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.