Krishnamacharya BKS Iyengar & Pattabhi Jois


Krishnamacharya BKS Iyengar & Pattabhi Jois

Life and teachings of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharia

Yoga with about 6,000 years old, was born in the Vedic culture of India as a holistic method of balancing body, mind and soul. In the West, Yoga did not become known until the beginning of the 20th century and it would not be until the 1960s when it finally began to gain popularity. Fortunately today the word Yoga (union) is part of our vocabulary and is practiced by millions of people around the world.
In ancient times, Yoga was a discipline practiced by ascetics and forbidden to women. His deep change and openness towards everyone without distinction of sex, race and creed is due in large part to one of the greatest Yoga teachers in history: Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, the father of modern Yoga who describes Yoga as physical therapy, emotional and spiritual.
Krishnamacharya, a name made up of the words Kṛṣṇa and ācārya. Kṛṣṇa is one of the names by which the Omnipresent Force is called in India. Ācārya is translated as teacher and it refers to a teacher who has the quality of movement. The constant movement that an ācārya makes is his practice, that is, an ācārya is a teacher who practices what he teaches.
Born in South India on November 18, 1888, near Mysore, India, the son of a great scholar, Srinivasa and his wife Ranganayaki, he was from a family of distinguished descent. Among his ancestors was the 9th century teacher and sage, Srī ​​Nathamuni was a great Master who created remarkable works such as the Nyāya Tattva.
T Krishnamacharya began his formal education at the age of six, at the Parakala Math in Mysore. His first yoga teacher was his father until his untimely death. His next recorded teacher of his was Śrī Babu Bhagwan Das. His thirst for knowledge gave him the opportunity to travel widely and seek all aspects of the Vedic tradition from the best teachers throughout India. His formal education, mainly in Saṃskṛta, is said to have included studies at various universities in North India.
It is said that he studied and mastered these systems and received such titles as Sāṃkhya Yoga Sikhamani, Mimamsa Tirtha, Nyāyacarya, Vedanta Vagisa and Veda Kesari. He was also a teacher of Āyurveda (the ancient Indian system of healing) and Saṃskṛta. At the age of 10, Krishnamacharya lost his father and was sent to Mysore to learn Sanskrit and Vaishnava philosophy.
At the age of 16 he traveled to the holy city of Varanasi (Benares), where he completed his Vedanta studies and graduated as a teacher of Sanskrit.
In 1915 he intends to travel to Tibet crossing India and Nepal through the Himalayas, to learn Yoga from Sjt Rammohan Brahmacari Guru Maharaj.
In Simla he meets the Viceroy of India, Lord Chelmsford who suffers from severe diabetes and has been recommended to practice Yoga. So he asks Krishnamacharya defiantly, “How much do you know about Yoga?” And he replies: “Maybe I don’t know everything India needs, but I know enough to teach a foreigner.”
Convinced by the response of the young Krishnamacharya, the viceroy began to practice Yoga and in six months he recovered normal levels of diabetes.
As a gesture of gratitude, he subsidizes her trip to Tibet, taking care of all the expenses. After 22 days, Krishnamacharya settles in the Lake Manosarovar area at the foot of Mount Kailash in Western Tibet or, according to Krishnamacharya’s original preface to his 1930 book, Yoga Makaranada, at Mukti Nārāyan Kṣetra, on the banks of the Gandaki River in Mustang district on the northern border of Nepal and Tibet.

Krishnamacharia doing pranayama

He stayed for about four or seven years, where he learned from his teacher different asana techniques, pranayama, Ayurveda and memorized yogic texts such as Yoga-sutras. Being a teacher in many subjects, Krishnamacharya was offered high school positions in leading Vaiṣṇavite centers of learning. In his place, he chose to be a yoga teacher to fulfill the requests made by both his yoga teacher and his father’s dying wishes.
After this coexistence with his teacher, he told her: “I am very happy with your progress, now return to society and spread the message of Yoga”.
In 1922 he returned to India bringing with him a pair of wooden sandals, a gift from his teacher, and a book with asana drawings. Soon Krishnamacharya’s fame as a yoga teacher spread throughout India and he was called upon to teach different princes and maharajas of the time.
Krishnamacharya and students at yogashala

Krishnamacharya with his students in the Yogashala of Janganmohan Palace, Mysore, 1934

In 1925 he married BKS Iyengar’s sister, Namagririammal) and had six sons, TK Srinivasan, TKV Desikachar (1938-2016), TK Sribhashyam (1940-2017), and daughters Srimathi Pundarikavalli, Srimathi T Alamelu Sheshadri, and Srimathi Shubha Mohan Kumar. That same year the Maharaja of Mysore invited him to establish a yoga school in his palace, known as YogaShala. There he began teaching boys and girls separately, adults and special classes for those with certain illnesses. Two of those children have been great teachers on their own merits: B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois.

Krishnamacharya and BKS Iyengar

From Mysore, Krishnamacharya began to travel throughout India giving Yoga classes accompanied by some of his disciples. His lectures and demonstrations drew the attention of Western scientists and physicians.
On January 23, 1936, before Dr. Brosse, who arrived from Paris, and Professor Wenger from California, Krishnamacharya, through yogic techniques, managed to stop the pulse of his heart for two minutes to the astonishment of those present.
In 1937 Krishnamacharya would mark a before and after in the teaching of yoga by accepting a woman and also a foreigner, as a student in the Yoga school. Before he had only taught his wife and his two daughters, but now he faced the challenge of a woman who was not family and came from the West. This woman was of Russian origin and would later be known as Indra Devi, who would spread Yoga in the United States, Mexico and Argentina.
He was a visionary. He understood that her Dharma was to be a bridge between the wisdom of the ancient world and the modern world. On the one hand, he broke all the dogmas and opened the doors of Yoga, Sāṃkhya, Saṃskṛta and Veda, to all castes, women and foreigners, and on the other hand, he recovered ancestral knowledge and not only put it into practice, but also taught them to anyone with an interest in learning.
He tracing the genesis of Vedavani, a center for the teaching of Vedic chanting, which was inaugurated in 1999 under the auspices of the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram. TKV Desikachar linked his roots to his father’s conviction that the transmission of the Veda through song should be kept alive at all costs, in a speech at the inaugural function of Vedavani, a center established in 1999 solely to teach vedic singing. 
Undeterred by the criticism that the Veda cannot be sung by all, he taught the Veda, on the authority of the scriptures, that such strict regulations could be set aside at times when there was a threat to the Dharma (Āpad Kāla) , which was true for this.
The essence of Yoga that T.Krisnamacharya taught is expressed by the Sanskrit word cikitsa, which superficially translates as therapy. It comes from the root cit which means consciousness. Cikitsa is the application of Yoga in a highly individualized way.
This excerpt from Mala Śrivatsan’s article published in “Darśanam” magazine in November 1995 explains what Krishnamacharya’s way of teaching was like:
(…) For Krishnamacharya, the attention that needed to be paid to the individuality of each person was Yoga: the act of bringing teacher and student together, of unifying the individual as a whole.
The ability of the student and the time he could devote to practice or study determined how Krishnamacharya taught him. He did everything necessary to get the best out of each student.
He was a teacher and a perfectionist and he patiently corrected even the smallest mistake in notation or pronunciation when he taught to chant the Veda-s. Even students who did not know Sanskrit learned from him to sing with a high level of precision.
The passion that he put into communicating perfectly until he could see in the student the desired effect was his only objective. He was like a mirror that reflected with the same intensity that the student showed in his desire to learn. His teachings were a demonstration of purity, tolerance, grace, compassion and intense spiritual relationship.
When he gave a therapy session, or when he taught Yoga, chanting or philosophy he only wanted to have a single student in the class to whom he gave his undivided attention. Each person was considered as a unique human being, deserving of respect and who required teaching adapted to their situation and their specific needs. And even more, the student knew that the communication that was created and the teaching that was received were exclusively for him (…)
In 1950, after 25 years of teaching in Mysore, the Mysore Palace Yoga school was closed by the government of newly independent India. Krishnamacharya was almost 62 years old and the father of five children. He moved to Madras where he began tutoring him in his own home and training his children in yogic discipline and became known for his skills in the field of therapeutic application of Yoga.
“We cannot say that this Āsana or this Prāṇāyāma can be given for this disease.”
– T. Krishnamacharya 1984
Krishnamacharya began to receive more students in his house from all over India and also from the West. He published several books and continued teaching Yoga until 1984. At the age of 96 he retired from active life and devoted himself more to meditation and study of the sacred scriptures. In 1988 Krishnamacharya turned one hundred years old and a great celebration was held, which was attended by disciples and Yoga students from all over the world.
On February 28, 1989, at the age of almost 101, Krishnamacharya passed away, physically leaving this material world but leaving behind a great legacy that would last for many generations of Yoga practitioners.

Legacy of Sri Tirumai Krishnamacharya:

In addition to his writings and direct teachings on how to teach Yoga, Krishnamacharya was the teacher of four of the most renowned Yoga teachers of the 20th century: BKS Iyengar, Pattabhis Jois, Indra Devi (who surpassed his teacher in age, passing away at 102 years) and his own son, Desikachar, who in 1976 founded the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai. Today this center continues to be a reference center at an international level.
At this time, as we approach 2020, out of the four surviving children, his middle son TKV Desikachar died on August 8, 2016 and his youngest son TK Sribhashyam died on November 12, 2017, there are only two students from Krishnamacharya now living who studied directly with him and are actively teaching in the West. They are S Ramaswami and AG Mohan, who were also the two longest-serving non-family students.
Each has developed its own style, but all are based on the teachings of Krishnamacharya. Although he personally never left India, his teachings have traveled all over the world. The unspoken message of his teaching is that “yoga is not a static tradition; it is a living art that breathes and constantly grows through the experience and experiments of each practitioner”.
His great work Yoga Makaranda, which means “Essence of Yoga”, was written by Krishnamacharya in 1934 at the behest of the Maharaja of Mysore, when Krishnamacharya was running the yoga school there. Krishnamacharya’s wife once mentioned that her husband wrote the entire book in three nights! Despite that, the Yoga Makaranda is a very interesting and informative text on Hatha Yoga. If there was anyone who could write authoritatively on this subject, it was Krishnamacharya. In the introduction to Yoga Makaranda, he lists twenty-seven yoga texts, apart from his own study and personal experience, as references. Some of the texts listed are standard works on yoga, such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Gheranda Samhita, and the Yoga Upanishads. Some are no longer common knowledge; they may have been lost or are in manuscripts at an unknown location.
The Yoga Makaranda applauds the virtues of yoga, embellishes its benefits and commands everyone to practice it. When I read this text many years after it was written, I was reminded of how Krishnamacharya had struggled for many decades to spread the teachings of yoga and the difficulties he faced. His teachings would benefit millions, but the book is one more example of how he fought to spread these teachings. He was a visionary with a message that he had not yet seen from him.
Makaranda Yoga covers the nadis, chakras, prana, mudras and bandhas. He also explains all the kriyas, or cleansing techniques, although Krishnamacharya did not instruct his students to practice them. The eight limbs of yoga are listed, summarized, and then discussed in the order of the Yoga Sutras, beginning with the yamas and niyamas. About a third of the book consists of asanas. Forty-two asanas are described, with instructions on the method of practicing it, with breathing and vinyasa, and accompanied by photographs.
The detailed explanation of the eight limbs ends with the third limb, asana. The Yoga Makaranda of 1934 is only the first part of the work; the second part has not been translated yet.
Krishnamacharya wanted to leave us Yoga Makaranda as a gift for free to Yoga practitioners, to all humanity.
This quote from Krishnamacharia is my favorite and it describes the greatness of the teacher… and he reminds me every day when I spread out my mat, the intention of my practice…
“Inhale and God draws near.
Hold your breath, and God stays with you.
Breathe out, and you draw closer to God.
Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.”

Let us now see the practical and philosophical basis of Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient Yoga system that was taught by Vamana Rishi at Yoga Korunta. This text was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900s by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari and was later passed on to Pattabhi Jois for the duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927. The following are aspects that Pattabhi Jois emphasizes as the main components of Ashtanga Yoga.
Vinyasa: Vinyasa means breath and movement system. For each movement, there is a breath. For example, in Surya Namskar there are nine vinyasas. The first vinyasa is inhaling while raising your arms over your head and bringing your hands together; in the second it is to exhale while bending forward, placing the hands next to the feet, etc. In this way, all asanas are assigned a certain number of vinyasas.
The purpose of vinyasa is for internal cleansing. Breathing and moving together while performing asanas warms the blood, or as Pattabhi Jois says, it makes the blood boil. Thick blood is dirty and causes disease in the body. The heat created by yoga cleanses the blood and makes it thin, so it can circulate freely. The combination of the asanas with movement and breathing makes the blood circulate freely around all the joints, eliminating body aches. When there is a lack of circulation, pain occurs. The heated blood also moves through all the internal organs, removing impurities and diseases, which the sweat produced during practice removes from the body.
Sweat is an important by-product of vinyasa, because it is only through sweat that disease leaves the body and purification occurs. In the same way that gold is melted in a pot to remove its impurities, by virtue of the dirt that rises to the surface as the gold boils and the dirt is washed away, yoga boils the blood and brings all our toxins to the surface. the surface, which are eliminated through sweat. If the vinyasa method is followed, the body becomes healthy, strong and pure as gold.
After the body is purified, it is possible to purify the nervous system and then the sense organs. These first steps are very difficult and require many years of practice. The sense organs always look outwards, and the body always gives in to laziness. However, through determination and diligent practice, these can be controlled. After achieving this, mind control occurs automatically. Vinyasa creates the foundation for this to occur.
Tristhana: This means the three places of attention or action: posture, breathing system and place to look. These three are very important for the practice of yoga and cover three levels of purification: the body, the nervous system and the mind. They are always done in conjunction with each other.
Asanas purify, strengthen and give flexibility to the body. Breathing is rechaka and puraka, that means inhaling and exhaling. Both the inhalation and the exhalation should be constant and even the length of the inhalation should be the same as the exhalation. Breathing in this way purifies the nervous system. Dristhi is the place where you look while in the asana. There are nine dristhis: the nose, between the eyebrows, the navel, the thumb, the hands, the feet, above, the right side, and the left side. Dristhi purifies and stabilizes the functioning of the mind.
Two factors are necessary for the internal cleansing of the body, air and fire. The place of fire in our bodies is 10 centimeters below the navel. This is the place of our life force. For fire to burn, air is needed, hence the need for respiration. If you light a fire with a blower, uniformity is required so that the flame does not blow out or get out of control.
The same method represents the breath. Long, even breaths will strengthen our inner fire, increasing heat in the body, which in turn warms the blood for physical purification and also burns impurities from the nervous system. Long, even breathing increases the internal fire and strengthens the nervous system in a controlled manner and at an even rate. When this fire is strengthened, our digestion, health, and lifespan increase. Unequal inhalation and exhalation, or breathing too quickly, will unbalance the heartbeat, jarring both the physical body and the autonomic nervous system.
An important component of the respiratory system is mula and uddiyana bandha. These are the lower abdominal and anal locks that seal energy, give lightness, strength and health to the body and help generate a strong internal fire. Without bandhas, the breathing will not be correct and the asanas will not give any benefit.


When mula bandha is perfect, mind control is automatic.

The Six Poisons: A vital aspect of internal purification that Pattabhi Jois teaches relates to the six poisons that surround the spiritual heart. In yoga shastra it is said that God dwells in our hearts in the form of light, but this light is covered by six poisons: kama, krodha, moha, lobha, matsarya and mada. These are desire, anger, delusion, greed, envy, and sloth. When the practice of yoga is maintained with great diligence and dedication over a long period of time, the heat generated by it burns away these poisons and the light of our inner nature shines.
Demonstration to pay homage to BKS Iyengar, celebration of his 101st birthday, (see below):

Hari Om Tat Sat

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