“In education the first requirement is the teacher, the second is the student. What should happen between them is learning. How it should happen is through the constant teaching of that which will be relevant to the student. That is education.” ― T.K.V. Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice
TKV Desikachar, son of Krishnamacharya and brilliant teacher in his own right, passed away yesterday in India. He was 78 years old. There's hardly a yoga teacher training in the US that doesn't use his seminal book "The Heart of Yoga." He was a pioneer in evaluating each student individually. Working with them in ways that were consistent with their energetic and ayurvedic make up. He also formulated the system of teaching yoga by drawing stick figures to convey various postures. Apart from teaching yoga, he created an institute of world-wide learning...the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, in his father's name, that lives on and continues its important work in yoga research.
Two members of the New York yoga community fondly remember him.
"I travelled to India in 2000 to participate in the annual month long course called, “Introduction To Yoga” presented at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Madras. During my 8 weeks I had several private meetings with Mr Desikachar. His was an intense presence to say the least. On my last day, before heading to the airport, Mr Desikachar summoned me to his home. His wife, Menaka, answered the door and told me, “Wait one moment; he is just doing some pranayama.” A moment later the couple took me to a small outbuilding–just adjacent to their home– a shrine dedicated to his father. As the three of us stood around the master’s silver sandals, Mr Desikachar said, “We are going to have my father bless you.” Then he and his wife chanted for several minutes. Following is my tribute to Mr Desikachar the yoga teacher, an extraordinary light in the firmament.
It’s a common idea that the transmission of yoga must perpetuate tradition. Mr Desikachar, however, was a modern man of the world. He wanted to shake off the dusty and musty old sheets of yoga and fly them in a fresh, sunny breeze. His mission was to identify what was effective in yoga, strip away all the cultural wrappings, and reveal the essential, universal practice. Everybody, all over the world breathes, but we recognize the name for it in the language we speak. Everybody, all over the world moves their body, but the same movement performed by two people can have a different effect. Everybody, all over the world has a natural affinity for the mysterious spiritual dimension, but the access is through religion.
Mr Desikachar had a policy that the Om symbol –sacred and auspicious to Hindus– should
not be displayed anywhere is his yoga centre. This was a bold move as it is a strongly cultural practice for Hindus to display Om for prosperity and protection. He did this to level the playing field; global admission to yoga free of cultural and religious trappings. As an engineer, he clearly saw the human body as a mechanism of movement, but those bio-machines come in a great spectrum of shapes and sizes. This is where his radical departure from tradition shows up. He reckoned that each movement needed to be understood by its function, so every practitioner’s movements must be designed to achieve the intended function. He ultimately identified the heart of yoga practice as a phenomenon of attention, and what better way for the vast majority of us to evolve our power of concentration than through a dedicated, mindful breathing practice.
Mr Desikachar’s invaluable contribution was to enable seekers everywhere to shrug off the heavy cloak of tradition; to activate discrimination and creativity in the pursuit of a contemporary, personally meaningful expression of the timeless, universal, and immutable essence of yoga."
"My teacher T.K.V. Desikachar’s body died yesterday in Chennai at the age of 78, but his keen, kind spirit left us many years ago - taken by a devastating dementia.
The strength of my connection with Desikachar lies in the example he set in all our dealings together. There is something far more important than all the things he ever said to me, and that is all the things he could have said, but didn't. He never failed to base his interactions with me on his absolute faith that the answers I seek reside within me, and I am grateful for the times when his faith had to be stronger than my own. That essential lesson serves as a beacon I will always follow as I do my best to share what I have learned from him."