Life Of Krishnamacharya: A Powerful And Influential Figure In The World Of Yoga
On November 18, 1888, near Mysore, India, Krishnamacharya was born, the son of a great scholar of the time, Srinivasa, and his wife Ranganayaki. Krishnamacharya was educated by his father in the traditional gurukula system, in which the disciple lived together with the teacher. At the age of 10, Krishnamacharya lost his father and was sent to Mysore to learn Sanskrit and Vaishnava philosophy. At the age of 16 he traveled to the holy city of Varanasi (Benaras), where he completed his Vedanta studies and graduated as a Sanskrit teacher.
In 1915 he intends to travel to Tibet crossing India and Nepal through the Himalayas. In Shimla he meets the viceroy of India. Lord Chelmsford was suffering from severe diabetes and has been recommended to practice Yoga. So he asks Krishnamacharya defiantly, “How much do you know about Yoga?” And he replies: “Maybe I don’t know everything India have, but I know enough to teach a foreigner.”
Convinced by the response of the young Krishnamacharya, the viceroy began to practice Yoga and in six months he recovered to normal levels of diabetes. As a gesture of gratitude, he facilitates the trip to Tibet by taking care of all the expenses and assigning two people to help him during the arduous journey. After 22 days, Krishnamacharya reached Manasarovar in Tibet where he met his teacher Rama Mohan Brahmachari.
Krishnamacharya spent seven and a half years in Tibet, where he learned different techniques of asanas, pranayama and Ayurveda from his teacher, and memorized yogic texts such as the Yoga-sutras. After spending all these years living with his teacher, he finally told him: “I am very happy with your progress, now return to society and spread the message of Yoga”.
In 1922 he returned to India bringing with him a pair of wooden sandals, a gift from his teacher, and a book with asana drawings.
Soon Krishnamacharya’s fame as a yoga teacher spread throughout India and he was called upon to teach different princes and maharajas of the time.
In 1925 the Maharaja of Mysore hired him to direct the yoga-shala (yoga school) of his palace. There he began teaching boys and girls separately, adults and special classes for those with certain illnesses. Two of those children, today are great teachers on their own merits: B.K.S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois.
From Mysore, Krishnamacharya began to travel throughout India giving Yoga classes accompanied by one of his disciples. His lectures and demonstrations caught the attention of Western scientists and doctors.
On January 23, 1936, before Dr. Brosse, who arrived from Paris, and Professor Wenger from California, Krishnamacharya, through yogic techniques, was able to stop the pulse of his heart for two minutes to the astonishment of those present.
In 1937 Krishnamacharya would mark a before and after in the teaching of yoga by accepting a woman, and also a foreigner, as a student in the Yoga school. Before, he had only taught his wife and two daughters, but now he faced the challenge of a woman who was not family and came from the West. This woman was of Russian origin and would later be known as Indra Devi, who would spread Yoga in the United States, Mexico and Argentina.
In 1950, after 25 years of teaching in Mysore, the Yoga school was closed by the government of newly independent India. Krishnamacharya was almost 62 years old and the father of five children. He moved to Madras, where he began giving private classes in his own home and training his children in yogic discipline.
Krishnamacharya began to receive more students in his house from all over India and also from the West. He published several books and continued teaching Yoga until 1984. At the age of 96 he retired from active life and devoted himself more to meditation and study of the sacred scriptures. In 1988 Krishnamacharya turned one hundred years old and a great celebration was held, which was attended by disciples and Yoga students from all over the world.
On February 28, 1989, at the age of almost 101, Krishnamacharya passed away, physically leaving this material world but leaving behind a great legacy that would endure for many generations of Yoga practitioners.
The Legacy Of Krishnamacharya, A Yogi
In addition to his writings and direct teachings on how to teach Yoga, Krishnamacharya was the teacher of four of the most renowned Yoga teachers of the 20th century: B.K.S Iyengar, Pattabhis Jois, Indra Devi and his own son, Desikachar. Each has developed a style of their own, but all are based on the teachings of Krishnamacharya. Although he personally never left India, his teachings have traveled all over the world.