Wednesday, March 6, 2013


As per conversation at the Confluence about Krishnamacharya, Pattabhi Jois, and B.K.S. Iyengar, I re-read an older interview Iyengar gave regarding his teacher.

Iyengar was interviewed by Rajvi H. Mehta, and the interview was posted here.

"I was 15 when I first came in contact with my guru, Sri T Krishnamacharya. My stay with him was only for two years."

"He only used to make us perform jumpings. All our earlier performances were only with these sequences. Later, when I was teaching in Pune, quite a few wrestlers became interested in the subject. Pune was then famous for its wrestlers. The wrestlers were already performing thousands of Surya Namaskars a day, so it was a place where exercises with 'conative' action was very strong. They started questioning how their Surya Namaskars were different from the yogic ones. My internal observation while practising gave me the philosophic insight."

"No, pranayama was learned by myself. When he [Krishnamacharya] came to Pune, he said that he would explain 'Ujjayi Pranayama.' Beyond that he never showed me anything. But I had seen him practising pranayama and a little of that background remained with me."

"My Guruji came to Pune in 1938, as he was invited for a lecture demonstration ... After 1940, the only other time he visited me was in 1960-61. I had married by that time and had a family. He stayed with me for a month and was a tremendously changed person."

1. Iyengar never received Yoga philosophy, postural, breathing or meditation instruction directly or specifically from Krishnamacharya.
2. Iyengar was only directly exposed to Yoga practice with Krishnamacharya for 2 years, during his teenage years, age 15-17 --- say sophomore and junior year of high school.
3. Iyengar derived the Yogic aspect of Surya Namaskar through his own practice.
4. Iyengar developed and practiced his own system of pranayama.
5. After this initial 2-year period, Krishnamacharya only saw Iyengar three more times, when Iyengar was 18, when Iyengar was 20, and then finally when Iyengar was 42.
6. Krishnamacharya was apparently a colossal dick.
7. On consideration of this, perhaps Iyengar's genius has been understated, and perhaps Krishnamacharya's contributions have been overstated?
8. What level of innovation and contribution must Pattabhi Jois have made?

On one hand, glossed by the big picture of history, to participate in parampara is to stand in the stream of a tradition in which the teacher (guru) is the symbolic representation of these teachings.

On the other hand, to look closer is to reveal the lumps, the asymmetries, the rough and blurry edges of any tradition: Iyengar's experience and understanding of Yoga came about in spite of his teacher's efforts.