Śhrī Tirumalai Krishnamacharya was one of India’s most respected authorities on the Vedic tradition and Yoga Teachings and practice.He was born in Karnataka State in South India on November 18th 1888 and belonged to a family of distinguished ancestry. Among his forebears was the 9th century teacher and sage Nathamuni. Shri Nathamuni was a great Teacher who created remarkable works, such as the Nyaya 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 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 across India. His formal education, largely in Samskrta, included degrees from several universities in North India.
He in turn studied and mastered these systems and was bestowed with titles such as Samkhya Yoga Sikhamani, Mimamsa Tirtha, Nyayacarya, Vedanta Vagisa and Veda Kesari. He was also a master of Ayurveda (the ancient Indian system of healing) and Samskrta.
At the age of twenty-eight, he is said to have trekked to the Himalaya to learn Yoga from Sjt Rammohan Brahmacari Guru Maharaj. This was either, according to legend, in the area of Lake Manosarovar at the foot of Mount Kailash in Western Tibet or, according to Krishnamacharya’s original preface to his 1930’s book the Yoga Makaranada, at Mukti Narayan Ksetra on the banks of the river Gandaki in the Mustang district on the northern border of Nepal and Tibet.
Either way he is said to have stayed for over seven years returning on his teacher’s instructions, and his fathers last wishes, to South India to teach. Being a master in many subjects, Krishnamacharya was offered high scholastic positions in great institutes of learning. Instead he chose to be a Yoga teacher to fulfil the requests made both by his Yoga teacher and his father. Eventually he was invited to establish a school of Yoga in the palace of the Maharajah of Mysore
On occasions he demonstrated the great potentials of Yoga in different areas of health and self-control over his body. The most prominent among them was being able to stop his heart beat from being detected for more than two minutes, using Yoga techniques.
With his vast learning in Yoga as well as other systems of Indian Philosophy, he emphasized that the practice of Yoga must be adapted to the individual, and not the individual to Yoga. This deep held view was one of his most significant contributions to the field of health and healing through Yoga.
“In recommending Yoga practices, teachers should always consider an individual’s particular circumstances. Just as other activities and practices must be adapted to the changes in one’s life, such as ageing, so too Yoga practices need to be adapted as the practitioner changes” – T Krishnamacharya’s commentary to Yoga sutra
Some of his early students, all now deceased, such as Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar and Indra Devi, became renowned teachers themselves.After Independence and the closing of the school he moved to Madras where he became well known for his skills within the field of the therapeutic application of Yoga.
“We cannot say that this Asana or this Pranayama can be given for this disease.” – T Krishnamacharya 1984
He was married (in 1925 to BKS Iyengar’s sister Namagririammal) and had six children, sons TK Srinivasan, TKV Desikachar, TK Sribhashyam and daughters Srimathi Pundarikavalli, Srimathi T Alamelu Sheshadri and Srimathi Shubha Mohan Kumar.
Śrī Krishnamacharya is now recognised the world over as an accomplished exponent of Yoga, and a major influence in shaping what we see as Yoga in the West, particularly in the field of Asana.
“He has developed so much in his teaching, made so many changes, that I don’t think anybody can identify ‘Krishnamacharya’s style’. One person will say one thing, and a few minutes later somebody else will say, no, no, this is what he taught me. So fortunately it solved the problem of the ‘Krishnamacharya style’, unless you are unwilling to see, of course.” – TKV Desikachar from lectures on ‘The Yoga of T Krishnamacharya’, given at Zinal, Switzerland 1981.
He was also a visionary who had a sense of the atrophy that Vedic study would face in modern times. He made it his lifetime work to nurture Vedic culture by teaching Yoga, Samkhya, Samskrta and the Veda, to one and all who sought him. Undaunted by the criticism that the Veda cannot be chanted by everyone, he taught the Veda, on the authority of the scriptures that such stringent regulations could be set aside at times when there was threat to Dharma (Apad Kala), which was true of this age. Even though it may not be possible to follow the same system of teaching in such an institution, it was more important to retain the spirit of the tradition, said Desikachar, in an address at the inaugural function of Vedavani, a centre established in 1999 solely to teach Vedic Chanting. His death in 1989, at the age of 100, marked the passing of a great sage and teacher.
SHRI K. PATTABHI JOIS
Yogacharaya Shri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji) was born on the full moon of July 1915, in Kowshika, a small hamlet located 150 kilometers from Mysore in the southern state of Karnataka. His father was an astrologer and a priest in the village of nearly seventy families. Guruji was the middle of nine children, and from the age of five, like most Brahmin boys, began to study the Vedas and Hindu rituals. At 12, he attended a yoga demonstration at his middle school that inspired him to learn more about the ancient practice. He was so excited about this new discovery, he arose early the next morning to meet the impressive yogi he had seen, Sri T. Krishnamacharya, one of the most distinguished yogis of the 20th Century.
After questioning Guruji, Krishnamcharya agreed to take him on as his student, and for the next two years, unbeknownst to his family, Guruji practiced under the great yogi’s strict and demanding tutelage every day before school, walking five kilometers early in the morning to reach Krishnamacharya’s house. He was ambitious in his studies and driven to expand his knowledge of yoga. When he would read the Ramayana and other holy books on the veranda of his house, his family members would say, “Oh, look at the great pundit. Why are you wasting your time with books? Go tend to the cows!”
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SHRI R. SHARATH JOIS
Sharath was born on September 29, 1971 in Mysore, India to Saraswathi Rangaswamy, daughter of ashtanga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Growing up in a house full of yoga practitioners, Sharath learned his first asanas at age seven and experimented with postures from the primary and intermediate series until he turned fourteen. Though he spent the next three years focused on his scholastic education, earning a diploma in electronics from JSS in Mysore, Sharath knew that he would one day follow the ashtanga path blazed by his mother and legendary grandfather. Sharath embarked on his formal yoga study at the age of nineteen. He would wake every day at 3:30 a.m. and cross the town of Mysore to his grandfather’s Lakshmipuram yoga shala. There, he would first practice and then assist his guru, Pattabhi Jois, a routine of dedication he has followed for many years. Today, Sharath’s sincere devotion and discipline to the study and practice of yoga compels him to rise six days a week at 1:00 a.m. to complete his practice before the first students arrive at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute, where he serves as Director. Sharath is Pattabhi Jois’s only student who has studied and continues to practice the complete six series of the ashtanga yoga system. He presently resides in Mysore with his wife Shruthi, daughter Shraddha, and son Sambhav.