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More Sitting and Breathing November 18, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.

“Teach what is appropriate for an individual.”


– Sri T. Krishnamacharya

Yesterday I took a moment, on the blog and in class, to talk about āsana (“seat”) and how we practice poses. But, taking a look back at some of the origins of the poses, is not the same as looking at the origins of the practice or how the practice came to those of us in the modern world – especially the western world. I mean, think about it, how did we come to practice elements a thousands of years old philosophy that the Buddha didn’t think was practical enough for householders?

According to Hinduism, Shiva is the same as God (whatever that means to you in this moment) and creator of the universe. However, in the Yoga Philosophy, Shiva is Adiyogi – the first yogi – and creator of yoga, who experienced enlightenment/stillness through movement. The story of how he came to teach what he learned is very similar to the story of the Buddha and his first students. Also, similar is the idea that the first students or adepts were ascetics or renunciates. But, I have heard that the Buddha, having studied Yoga, decided it wasn’t practical (enough) for householders and proceeded to outline a (very similar) path that anyone could practice, regardless of their station or creed. I would argue, that Yoga was (already) the path the Buddha was seeking, but I can’t argue with the fact that it wasn’t being practiced by every day people – or even, really, by women.

The perception and reality of who practiced the physical elements of Yoga changed in part because of a teacher named Sri Yogeshwara Ramamohana Brahmachari. Sri Brahmachari was married and had three children, but he taught in a remote cave at the base of Mount Kailash, a mountain sacred in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Bön (a major Tibetan religion). His students would spend years studying with him and, as was the tradition, repay him with a gurudakshinā at the end of their studies. This traditional form of payment could be a monetary donation or the fulfillment of task(s). In the case of one student, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, the repayment for seven and a half years of intensive instruction was three-fold: look for a lost sacred text written on palm leaves; get married and have a family; teach yoga.

“Maybe this situation has happened for a reason. A reason that will unfold later.”


– Namagiriamma, Sr. Krishnamacharya’s wife

Born today in 1888, Sri T. Krishnamacharya not only found, translated, and transcribed the lost Yoga Korunta, which is believed to be the basis of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, he also married, raised children, and spent most of his adult life teaching some of the most influential yoga teachers in history. Known as the “Father of Modern Yoga,” Sri Krishnamacharya was a scholar of Sanskrit, Ayurveda, and all 6 of the major Indian philosophies (Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa and Vedanta). He said, “Practice without right knowledge of theory is blind” and that practicing in such a way leads to “mindfully [doing] a wrong practice.”

Sri Krishnamacharya not only taught the Mahārājas of Jaipur and Mysore, he is credited with the resurgence of the practice of yoga in India (in the early 20th century). He also taught the teachers who would eventually bring the physical practice of yoga to the Western World:

  • Indra Devi, the first Western woman to study yoga and and one of the first Westerners to be instructed to teach. She practiced and taught until the end of her days (at the age of 102), and towards the end of her life practiced 5 poses a day.
  • T. K. V. Desikachar, Sri Krishnamacharya’s son and one of the primary caretakers of Krishnamacharya’s legacy.
  • B. K. S. Iyengar, Sri Krishnamacharya’s brother-in-law, who was a sickly child and became known for a prop-heavy, alignment-focused therapeutic yoga practice.
  • Pattabhi Jois, who started practicing when he was a very active 12-year old and became known for the very vigorous Ashtanga Vinyasa.
  • A. G. Mohan, another of the caretakers of Sri Krishnamacharya’s legacy, he was once caught rolling his eyes during a lesson about “32 variations of headstand.” The then 85-year old Sri Krishnamacharya proceeded to school his young pupil.
  • Srivatsa Ramaswami, studied with Sri Krishnamacharya for 33 years and is a teacher of vinyasa krama (the art of sequencing).

Please join me today (Wednesday, November 18th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or by emailing myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for 07112020 An Introduction”]

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.)

“Yoga is awareness, a type of knowing. Yoga will end in awareness. Yoga is arresting the fluctuations of the mind as said in the Yoga Sutras (of Patanjali): citta vritti nirodha. When the mind is without any movement, maybe for a quarter of an hour, or even a quarter of a minute, you will realize that yoga is of the nature of infinite awareness, infinite knowing. There is no other object there.”


– Sri T. Krishnamacharya at 100, in an interview with A. G. Mohan


[Please practice responsibly….]



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