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T Krishnamacharya


In 1928, when Tirumalai Krishnamacharya left the Himalayas after a long, eight-year apprenticeship with his teacher, Yoga was a dying art practiced by a handful of ascetics living on the fringes of society. But this was soon to change. For the next sixty-one years, Krishnamacharya shared his knowledge of Yoga as a holistic healing discipline with thousands in his own country and with many others who came to study with him from Europe and America. He started a quiet revolution that revitalized Yoga for the modern age and produced some of the most influential Yoga masters of our time, all of whom were his students: Indra Devi, TKV Desikachar, BKS Iyengar, and Pattabhi Jois.

Yet, there are Yoga students and teachers who have never heard of Krishnamacharya and still others will dismiss the past as irrelevant to their own practice and to the future of Yoga. After all, they have no tangible connection to Krishnamacharya - they have their own teachers, their own Yoga styles, their own way of doing things. Why bother with the past?

Continuity and Change

Change is inevitable; Yoga respects this basic fact of life. But behind the constant change, Yoga asks us to listen with our hearts for the continuity, for what is essential and timeless. By definition, Yoga is a process of adaptation; every teacher continually adapts the tools of Yoga to serve a new generation, to serve the needs of each new student. This is how Yoga practice remains vital and relevant over time, and this is the responsibility of every pratinidhi (torchbearer for a lineage in a particular generation). But there is also continuity in the commitment and the focus of those who have preserved Yoga and passed it on and in the core of Yoga’s teachings. Continuity and change - both are necessary for Yoga to survive and remain an effective and relevant system of healing.

Relationship: The Heart of Yoga

Beginning with the very first teacher, the teachings are handed down from one generation to the next through the parampara, or lineage. Krishnamacharya considered himself to be only a pratinidhi in this long lineage of Yoga teachers. It is through the dedicated work of thousands of such teachers throughout Indian history that Yoga has survived to this day.

This lineage structure is a reflection of the heart of Yoga: relationship. The Yoga we practice today is a gift we received from thousands of men and women we will never know – the gift of a complete, holistic healing system.

Relationship also defines the way you learn Yoga – as a student. To be a student implies that you have a relationship with a teacher and the teachings. Neither role exists without the other. If you are a student and teacher of Yoga, then you are part of a lineage, just as Krishnamacharya or any of the great masters: a chain of unbroken relationships stretching backwards and forwards, into the past and into the future and infusing the present. This is part of the beauty and also the responsibility of practicing Yoga.

What’s old is new again

Yoga Therapy is being promoted as the wave of the future by many Yoga professionals, and in Yoga-related books and magazines. But Yoga Cikitsa (or Yoga Therapy) is not a new style or branch of Yoga: it is Yoga. Yoga is and always has been a holistic healing discipline.

Krishnamacharya was the only master in the modern era to have been trained in the complete art of Yoga Cikitsa. Helping people to heal through Yoga was his life’s work, and he devoted himself to this work for seventy years. His work is now carried on through the efforts of TKV Desikachar and the KYM, a renowned center for Yoga Therapy practice, education, and research for thirty years. If Yoga Therapy is the future of Yoga, then the future has been here for a long time, waiting for us to be ready to learn. The legacy of Krishnamacharya - our legacy as students and teachers of Yoga - is not a style of Yoga, it is Yoga - past, present, and future.

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