My Yoga Family Tree
I recently completed a 500-hour Teacher Training program from the American Viniyoga Institute and it got me thinking about my "yoga family tree" and how all of my teachers and all of my studies have contributed to my perspectives and and priorities in yoga practice. Looking back, every teacher who is important to me has some connection to Krishnamacharya.
Krishnamacharya was a practitioner of yoga who was born in southern India in 1888. I think of him as the grandedaddy of yoga in the west. Many flavors of flow or vinyasa style yoga are inspired by what Krishnamacharya taught to Pattabhi Jois as a teenager, which he developed into Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Many "hatha" style classes are influenced by Iyengar, who was both Krishnamacharya's much younger brother-in-law and student. Desikachar was Krishnamacharya's son and studied with him for many years as an adult. He learned how to adapt yoga practices as well as how to understand the Yoga Sutras from his father. In addition to teaching BKS Iyengar, TKV Desikachar, and Patthabi Jois, Krishnamacharrya also taught Indra Devi, Mark Whitwell, and Srivatsa Ramaswami, among others.
There are a few things that I find interesting about Krishnamacharya and his teachings. If we look at the above examples, we have three students who received different teachings and who went on to develop very different systems of teaching yoga for themselves. In fact, one of the main messages of Krishnamacharya’s teachings is that yoga should be adapted according to an individual’s needs, and so of course, every student of his will have a different perspective according to their own needs and interests. Second, though what we see most commonly takes up the bulk of a standard yoga class is the physical practice of doing poses (often in coordination with breath), that represents only a small part of the practice of yoga, according to Krishnamacharya’s teachings. Krishnamacharya was first a scholar of Sanskrit and yogic philosophy. He was, in fact, part of the Brahmin class and set up to be part of the religious elite according to his family’s traditions, and at a second opportunity to be a renunciate to more deeply study the teachings of Yoga, he instead chose to make the teachings of yoga accessible to anyone who wanted to learn.
What makes it clear to me that there is something important about Krishnamacharya’s teachings, then, is that even though my teachers and my teachers teachers have very different approaches, there is a shared underlying message that I understand and now pass on to you: Yoga has the potential to improve your overall well-being and there are many tools available to help you on that path. Your journey is unique. There is a depth of teachings available to be used in combination with your own determination, curiosity, and intuition.
I’m revving up my blog again, so I’d like to know, what are you curious about?
I teach yoga one-on-one which can include transmission of history and philosophy as well as doing the physical practice of poses. Details & Booking.