the source teachings

t Krishnamacharya > the inspiration

Born in 1888, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya is regarded as the grandfather of modern yoga. Today, his teachings have become very popular through his students, especially TKV Desikachar, BKS Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois and Indra Devi.

T Krishnamacharya, a direct descendant of Nathamuni, a ninth century yogi, began his formal education at the age of six. His thirst for knowledge inspired him to travel widely and learn all aspects of the Vedic tradition from the best teachers across India. Thanks to his perseverance and eagerness, he mastered all the philosophical schools of Indian learning, Ayurveda, and Sanskrkit. At the age of twenty-eight, he trekked to Lake Mt Kailash, in the Himalayas, to learn Yoga from Ram Mohana Brahmachari. He left Manasarovar seven and a half years later at the command of his guru, to share his wisdom with and for the benefit of the society at large.

Being a master of several disciplines, Krishnamacharya was offered high scholastic positions in great institutes of learning and in the courts of kings, but he chose to be a teacher of yoga, in order to honor the promise he made to his Guru.

On many occasions he demonstrated to the world the great potentials of yoga in different areas of health and self control. With his vast learning in yoga as well as other systems of Indian philosophy, he emphasised that the practice of yoga must be adapted to the individual and not the individual to yoga. This was probably one of his most significant contributions in the field of health and healing through yoga. Though only hundreds of people benefited from his direct contact, millions have been influenced by his teachings that have become so popular today.

Through his teachings, T Krishnamacharya always insisted on utilizing the spirit of yoga to enhance the quality of our lives, he never insisted on one particular technique, but rather emphasised that techniques must be evolved to suit the needs of the individuals at the given moment. This is indeed the yoga of yoga, this aspects of teaching can be seen by the vast differences in the teaching his students received, when they studied with him at different point of time.

Krishnamacharya lived for over a hundred years and continued to teach till the last few days of his life.

T Krishnamacharya’s contribution to yoga is indeed enormous and very significant in our current day living. He revived the idea that yoga is appropriate and beneficial to the common person and not just to the holy ascetics living a life of austerity and meditation in the mountains. Through his hard work, perseverance and innovations, Krishnamacharya made the tool of this ancient discipline relevant in the contemporary context. His was a silent revolution, the benefits of which are seen more today than when he was alive.

He based his teaching on the Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali, the Yoga Rahasya of Nathamuni, his own studies with his master and his great experience and knowledge of other traditions. He opened the doors of yoga to all, by highlighting the universality of its teachings and thus helping people from all walks of life. Whether they were rich or poor, educated or illiterate. Sick or healthy, theistic or agnostic, he always had something to offer them that touched and changed their lives. For him, yoga was a very secular and spiritual path that brought people closer to their true nature.

Krishnamacharya firmly believed that the tools of yoga were many and that it was important to pick the right ones and tailor them to suit the individual practitioner. Only then would the needs and abilities of the students be respected. His ways were very sophisticated, in that he used a wide range of tools to offer a unique solution to every student. He demonstrated and taught that yoga is universal and yet extremely personal.

Today, Krishnamacharya’s teachings continue to be propagated throughout India and the West by his students, and their students in turn. They include his son TKV Desikachar; BKS Iyengar of Iyengar Yoga; K Pattabhi Jois of Ashtanga Yoga; AG Mohan of Swastha Yoga; Russian born Indra Devi [the first Western woman to study yoga in India] and many more. For those unfamiliar with yoga, these teachers initiated the most widely practiced systems of hatha yoga in the West today.
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tirumalai krishnamacharya
t Krishnamacharya
the inspiration

TKV Desikachar > in the footsteps of the master

TKV Desikachar, son and student of the legendary yoga master Sri. T Krishnamachary, is today recognised as one of the worlds greatest teachers of yoga.

TKV Desikachar was born in Mysore in 1938, the fourth child and second son of T Krishnamacharya and his wife Srimati Namagiriammal. TKV Desikachar commenced his yoga studies relatively late. He first studied engineering, and then worked as a structural engineer during his early adulthood. In the year 1961 a life-changing incident occurred which inspired TKV Desikachar to make yoga the central focus of his life. He witnessed a New Zealand woman, Mrs Malvenan, hugging his father in a touching expression of her overwhelming gratitude that the great yoga teacher has healed her of chronic insomnia. TKV Desikachar was amazed and profoundly moved by this unusual display of emotion towards his father, an orthodox Brahman. He asked himself, how is it that his father could help people from such different backgrounds, in such a powerful way, where even medical doctors had failed? From that moment on he made the decision to commit himself to study with his father. He left his full-time job and, taking a part-time job, he began his study of yoga. Soon he stopped engineering work altogether and devoted himself full-time to practicing yoga; studying with his teacher as well as teaching yoga to students of his own.

Because of T Krishnamacharya’s great wealth of knowledge, TKV Desikachar studied and practiced in depth all aspects of yoga, including asana [body postures], pranayama [breath regulation], meditation and yoga philosophy based on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra and other ancient texts. He also studied Vedanta philosophy, vedic chanting, ayurveda, Sanskrit, mimamsa [ritual], nadi pariksa [the art of pulse-reading] and more during lessons with his teacher. In 1966 Desikachar began his first overseas visit to Switzerland, where he taught to J Krishnamurthi.

While living in Madras, studying with his father and teaching yoga, TKV Desikachar also raised a family of three children with his wife Menaka.

Desikachar lived and studied with his teacher continuously for almost 3 decades, up until T Krishnamacharya’s death in 1989. The depth and closeness of the teacher-student relationship, which developed between Desikachar and his father during this long period of study, enabled him to receive the teachings in a very pure and complete form. It is because of this fact that his teaching is closest to Sri T Krishnamacharya’s great wisdom.

An extremely important aspect of T Krisnamacharya’s teachings, which is reflected strongly in Desikachar’s work, is the emphasis on respecting every person as an individual when teaching the practice of yoga. Prior to Krishnamacharya, yoga had been taught the same way to everybody.

One of Desikachar’s most profound gifts, has been to highlight the great power yoga has to heal, which was closest to his teacher’s heart. Krishnamacharya had been using yoga to heal so many people all over India, in some cases where other systems had failed. Desikachar brought this aspect of his father’s teaching into the modern world. Respecting each individual as unique, and drawing from a wide variety of tools, we can use yoga in a creative way to help people with problems on any level, from physical to emotional. The success of this approach is witnessed on a daily basis at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Madras, which was formed by Desikachar in 1976 as a guru-daksina [offering of gratitude] to his teacher.

One of Desikachar’s greatest contributions to the world of yoga is the creation of the stick figures. He began inventing these figures very early in his yoga path and at the time people criticised it by saying that he was bringing engineering into the field of yoga. Today these figures have become such an important basis for the modern yoga community and they have become nearly indispensable assets for every teacher and student.

Desikachar has translated many important ancient texts and written commentaries on them using his talent for clear communication, thus making them accessible and relevant to people the world over. He has authored numerous books himself, as well as translated his father’s works, and has traveled internationally where his teaching on yoga have helped to inspire a growing wave of interest in yoga in the west . His books include: The Heart of Yoga, Health Healing and Beyond, The Viniyoga of Yoga, Yoga of T Krishnamacharya, Reflections on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, What are we Seeking?, In Search of Mind, Translations and Commentaries on Yoga Rahasya of Nathamuni, Yoga Yajnavalkya Samhita and many of T Krishnamacharya’s compositions.

Desikachar is a living example of how through practicing yoga we are able to reach out and touch the hearts of others. The yoga he teaches brings a message of hope, peace and optimism that we all have within us the power to make positive changes in our lives and the lives of others.

Written by Rachel Lander
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tkv desikachar
TKV Desikachar
in the footsteps of the master