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Interview with Shubha Krishnamacharya

Shubha Krishnamacharya

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?’ ”.
Shubha Krishnamacharya

Shubha Krishnamacharya

Many thanks to Shubha Krishnamacharya for her time and for sharing with us her insightful experiences.

2nd meeting with Swami Vimalananda

I arrived a bit early again at the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh to take more photographs. At 10am sharp I was in Swami Vimalananda’s office: “Hari Om!”. What a loving and natural being he is!

The head of about 160 swamis of the Divine Life Society has spent 60 years in the ashram. He told me about Swami Sivananda’s life and why the Divine Life Society doesn’t go international – to not compete with Swami Sivananda’s disciples who have already set up ashrams around the world.

After a cup of chai, I was asked to come back and meet him again at the samadhi at 11.50am for a photo session. This gave me enough time to find a good spot and get the permission to shoot the asana/pranayama class tomorrow morning.

The shooting with Swamiji was very relaxed – it’s been such a great pleasure again!

Swami Vimalananda, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh

Swami Vimalananda, Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh

For more details and photos of the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh, please visit Yoga.in at http://www.yoga.in/centers/sivananda-ashram-185.html

In the car with Sadhguru

It is well known that Sadhguru likes to drive. So, logically, he was behind the wheel when he picked us up at 8:30am. His 18 year-old daughter and two swamis were also in the car (one of them for recording our conversation with Sadhguru). He does not only look like a guru from ancient times, but he also has a very strong spiritual aura, which is easily noticeable by anyone.

His first duty of the day was to vote in the Tamil Nadu elections. Soon, we had another longer stop as the car had a “major problem” – the horn was not working… Not possible to drive a car without horn in India, it really gets dangerous as Indian drivers use sounds more than vision to orientate themselves in the traffic. We found a mechanics who tried to fix the horn for about half an hour. In the meantime we could observe people gathering around him and his car. We had never seen policemen smiling like this before! Sadhguru naturally gave attention to every person approaching him.

This time, we had enough time for all our questions. Sadhguru answered each question precisely and in a comprehensive way. There was not much flow from one question to the next, as after each of his replies he would say: “Your next question?”. Maybe these fast and precise answers have their origin in the fact that he already heard, thought and answered so many questions in his life. We could spend over one hour with him, helping us understand more on his approach to yoga, which has a reduced focus on asanas:

“Asanas are one out of eight limbs of yoga, asanas are only 12.5% of yoga”.

Interview with Sadhguru

Our appointment with Sadhguru is due sometime between 9am and 4pm today. We slept the night in Coimbatore, and at 9am we were at the gate of the Isha Yoga Center. Waiting for the call, we had rest for another 2 hours in a nice and clean room, then a small walk around the center, and its cafe. At around 2pm, Swami Patanga gave us the green light for the meeting. From then, everything went quite fast.

As always at the Isha Yoga Center, there were many staff members involved – one cameraman was filming us (to have all material recorded), one photographer taking the same photos as Coni, someone was doing separate voice recordings. In the meantime, other people were already waiting for their turn to interview Sadhguru.

Coni did a fast checkup of the Nalanda Conference room to find the perfect spot in terms of light, and the right chair to sit on…

Then, Sadhguru came in. He looks exactly as you would imagine what a guru looks like: old, long beard, white clothes, and a white turban on his head – a very good-looking guru. While Sadhguru was making jokes and tried to find out who we were, Coni took photos of him, first in black and white, then in colour.

We did a short interview with him, and as things were getting more relaxed and interesting, we ran out of time, and it was the turn for the next guests. So Sadhguru asked: “You have more questions?”, and we answered “Yes!” with a smile. So he kindly invited us to go to Coimbatore with him tomorrow, in his car. And we spontaneously accepted: “Sure! Thank you, see you tomorrow.”

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