Lives of the Masters Part 2 – Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888–1989), B.K.S Iyengar (1918–2014) & K. Pattabhi Jois (1915–2009)
Continuing our series of blogs on the Great Yoga Masters, in this special blog, we look at 3 of the most influential Gurus/Masters of our time, T. Krishnamacharya and his two equally distinguished students, B.K.S. Iyengar & Pattabhi Jois.
He was born into a southern Indian Brahmin family. At the age of six he went through what is called an upanayana, which is a traditional rite of passage that marks acceptance of a student by a guru. Through his father/mentor, who taught sacred scriptures, Krishnamacharya also learnt yoga asanas and pranayama. Then at the age of 13 he had a visionary dream of his ancestor, the legendary yogi Nathamuni, who told him to go to the town of Alvar Tirunagi in Tamil Nadu. So the young Krishnamacharya obeyed the dream and during the years that followed he had a number of revelatory experiences that determined his life course and ultimately led to his being known as “The Father of Modern Yoga.”
He believed that “yoga was India’s greatest gift to the world,” and his approach to yoga is based on his belief that it was both a spiritual practice and a method of healing the body. He based his form of yoga on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Yoga Yajnavalkya, which is another classical treatise on yoga. When he taught, he looked at every student as unique, and also believed that the most important aspect of teaching is to “teach every student according to his or her individual capacity at any given time.” Ultimately, Krishnamacharya taught that everyone has his or her own ‘path’ with yoga and that the teacher must approach instruction from this perspective.
Like Krishnamacharya, B.K.S. Iyengar was born into a southern Indian Brahmin family. In fact, Krishnamacharya was his brother-in-law and he was also his yoga teacher. Iyengar was a rather sickly child and spent most of his childhood fighting off a host of infections, including TB, and it was Krishnamacharya who taught him the healing power of yoga. This was a turning point in Iyengar’s life and he spent some years with Krishnamacharya as his guru, although the relationship was not always harmonious. His guru sent him to Pune to teach and that is where he founded the Iyengar Yoga Institute and spent the rest of his life.
Iyengar’s yoga technique is a Hatha yoga that emphasises great precision and alignment in the performance of the asanas and in the practice of pranayama. The ultimate aim is to increase stability, stamina and mobility in the body. It is excellent for those who enjoy learning the subtleties of correct alignment. Plenty of props, such as belts and blocks, are used to help students get into the postures.
Pattabhi Jois was another student of Krishnamacharya, and again he came from Karnataka in southern India, like the other two masters. As a Brahmin boy he learnt the Sanskrit rituals of his caste but nobody in his family practised yoga. Then, at age 12, he watched Krishnamacharya give a talk and demonstration and became his student the next day. He studied and practised with his guru at intervals from 1927 to 1953. He also claimed to be the yoga guru of Iyengar, statement that Iyengar has always refuted.
Pattabhi Jois is the founder of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, which has been described as a “modern-day form of classical Indian yoga.” Ashtanga is Sanskrit for “eight limbed” and Jois called it that based on the eight limbs of yoga in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Compared with Iyengar yoga, Ashtanga is a much more vigorous style that uses a specific breathing technique to get into postures. Breathing is the ‘vinyasa’ in the name of his system. His legacy is seen in modern adaptations such as “Power Yoga” and “Vinyasa or Vinyasa Flow Yoga” that are close to aerobic styles of exercise.
At Radiant Yoga Marbella offers a variety of yoga classes in our Marbella studio including, Hot Yoga (similar to Bikram yoga but with more varied sequencing) Vinyasa Yoga & Vinyasa Flow Yoga, Anusara Yoga, Traditional Hatha Yoga and Kids Yoga.
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