Krishnamacharya and Desikachar: Our connection to their yoga lineage

Sri T Krishnamcharya (1888-1989) – The Source

At The Yoga Institute we teach an approach of yoga that derives its roots from the teachings of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (Nov 18th, 1888 – Feb 28th, 1989). This post aims to share a brief summary on the life of Krishnamacharya and our connection to the source of these teachings and lineage.

The life of Krishnamacharya

“Krishnamacharya was convinced that Yoga was India’s greatest gift to the world.” (Health, Healing and Beyond, 1998) 

Sri Krishnamacharya is regarded as one of the most influential Yoga teachers of the modern era – perhaps throughout all of history. The resurgence of Yoga in India, and its transmission and flourishing across the modern world, truly owes thanks and gratitude to Krishnamacharya. His lifelong dedication to study, practice and teaching Yoga, have left an extraordinary legacy bringing benefit to the lives of millions of people. 

Education and academic accomplishments

Tirumalai Krishnamacharya was born into an orthodox Brahmin family in Southern India. In keeping with the traditions of his family, he was exposed to Vedic teaching (ancient Indian wisdom) and the practice of Yoga throughout his childhood. Along with this early experience, he was recognised for having a sharp intellect and thirst for learning, destined to become a scholar. He achieved great academic success, having completed a number of degrees in philosophy, logic, divinity, philology, and music and obtained honorary PhDs in the 6 Vedic Darshana’s (Indian Philosophy), which also earned him a number of esteemed academic titles.

Studies in Tibet

Following his academic studies, Krishnamacharya went to Tibet where he studied under the direct tutelage of the renowned yogi Ramamohana Bramachari for more than seven years. It was in Tibet that he further integrated his understanding of Yoga, mastering the practice of asana (Yoga postures), pranayama (Yoga breathing techniques), studying the Yoga Sutras, and the healing applications of Yoga and Ayurveda. His teacher’s parting request to Krishnamacharya was “take a wife, raise children and be a teacher of Yoga as a householder”. This was contrary to Krishnamacharya’s life plan to become an academic scholar and head of a renowned learning institute in Southern India.

The Mysore Years

Returning from Tibet he continued his academic studies and began to offer public lectures and demonstrations on Yoga. This led to an invitation by the Maharaja of Mysore for him to set up a Yoga school (shala) at the Mysore Palace in the 1930s. It was during this fruitful period that Krishnamacharya authored the book, Yoga Makaranda (1934) and became well known as a teacher and healer. In 1946, with the Independence of India from the British Raj, Krishnamacharya’s work at the Mysore Palace came to an end. He relocated with his family to Chennai, where he settled for the remainder of his life. 

Passing on his knowledge

It was in Chennai that he continued offering his services as a healer, a Yogacarya (one who has lived and practices what he teaches). Krishnamacharya had a number of dedicated students over the years, who have become internationally renowned Yoga teachers. These include Patabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, Indra Devi, Srivatsa Ramaswami, A.G. Mohan, and his two sons, T.K. Sribhanshyam  and T.K.V. Desikachar.

Wisdom & Inspiration of Sri T Krishnamacharya



The legacy of T.K.V. Desikachar

It is through Krishnamacharya’s son T.K.V. Desikachar, that we have had the great fortune of immersing ourselves in the teachings and lineage of Krishnamacharya. Recognised worldwide as a remarkable Yoga teacher in his own right, Mr Desikachar was his father’s student during the final 30 years of Krishnamacharya’s life. Desikachar established the world-renowned KYM (Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram) in Chennai, India.

Founder and director of The Yoga Institute, Michael de Manincor was a direct student of T.K.V. Desikachar.

Michael first met and studied with Mr Desikachar in his home in Chennai more than 20 years ago, in January 2001. Mr Desikachar was Michael’s yoga-teacher-mentor for many years, and they shared a deeply respectful bond of friendship. His teachings have been of profound significance and at the heart of Michael’s own practice and life journey in Yoga, and all that we teach and share at The Yoga Institute. 

We have also had the privilege of hosting Mr Desikachar for several teaching and workshop visits in Australia.

Our international community

It is through our connection with T.K.V. Desikachar, the KYM, and the international community of teachers and students in this lineage, that we’ve had the great privilege of taking numerous groups of students for study immersion programmes at the KYM, as well as hosting many world renowned teachers in this lineage visiting Australia, including RichardMiller (iRest), Leslie Kaminoff (Yoga Anatomy), AG & Indra Mohan, Ganesh Mohan, and Saraswathi Vasudevan, as well as hosting the International Yoga Convention “Celebrating Yoga” in Sydney, 2003.

Tailoring Yoga to the individual

Son of T. Krishnamacharaya, TKV Desikachar with Michael de Manincor
Son of T. Krishnamacharaya, TKV Desikachar, with our founder and director Michael de Manincor

The guiding principle at the heart of the teachings of Krishnamacharya and his son Desikachar can be summed up in this quote from Krishnamacharya: “Teach what is inside you. Not as it applies to you, but as it applies to the other”. The central idea is that yoga is most beneficial when it is tailored to the needs, goals and abilities of the individual, also known as viniyoga. This concept is the foundation of all we teach in our Yoga Teacher Training, Yoga Therapy Training and Yoga Studies courses.

Keeping the River Flowing 

Along with his blessing of our work, Mr Desikachar requested that we would “keep the river flowing”. At the Yoga Institute, we continue to share the profound teachings that we have gained in gratitude and appreciation from this lineage, bring health, healing and transformation to many people over the past 20+ years. Who knows where the river will flow.

Written by Lisa Grauaug and Michael de Manincor

References:

Desikachar, T. K. V. (1998) Health, Healing, & Beyond

Ruiz, Fernando Pagés  (2007) Krishnamacharya’s Legacy: Modern Yoga’s Inventor https://www.yogajournal.com/article/philosophy/krishnamacharya-s-legacy/

Mohan, A.G with Ganesh Mohan (2010) Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings

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