a student about starting their first group class teaching the principles of applying Yoga. They were saying how the practice arts they had learnt so far had only been applied in the context of their personal Sādhana. As such what had been experienced felt very precious and they felt as if they didn’t want to share it with others yet.

They were reassured when I said I not only understood and agreed, but felt that too many want to ‘share’ what they have learnt far too quickly.

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Taking Yoga Further – Excerpt from Yoga for Every Body

Yoga for Every Body (220px)

Students often ask:
“How do I progress?
How do I know when I’ve progressed?
Does it mean staying longer in a posture?
Does it mean practising more often or for a longer time?
What are the next steps?”
and so on

These questions can be explored by looking at Yoga from three different viewpoints. They can help us appreciate what it means to change the unhelpful patterns of behaviour which cause us problems and difficulties time and time again.

The three viewpoints are:
1) Practice
2) Lifestyle
3) Attitude

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I learnt Yoga AS Tantra and Yoga AS Meditation…..

tkv_tk_1980I learnt Yoga AS Tantra and Yoga AS Meditation
from T Krishnamacharya via TKV Desikachar,
rather than Yoga AND Tantra or Yoga AND Meditation.

Āsana demonstration from Yogāsanagalu by T Krishnamacharya

A selection of Āsana from the book Yogāsanagalu by written by T Krishnamacharya in 1941. The third edition, published in 1972, contained Āsana demonstration pictures of Krishnamacharya then aged 84. Featured in this post are examples of Lying Āsana, click to enlarge image or view as a slide show:

Āsana demonstration from Yogāsanagalu by T Krishnamacharya

A selection of Āsana from the book Yogāsanagalu by written by T Krishnamacharya in 1941. The third edition, published in 1972, contained Āsana demonstration pictures of Krishnamacharya then aged 84. Featured in this post are further examples of Seated Āsana, click to enlarge image or view as a slide show:

Yoga Tārāvalī

The Yoga Tārāvalī is a source often quoted within Aṣṭāṅga Yoga Communities because of the adoption of its opening verse (along with one of the traditional opening prayers to Patañjali) as their opening prayer dedications.

However it is a full text in itself, has 29 verses in total and is primarily a teaching on Haṭha Yoga. It was one of the Haṭha texts taught by T Krishnamacharya to TKV Desikachar, along with the more popular medieval Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā and other lesser known Haṭha texts such as the Yoga Yājñavalkhya.

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Learning Support for Chanting the Yoga Tārāvalī

Learning Support for Chanting the Yoga Tārāvalī. 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

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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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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T Krishnamacharya and his Yoga – An evolution 1920’s – 1989

TK_teaching_stages_evolutionIn 2000 TKV Desikachar presented teachings around the evolution of T Krishnamacharya’s Yoga teaching.
The above summary is available as a Downloadable PDF.

Āsana demonstration from Yogāsanagalu by T Krishnamacharya

A selection of Āsana from the book Yogāsanagalu by written by T Krishnamacharya in 1941.
The third edition, published in 1972, contained Āsana demonstration pictures of Krishnamacharya then aged 84.
Featured in this post are examples of Seated Āsana, click to enlarge image or view as a slide show:

read more

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

Cikitsā Krama is to replenish depleted Ojas.

Cikitsā Krama is to replenish depleted Ojas.
Rakṣaṇa Krama is to nurture replenished Ojas.
Śikṣaṇa Krama is to garner nurtured Ojas.

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Cikitsā Krama is to gather dissipated Agni.

Cikitsā Krama is to gather dissipated Agni.
Rakṣaṇa Krama is to conserve gathered Agni.
Śikṣaṇa Krama is to intensify conserved Agni.

Cikitsā Krama is to gather dissipated Prāṇa……

Cikitsā Krama is to gather dissipated Prāṇa.
Rakṣaṇa Krama is to conserve gathered Prāṇa.
Śikṣaṇa Krama is to intensify conserved Prāṇa.

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The more they (the student) like you, the more they become attached.

raga

“The more they (the student) like you,
the more they become attached.”
– TKV Desikachar speaking with his senior Western students London 1998

The more we live in or from the past, the more we miss the present.

forget-past-cry-for-help-ecard-someecardsThe more we live in or from the past,
the more we miss the present.

The more we live in or for the future, the more we miss the present.

cutting_edge_of_humorThe more we live in or for the future,
the more we miss the present.
My bucket list is 10,000 moments in the present,
rather than 10,000 experiences in the future.