You have probably heard us quoting the likes of Iyengar, Yogananda and other yoga masters before or after class, and if you have been to the studio recently, you have seen a few new faces on the front wall. They are T.K.V. Krishnamacharya, Paramahansa Yogananda, B.K.S. Iyengar, and Pattabhi Jois. Although these are certainly not the only fore-figures of theyoga tradition (Hey! where are the women?), they are among the most authoritative practitioners and teachers of yoga as we now know it. This month, we shed light on the history of modern yoga, specifically our Ashtanga-Vinyasa heritage, by sharing from some of the major texts written by these and other influential yogi and yogini teachers. Here’s a brief snapshot:
T.K.V. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989), who came from a family of yoga philosophers, was a celebrated yoga scholar and Ayurvedic physician credited with the revival of Hatha Yoga‘s physical forms. He had a reputation for being a demanding teacher of ancient texts and yogaasana as methods of gaining “right knowledge” of the divine. He is called the “architect of vinyasa” and “the father of modern yoga” and was guru to many influential yogis, from Pattabhi Jois to Iyengar to Indra Devi.
Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) heard his life’s calling — to experience oneness with the divine — quite early on in his life. His meditations took him from teacher to teacher until he found his guru, Swami Yukteswar, who advised him to take the teachings of yoga to the U.S., which he did in 1920, eventually opening the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles, California. He penned Autobiography of a Yogi, detailing his incredible and ofttimes mystical-magical journey toward union with the cosmic consciousness.
Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) is said to have codified the system of Ashtanga Yogaasana, from the Primary Series to the Advanced Series, as it is still practiced today. According to Pattabhi Jois himself, the sequences he popularized were taken, nearly pose by pose, from the teachings of his longtime teacher Krishnamacharya. Chanting, breathing exercises, meditation, and intense study of philosophical texts were also a major component of Jois’ teachings.
New limbs and leaves are sprouting on yoga‘s ancestral tree every day. Thanks in part to these teachers, the practice is alive, well, and evolving as it unites practitioners around the globe in the aspiration to realize our connectedness. Look forward to sharing the journey together on our mats!In peace,
It is through the body that we realize we are a spark of divinity. –B.K.S. Iyengar
With the recent passing of B.K.S. Iyengar, whose contribution to yoga brought us a new understanding of the human body and its possibilities, we would like to focus, this September, on alignment. For many yogis, the word alignment calls to mind specific anatomical cues: “This limb externally rotates while that appendage abducts; this joint opens while that muscle contracts or extends.” All of this is incredibly useful for entering asanas correctly, for preventing injury, and for sustaining longevity in the practice. But for Iyengar, a pristinely correct, anatomically driven asana practice was only one small part of the bigger yoga picture. It is he who said, “Health is the state of complete harmony of the body, mind, and spirit.” It is only when we achieve the alignment of these three elements, he would have reminded us, that “the gates of the soul open.”