Tag Archives: Vedânta

History of Yoga Korunta (Ashtanga Yoga)

Travelling in the North of India to spread the science of Yoga for the treatment of various ailments, Sri T. Krishnamacharya – thanks to the patronage of the Maharajah of Mysore (well known for his philanthropy and spiritual faith) – discovered by chance, in the 1930s, in the university Library of Calcutta, an ancient manuscript written on palm leaves and entitled “Yoga Korunta”. The author, a sage of ancient times, called himself “Vanama”. Composed between 500 and 1500 BC, the document was excellently preserved. Also a specialist in ancient Sanskrit, Sri T. Krishnamacharya understood from the turn of certain phrases that it was part of a much older oral tradition (between 3000 and 4000 years BC).

Sri T. Krishnamacharya

Sri T. Krishnamacharya

Following this discovery, Sri T. Krishnamacharya, who taught a different method of yoga, altered his teaching for the third time. He asked Sri K. Pattabhi Jois to devote himself exclusively to this method of original Yoga, called Yoga Korunta, and to pass it on.

From 1937 onwards, Pattabhi taught Yoga Korunta in Mysore, India.

Only in the late 1960s, André Van Lysebeth, the first teacher of European yoga, spends three months to study Yoga in India with Pattabhi.

André speaks of him and the quality of his training and popularizes him by publishing laudatory articles in the paper « YOGA » which he edits.

La "REVUE YOGA"

La “REVUE YOGA”

Around 1973, Americans participate in the demonstration of yoga by Manju (Pattabhi’s son) in the ashram of Gitānanda (near Pondicherry). Thus Norman Allen became a pupil of Pattabhi or Guruji, as his disciples call him, later Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams came.

Pattabhi chose to use the term “Ashtanga” for his school in reference to one of the six points of view of orthodox Indian philosophy, i.e. Yoga. The other points of view are: Nyāya, Vaisheshika, Sāṃkhya, Mîmâmsâ, Vedānta.

The bible of Yoga, written by Patañjali, is “The Yoga Sūtra” (a kind of synthesis of all the preceding knowledge).

In the second chapter of this book, at verse (YS II-29) the foundations of the practice of yoga are being explained, the definition of which is “aṣṭāṅga yoga”. Thus, all the spiritual techniques referring to this book can be called aṣṭāṅga yoga.

This way the name of “Yoga Korunta” was changed to “Ashtanga Yoga”. Actually, the institute of Pattabhi was called “Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute of Mysore”, which made the American students think that he taught a kind of Yoga called “Ashtanga Yoga”.

In 1975, Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams invited Guruji and his son Manju, who thus set off on their first voyage to America in order to teach yoga. Manju stayed in the United States. This practice of Yoga spread rapidly throughout America from California, extending up to Hawaii, under the name of Ashtanga Yoga.

Les livrets de JB Rishi sur l'Ashtanga Yoga

In Europe, the first teachers to spread this method were called Jean-Pierre Radhu (Belgium), Gabriel Plessis (Paris, Rouen – 1972). With the permission of Guruji, Jean Bernard Rishi in Paris (France 1975) published leaflets on the sun salutations of Mysore and the standing postures (photos of Pattabhi in black and white). Having taught Ashtanga Yoga for several years, they all changed their methods of different reasons. Later, Jean Claude Garnier (France, Belgium – 1978) and Serge Fonteneau (France, Château Renauld) embraced the teachings of Pattabhi and have made it their business to disseminate them.

Today, this traditional form of Yoga, mainly known under the name of Ashtanga Yoga, is one of the most practiced worldwide.

Sharath Rangaswamy, the grandson of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, teaches the Ashtanga Yoga he has learnt from his grandfather.

 

For further reading :

  • Yoga Mala – Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (paperback)
  • Ashtanga Yoga – John Scott (Le courrier du livre).
  • Ashtanga Yoga – Le Guide Pratique: Un Guide Illustré Destiné à une Pratique Personnelle, Première et Deuxième… de David Swenson

Sri Tirumalai Krishnamarcharya, one of the greatest masters of yoga (1888 – 1988)

Sri T. Krishnamacharya, one of the greatest masters of yoga, the light of his knowledge has profoundly influenced the whole world.

He has never left anyone indifferent. In the course of a life that would easily fill several ordinary lives, he had many extraordinary encounters. A descendant of the great priests serving at the temple of the Lord of the Seven Hills, who in turn were descendants of Nâthamuni, Sri Venkateshvara of Tirumalai, this teacher had been promised an exceptional destiny at his birth. Nothing commonplace could happen to him.

Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya was born on 18 November 1888, the eldest of six children (four boys and two girls).

His father, Sri Tirumalai Srinivasa Thathacharya, a great religious master teaching the knowledge of the holy books (the Vedas), takes charge of the child’s education with his wife Shrimati Ranganayakamma.

The young Krishnamacharya is gifted with great physical force, coupled with extraordinary temperament and intelligence. He also suffused with an intense ardour to know and… to know how.

Still an adolescent, Krishnamacharya sets off to discover his country, its sages, its scholars, its artists and its mystics.

An incredible journey is the life of this young man who will by and by discover, then master, the most varied disciplines, from close-quarters combat to astrology to Vedic rituals.

A well of sciences, fluent in seven languages, an eminent pundit, he will successively explore each of the classical viewpoints of Indian philosophical thought, obtaining the highest distinctions in the most celebrated traditional schools.

Benares, Varanasi, India in 1922

Benares, Varanasi, India in 1922

Varanasi

When he left for Benares for the first time, around the age of 18, he was fortunate to be instructed in certain secrets of Sanskrit grammar in the course of a single night by a sort of genius, Shivakumar Shâstri. Back in Mysore, he received an exhaustive three-year education in the philosophy of Vedânta by the director of Parakala Mutt, Brahmatantra Sri Krishna Brahmatantra Swâmi. Once again back to Benares, he found there a deeply enlightened tutor, Sri Vamacarana Bhattâchârya who, while teaching him philosophy, alsohelped him for years giving him advice on how to live his life.

The holy lake of Mânasarovar…

As advised by his tutor at the University of Patna, he then set off on foot for the Himalayas. By difficult paths and rope bridges over spanning torrents, he arrived at the foot of Kailash, the mythical mountain considered to be the abode of Shiva and the axis of the universe, and at the holy lake of Mânasarovar.

Yoga

He learns and practices intensively all the different aspects of yoga. Thus, in the second phase of his life, he will become one of the greatest (Maha) yogi (âcharya) of his time.

Maharaja of Mysore, painting

Maharaja of Mysore, painting

The maharajah of Mysore

In 1924, he is invited by the maharajah of Mysore who viened yoga as a help in treating his numerous physical ailments. He opened a yoga school in his palace in 1955.

He established himself in Mysore

He is already in his forties when he established himself in Mysore, in the South of India, there he marries the very young Srimati Namaginammal. She will give him six children, three boys and three girls.

Srimati Namaginammal wife of Krishnamacharya

Srimati Namaginammal wife of Krishnamacharya

Madras (Chennai)

When he established himself in Madras in the fifties, he once again had the opportunity to treat two men in very senior positions. Both suffered from paralysis: an eminent lawyer Sri T.R. Venkatarâma Shâstrî and Sir Alladi Krishnaswâmi Iyer, the celebrated jurist who had participated in the drafting of the Indian constitution. Both, causing him stay Madras, added themselves to the long list of crucial encounters that influenced the course of his life. (Extract of N° 24 of Viniyoga, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Sri T. Krishnamacharya).

 

The legend of Yoga-Rahasya

Of the Yoga-Rahasya, an important work on yoga that had been lost for several centuries, only a few excerpts were known. Krishnamacharya declared having received the whole of this original teaching in a dream from the mouth of Sri Nâthamuni, this Vishnu saint who lived in the 9th century

It was not until 1965 that T. Krishnamacharya wrote the verses of Yoga Rahaysa down on paper.

The important concepts of this text are:

  • The importance of yoga for women
  • The yoga practices to follow during pregnancy
  • The adaptation of yoga to make it suitable for everyone in different stages of his life
  • Yoga is an essential therapeutic tool

It contains the main ideas of the teachings of Krishnamacharya on techniques such as āsana and Prāṇāyāma.

T.K.V. Deskachar & Shri Bhashyam

Two of their sons also became yoga instructors.

The elder one, T.K.V. Deskachar, lives in Madras, and manages an important yoga therapy centre – the Krisnamacharya Yoga Mandiram – officially recognized by the Health Ministry of Tamil Nadu.

Sri Bhashyam, his pupil, lives in Nice (France). He has married a Frenchwoman and teaches yoga mainly in France and Switzerland – Yogakshemam, a school teaching traditional Indian philosophy – Ayurveda and Yoga.

 Dissemination…

Compared to the occident, the dissemination of the teachings of T. Krishnamacharya incurred a strange fate.

  • Indra Devi
  • Yvonne Millerand
  • K.V. Desikachar
  • K. Sribhashyam
  • Sri B.K.S. Iyengar
  • Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Mainly due to the engagement of his two sons and their pupils, it is firmly rooted in French speaking countries (France, Switzerland & Quebec).

In Anglo-Saxon countries, this teaching is better known through the interpretation provided by his brother-in-law and pupil, B.K.S. Iyengar with his worldwide reputation – as well as that of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, also known worldwide.

 abtkym_sandals

His death

He died on 28 February 1989 in Chennai in the South of India. He was nearly 101 years of age. The teacher Sri T. Krishnamacharya will for many remain an unmatched and irreplaceable master of yoga…

In accordance with tradition, he never left his native India in his life. Nevertheless, the light of his knowledge of yoga has profoundly influenced the whole world.

“Yoga is the greatest gift of India to the world.”

Sri T. Krishnamacharya

Sources:

  • The Yoga of the Yoga The legacy of T Krishnamacharya by Kausthud Desikachar – Edition: K. Y. M – Chennai – India
  • Shri T. Krishnamacharya 1888 – 1988 Cent ans de Béatitude
  • Notebook
    Edition: K. Y. M – Chennai – India
  • La revue « Viniyoga » n° 24
  • Yoga Sutra de Patanjali – Translation and commentary by K.V. Desikachar – Edition du Rocher – 1986
  • Reflection on Yoga Sutra – s of Patanjali – By K.V. Desikachar
    KYM – ISBN: 81.87847.20.4
  • The Heart of Yoga – Developing a Personal Practice – By K.V. Desikachar
    KYM – ISBN: 0.89281.681.3
Breath Of The Gods

Breath Of The Gods

Film:

Breath of the Gods, A Journey to the Origins of Modern Yoga, by Jan Schmidt – Garre Film – Length 105 minutes

  • K.S. IYENGAR
  • PATTABHI JOIS
  • K. SRIBHASHYAM
  • KRISHNAMACHARYA

Very beautiful and moving testimony to the life of Sri T. Krishnamacharya as recalled by his students, his children…

Websites: