April 28, 2011

8 Short Stories that Reveal What Kind of Man Krishnamacharya Was.

One day Krishanamacharya was conducting a “rare” demonstration-class where he mentioned that there are thirty-two variations of headstands.  The class was silent.  A.G.Mohan doubted him but did not say anything, however, the muscles in his face betrayed him and showed his feelings. Krishnamacharya looks at him and says:

What? It looks like you don’t believe me.  Fold that mat and place it here“. He then demonstrated the 32 variations of headstand.  He was 85 years-old.


Note: All these stories come from the book: Krishnamacharya His Life and Teachings, which is highly recommended, by A.G.Mohan. T.Krishnamacharya was a Master Yogi and the teacher of Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar, Indra Devi, Desikachar, Mohan and Ramaswami, among others.  He is pretty much the grandfather of yoga as we know it today.

Another day while practicing asana and in the warrior pose, Krishamacharya says to A.G. Mohan:

Keep in mind that you are in the service of the Divine. As you extend your arms and look down, bring the feeling that you are above the world and its various concerns but close to the Divine. As you bring your arms by your side with the palms facing upward, feel that the feet of the Divine are resting on your hands”

Mohan inquiries further: “This is relevant to me but what if a practitioner has no religious beliefs?

Still the imagery is valuable. Instead of thinking of the Divine the practitioner can bring the feeling that “I am without fear or burden. I am not troubled by the future or the past, flying above wordly pressures


On an interview in 1970 -age almost 90- the question is posed: Who taught you to stop your pulse and heart beat?

All happened automatically. What is amazing in that? I did it by practicing pranayama, vishama vrtti and nadishodhana pranayama. And meditation as well

On one occasion a student comes to him for healing and poses this question to TK: “What fees do I need to pay?”- “How long have you had this disease” asks T.K. – “more than 20 years” comes the reply – “Then it will cost you one hundred rupees, bring them next class” (that was the equivalent of about US$ 5,000 of today).

When the student returns the next week with the money, T.K. says: “I don’t want a hundred rupees from you. You can take it back. I only wanted to know if you had enough committment to follow the disciplines and restrictions I am going to suggest to you

One time Mohan asks T.K. about a very advanced sequence he had had his youngest daughter, Shubha demonstrate… “How could a yoga teacher teach these asanas to an ordinary person who comes with health issues? He replied:

It was a demonstration for propaganda!. You should not take it literally.  Shubha can do it, but for others you must suggest appropriate asanas. Only the principle is important

Another time A.G. Mohan was to give a talk on pranayama in Switzerland, in 1979. Krishnamacharya advised:

Propagate yoga wisely

One day Krishnamacharya got curious about how A.G. Mohan teaching a group of students, upon inquiring “how is it going” he proceeded to give “brief but invaluable advise”:

There is a saying that poets and women should never be coerced. It will only result in suffering, and the desired result will not materialize. Similarly, never use force in teaching or practicing asnanas

After many years of studying and surrendering to Krishnamacharya, A.G. Mohan finally gets the guts to ask the guru to be initiated in a mantra.  To his surprise T.K. agrees. After the initiation, A.G. asks how many times should he repeat the mantra, Krishnamacharya replies:

Traditionally one round of meditation is considered complete when you have repeated the mantra one hundred thousand times for each syllable, your mantra is twelve syllables, so that is twelve hundred times“.

Mohan was speechless. Krishnamacharya went on to say:

But in these days few people can do it. At the very least, ensure that for the rest of your life, every day, you repeat the mantra 108 times, slowly, with complete concentration.”

A few days before Krishnamacharya died A.G. Mohan asks: what is most important in life?:

Money is not important. Health, Longevity. A tranquil mind.”


A.G. Mohan studied with Krishnamacharya for almost 20 years, one-on-one. He has authored two books and gives lectures, here is his website.

I  heard that in January he gave a conference at Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore.  Was anyone there? Please tell me if you were.

What do you think of Krishnamacharya saying: “you can’t coerce a poet”? Why did he use the word: “poet”?

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