by Klaudia Achenbach-Wege, BDY/ EYU/ KHYF
Krishnamacharya’s Yoga as practiced at present is an outgrowth of his longtime studies and explorations into yoga. He shaped the understanding of what we see as Yoga in the West today. According to his son T.K.V. Desikachar, Krishnamacharya’s teachings of yoga evolved in several stages:
- VAJRA KĀYA – mastery of the body during the 1920’s to 30’s.
- MANDALA – dynamic sequences of postures from the 1930’s to 1950’s. During this era he taught Sri Iyengar, Sri Pattabhi Jois and Indra Devi (as the first western woman), who were known for their unique yoga styles in later years. During those years he finished working on his book “Yoga Makaranda”.
- ŚIKŞANA – perfection of postures, performed statically in the 1960’s to 1970’s. At this time T.K.V. Desikachar started his lessons with his father.
- YATHĀ ŚAKTHI –”Yoga must be made to suit the individual, not the individual to suit the yoga.” (T. Krishnamacharya), i.e. yoga should be adapted to the capacities and needs of the student, a concept that is known today as VINIYOGA. This stage began in the late 1960’s when an increasing number of people started to seek his advice for therapeutic reasons, and continued to evolve until the late 1970’s.
- ANGA LĀGHAVA – linking postures with the same starting point to give the best benefit with the least time spent. This change took place starting from late 1970’s up to 1985. He wrote the book “Yogasanagalu” in these years.
- SVĀDHYĀYĀ – incorporating chanting into yoga practice as a means to link with the inner self. From around 1985 until his death in 1989, he introduced chanting into the yoga practice.
For Krishnamacharya, only the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali present a clear description of yoga. If a yoga practice does not attain the qualities defined as yoga in the Sutras, then it is not really a yoga practice according to his belief. For asanas, the relevant criteria are sthira and sukha (stability and comfort); for the breath, dirgha and sukshma (length and subtlety) and, for the mind, the criterion is ekagrata (single-focused). Sthira- sukha and dirgha-sukshma are attained through the primarily dynamic practice of asana, embedded in the individual breath, and the step-by-step approach (vinyasa krama). The practice of asanas connected to the breath in this special way fully engages the mind, so that ekagrata will emerge.
Krishnamacharya’s son and long-term disciple T.K.V. Desikachar continued his father’s work and research and helped it reach a broader audience. Both father and son always emphasized the very special relationship between a teacher and his/her student and a teacher and his/her own mentor. “A teacher can only be a good teacher as long as he/she is a good student” according to a saying of Desikachar. “Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to yourself, but as it applies to the other,” Krishnamacharya used to reflect on his approach to teach yoga.
Yoga teachers who teach according to Krishnamacharya’s teachings refer to their yoga styles by the names of Viniyoga, Healing Yoga, Traditional Yoga, or simply Yoga. Internationally known teachers in this tradition include Gary Kraftsow in the USA and R. Sriram in Germany, who continue to educate yoga teachers according to Krishnamacharya’s legacy.