Attending the film premiere of “Der atmende Gott” or “Breath of the Gods” in Berlin were T.K. Sribhashyam and Srishubha, son and daughter of T. Krichnamacharya. We were able to join them in a 2-hour workshop and meet with Shubha for a relaxed interview. Here are some highlights:
- During T. Krishnamacharya’s time there was no real sense within the family that he was doing something extraordinary. Yoga was a relic of a forgotten past. He taught yoga, mostly in 1:1 sessions. Interestingly, if Shubha was asked by her schoolmates in Mysore about her father’s profession she would say: “He is a professor in philosophy” rather than “He is a Yoga teacher”. This story is very similar to the experience of his disciple B.K.S. Iyengar (Srishubha’s uncle). In the early years, B.K.S. Iyengar was not able to make a living by teaching yoga. He gave between 10,000 and 15,000 demonstrations to raise awareness of yoga, which is now a mass movement. Srishubha told us, “I cannot believe this – when my father started there was nothing.”
- “Yoga is a very personal experience, you have to do it for yourself, you have to feel what you are doing… It is not the sweating, or not sweating, (in India) it is not the physical thing we are concentrated on, we concentrate more on mental. In India it is more of a 1:1 style, I teach you once a week, and afterward you practice alone,” says Shubha. This 1:1 style is still the core of the teaching philosophy at the Krichnamacharya Yoga Mandiram centre in Chennai (one of the top centres in our new yoga book).
- “The essence of my father’s teaching was always the coordination of movement and breath,” – today a well accepted statement in most styles of yoga. “Breath controls the mind, and asana and breathing come together. The aim is to be mentally present, not only physically.”
- “The course you decide depends on age,” says Shubha. In India, yoga is for all ages, young and old. This is an aspect of yoga we hope will increase in the West as well.
- “Let us make the breathing longer, so we can live longer, “ says Shubha. The lungs get better exercise which seems to be at least part of the secret as to why some yogis reach such an old age. According to some yogis we have only a fixed amount of breaths in our lives, so if we breathe longer, we live longer.
- “Yoga is very much about concentration. The coordination of movement and awareness makes the difference.”
- “Sweating is the result of physical exercise. Yoga is both, mind and body.”
- Yoga.in: “What would you say to someone as to why he should come to India to experience yoga?”
Shubha: “My father would say it is the ‘gurukulam style’… Let us at least dream of that. It is a way of life, it is not just one or two hours of you doing yoga… My father used to do, we used to follow. He did not tell what to do. We did not do any research. Is this good, is this bad? It was a total surrender…“
- Yoga.in: “Why did P. Jois, Desikachar and Iyengar create different yoga styles, even if they were educated in total surrender and gurukula style?”
Shubha: “When it is an individual class, we close the doors. What my sister has learned is not automatically what I have learned.“ This means that the Krishnamacharya style of teaching is a 1:1 teacher/student ratio (at the absolute maximum it is 1:2 if the students are from the same family), so each student is taught yoga based on their personal needs, abilities and limitations.
- “In India it is very uncommon to ask a question. Now it has become popular, but before not. Now I would like to ask my father many questions, and one of them would even be ‘What is yoga for you?’ ”.
Many thanks to Shubha Krishnamacharya for her time and for sharing with us her insightful experiences.