History of the T. Krishnamacharya Tradition
Yoga exercises, breathing, meditation and chanting go back at least 3,500 years on the Indian subcontinent. Our teacher, T.K.V. Desikachar, traces his family tradition back at least 1,200 years to the South Indian sage, Nathamuni.
Desikachar's father, T. Krishnamacharya, who died in 1989 after celebrating his 101st birthday, was the foremost exponent of yoga in his day. He was an extraordinarily accomplished yogi and scholar, an innovative therapist and spiritual guide. He belongs among the legendary figures of 20th century India as a scholar, sage and healer.
More About Krishnamacharya and T.K.V. Desikachar
Krishnamacharya's first lessons in yoga were from his father. He was fluent in Sanskrit at a very young age and spent a great part of his early life accumulating a wealth of knowledge from the best universities in India.
In 1915, he trekked to Lake Manasarovar near Mount Kailash in the western Tibetan Himalayas where he spent seven-and-a half years learning the philosophy, practice, healing potential and subtleties of yoga. Later, Krishnamacharya served as the teacher to the Maharajah of Mysore, and traveled from the court to rural villages, in a ceaseless effort to spread yoga teachings that would one day influence millions around the world. He adapted his teachings to the differing needs of his students, teaching Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians and others. He developed practices that would work for each person according to circumstances.
Krishnamacharya is responsible for much of the yoga being taught in the world today. He taught young men such as B.K.S. Iyengar (his brother-in-law) and K. Pattabhi Jois. He taught Indra Devi, the first western woman to study with him, who presented a gentle, calming practice to the west. All three studied with Krishnamacharya in Mysore in the 1930's. Each adapted the yoga in different ways.
After Indian independence, Krishnamacharya settled in Chennai, Madras. There, he taught his son T.K.V. Desikachar, who became fluent in the yoga poses.
Initially following a different path, Desikachar graduated first in his class as a structural engineer and went to work for a Danish firm. Soon, however, he became fascinated with the impact his father's teachings had on a variety of people with many different types of illnesses. He realized the importance of his father's unique knowledge. In his twenties Desikachar began formal studies with his father in all aspects of yoga and continued this study for almost three decades until a few months before Krishnamacharya's death. Although Krishnamacharya trained many teachers in his lifetime, it was to Desikachar that he most thoroughly and systematically passed on his knowledge.
To share the teachings he had received and to honor his father, T.K.V. Desikachar founded the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram (KYM), a non-profit organization, in 1976 in Chennai. He continues his father's work of preserving, exploring and transforming the yoga teachings of the past. This ever-changing approach to yoga has enormous potential for improving our daily lives in both quiet and dramatic ways.