You may remember a couple of weeks ago I posted on Yvonne Millerand, a student of Krishnamacharya in the 60's.
Matthieu Bonnetti has since come through with a new translation of the article below (previously it was just put through googletranslator), from Beatrice Millerand's website Practiquer le hatha yoga. You may remember that Matthieu also translated for us the medical journal article in Presse Medicale-1936, where Krishnamacharya's ability to stop or at least dramatically slow his heart was examined.
Thank you again to Matthieu Bonnetti for this translation.
Interview with Yvonne Millerand
Interview by Françoise Blévot February 2005
Yvonne Millerand was a founder of the FNY with Roger Clerc, Nile Haoutoff, Solange Demolière, Claude Peltier and Eva Ruchpaul. She has contributed greatly to the knowledge of quality yoga from a long line of Indian masters (she was a student of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya) disclosed in France under the name "Yoga of Madras”
FB: Your first teacher was Lucien Ferrer, how did you know him?
YM: It was my mother who told me about Lucien Ferrer. She followed his courses ... and I noticed that she was more flexible than me! She offered me my first lessons, so I could get to know him in turn.
FB: In what way did his teachings differ from gymnastics?
YM: The difference with gymnastics was the fact that we were taught movements associated with breathing. For example, exhale crossing arms on a bend, getting back on an inhalation spreading arms.
He did not impose a pace, everyone did as he could, some went too fast. He was also making us do postures.
FB: Static? We are already in Asana!
YM: Yes, but he did not use that word!
FB: Where did he get his own knowledge?
YM: To develop his own method, he was inspired by several books, but mostly "The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation" (subtitled "Or the Method of Realizing Nirvana through knowing the mind"). Also he organized meetings letting students explore practices of oriental origin. For example, he brought someone who "practiced OM". As elsewhere, he was taken by his core business, and his activity of a "healer" I gradually began to serve him as his assistant (as Roger Clerc), and to make his students work. Everything I learned, I transmitted bit by bit... or I invented... or I was looking by myself to deeper explore some ideas.
Then one day I was talking to the students about the lowering of the diaphragm during the inhalation, so they understand the mechanism of breathing, Mr. Ferrer went into the room and heard me. He then criticized this statement, "It is not breathing that you need to talk about, it's energy! "I was furious! I thought I had the right to explain to students what is happening in their body!
From this moment I didn't believe him anymore. Twelve years had passed since I started with him. In 1964, he died. I was without direction, and I wanted to learn ... A person who followed my courses, Mrs. Klein, spoke of her daughter and her husband who lived in Madras. She invited me with them and they informed me of the existence of a reputed master, Krishnamacharya, and then from the project took shape.
The daughter of Mrs. Klein (who would become the dancer Malavika) was already there when I arrived, she greeted me, found me a hotel (run by the brother of Ravi Shankar!) And arranged an appointment with Krishnamacharya .
She accompanied me to the first interview, which took place on 3 September 1965. The first question from the Master was: "Why did you leave your master? "Malavika and I answered with one voice," But he's dead, Sir! "He stipulated immediately afterwards" If you want to work, do not eat eggs or meat or fish! "... Then he asked me what I could do ... So then I started to do anything; arch on the side ... I was in shape! (Laughs) He looked at me and dropped: "You know nothing! You do not breathe! You hop like a bird! You have everything to learn. Come back tomorrow for five hours! "Thus began nine months of work, almost daily sessions, lasting an hour ... Except when it canceled by one here and there at the last minute ... This is classic testing !
FB: What were the practice points he emphasized in particular?
YM: The length of expiration. With many lessons per week, he began with simple postures. I had to combine breath and movement, breathing governs the speed at which the arm was raised, for example. The slower the breath, the slower the gesture. Then he taught me the glottal sound, to locate it in the cavum. the cavity which lies behind the nasal and to seek a slight vibration inside the head, jaw and tongue relaxed ... You are well when you do that!
Each asana is supported by deep breathing, whether static or dynamic. There is no exception, you should feel the movement according to the slowness of the breath. For example, any rotation of the torso is done while exhaling, we inhale while moving back the torso. Inhale and exhale are natural acts, but by inserting downtime, everything changes, the control seems to be an affirmation of life, and gives the impression to exist better through managing the two main functions of breathing and circulation, which depend on each other. My favorites in Pranayama were Nadi Shodana and Pratiloma. The delicacy of breath asked full attention, being aware of emptiness inside "the inside sight" ... I can not describe what I've learned, but I've never forgotten!
After a time, he trusted me enough to suggest I use the word "Narayana", another name for Vishnu, during Pranayama. He taught accentuating the letter "r", which must roll and made me repeat after him, until he was satisfied with my pronunciation ... He added, "This sacred name belongs to my tradition, you have to find in your own culture the name that you should speak to your deepest self "... He left me free of any influence, I could only thank him ...
After some postures, he explained the role of counter-poses, designed to erase some negative effects of an asana stood for too long.
I could also start the easiest Pranayama, Anuloma Ujjayi and Viloma Ujjayi.
Krishnamachrya often told me "heighten the chest" so I could begin to breathe raising the chest by sending the airflow to the base of the lungs. He then insisted on exhalation, using the abdominal muscles and those of the perineum, the levator ani.
FB: What was for him the purpose of the asana?
YM: Entering using attention to areas where we don't have access. In the postures, he insisted on finding specific sensations refined, such as exhaling slowly turn to feel the role of the last ribs, for example. Asana allows you to reach all parts of the body by different combinations. It meant a lot to him that posture could be improved by a relaxed attitude, and constantly had to be supported by breathing into four phases, inhalation, full suspension, exhalation, empty suspension.
He attached great importance to the concept of viniyasa, sessions that included a "top", a main posture. He loved to slowly move forward to the difficult things, wait to get the full benefit.
He made me do postures that I did not know, without imposing on me the Sanskrit names ... When he could, he used English, "bed pose, hill pose, shoulder standing, head standing..." However he taught me all the Sanskrit name of the Pranayama. After a time, he made me take my pulse before the lesson, and after the awkward postures at the end of the course. I should not exceed 65 beats per minute and he made sure that my breathing was perfectly accompanied the effort.
FB: Did you feel that he was inventive?
YM: Absolutely, he seeked to get out of the too rigid lessons.
FB: In his youth, Krishnamacharya left by foot from Mysore to the foothills of the Himalayas, to join a master with whom he lived more than seven years ... Can we say that, finally, the "Yoga Madras "is more Tibetan than southern India?
YM: Why ask? Yoga is unique, it does not need labels!
If there is a distinction to be made, it is rather on the side of the masters! There's good, there's bad! Krishnamacharya never spoke about his master, nor about his learning, at least at this time.
FB: Was the spiritual aspect of Yoga taking place in your initial approach, or did you discover this dimension with Krishnamacharya?
YM: There are very strange things that happened to me that I have neither sought nor forced, and that made me discover and understand the spiritual aspect that could take in the work with the body. I understood afterwards. I asked nothing, I did not know what would happen to me .... and I received. I had already begun to receive before my departure, because it is thanks to the generosity of my students that I could have this experience. It also counted.
FB: Were there any meditation sessions?
YM: There were stops, I was carried by his breath, for what he felt himself ... Sometimes I was opening my eyes and I was seeing him in front of me like a flame ... There was a communication without words of a great power .... But he did not use the word meditation. He spoke of focusing ... Do not look, do not want something, do not wait. I was rather disappointed with my previous experiences, and what I wanted was to learn ... I was without preconceived ideas, in total confidence, it was a good ground to receive!
FB: This is the vocation you were called!
YM: Maybe ...
FB: The relationship guru / disciple is intimate and friendly at the same time, it is coded, it cannot be applicated in the Western world. "The Guru and the disciple must stand close to each other, and confer without witness” he said.
YM: It is true that it is a mode of exchange which is not applicable here. But we may respect our master, because he is the one who teaches, and we love him. There were sometimes when we were doing Pranayama together a communication lightness. He knew well how to give, to share what he had found for himself, where he himself was.
FB: In the West, what would be the ideal mode of transmission?
YM: There can not be a traditional line "the Indian way", but a trainer has the duty to pass the torch to a few students with whom he has detected a particularly fine understanding and also the sincerity in a spirit of complete confidence. Passing must not be selfish, experience must be deep. Beatrice and you, as well with Charlotte, Gerard, and Daniel continue to transmit this teaching. You understand the meaning of my work and my research, in the spirit of discipline, humility and tenderness that is important to me. I think often those who have followed me faithfully until the end of my teaching, many also continue to show me affection.
FB: Krishnamacharya was an impressive figure, feared even by his wife and children ... Did he scare you?
YM: Not at all! He talked a little hard, but I did not care ... It was hiding something else. A kind of familiarity had been established between us, it seemed to me he was glad to see me ... I dared to ask ... "How does a Yogi facing the misery of the streets ...? "I saw a corpse on the ground in a street in Madras, in total disregard of pedestrians, some of which have spanned without looking ... He said:" I take care of those who are close to me, when I can respond effectively, feeding or caring for a man who sleeps outside my door or the wall of my house ... So I do .. For others, I pray. "
FB: Did his teaching to Westerners differ from what he gave to the Indians?
YM: I do not think so, but I think he sometimes came to regret that some people, coming from all origins, had the body too damaged. He probably thought it was difficult if not impossible to guide regulation systems ...
FB: Did Krishnamacharya share with you other facets of his scholarship?
YM: No, never! When I arrived, he dropped down the books he had on his knees and began.
FB: I've heard several times that it is the interest of the West in Yoga that gave this discipline renewal for the Indians. What do you think?
FB: Does the Western adaptation have its origin in the fact that our practitioners are mostly women, and this from the beginning?
YM: We are moving towards a feminization of yoga ... We will avoid a dull yoga if we breathe as it should, in the stillness. Many do not want to make the effort, or are afraid to do it wrong. You have to work a while to realize quality. It is the observation of oneself after the postures, awareness that it brings out new sensations that will keep the practicing on the way.
FB: What do you think of the current Western development of yoga? What to do to stop this unavoidable transformation going off track?
YM: We are fortunate to have the Sutras of Patanjali. We must consider what this means. Squirm, everyone can! The reason of the thing - it's so beautiful! - Is in the Yoga Sutra. It would be a shame to go to a yoga more superficial of which we would have lost the juice ...
FB: What, according to you, is the right attitude of the teacher in relation to the spiritual search of a student?
YM: If we give him the desire to find, it is good ... But we must not influence him ... Keep distance, do not give rise. The "spiritual coaching" can be a trap for the one as for the other.
FB: At your back, how did you develop your own style, your creativity (which was great!)
YM: (laughs) I did not mean it! That said, when you can get something good in a culture, do not miss it.
I had it decanted ... Krishnamacharya was not talking about anatomy, he evoked the elasticity of the body ... I immersed myself in books of anatomy, respiratory physiology.
And then comes the practice, it is as if we opened the chained doors, and each time it is in another domain. There are physical action and then the effect, which emerges and which should be welcomed because it leads us to a different way of acting ... It is not possible for everyone. I've never stopped trying to understand how to develop the body's sensitivity.
So I found a room and my faithful students. The first meeting was joyful, as they all wanted to talk to them of India and the Master. I decided to teach an hour and a half for after the postures, to have the time to explain and comment on the study of Pranayama. We had to change the way they breathe, relax the shoulders and the chest to be able to start the inspiration from the top of the chest, then exhale using the lower abdomen and the levator ani muscle, respecting the lungs empty and full stops. It was a revolution for all ... The dynamic and static postures were, what they did not know either, so that "nose sound" and that of "Ujjayi".
Several months were needed to enable them to adapt to those successive discoveries. I wanted that, through their work, students are more internalized, that the fusion of body and mind leads them to discover themselves in depth, to be less materialistic to establish a stable, inner calm, and to find out what was most important in their lives.
The work I had done under the aegis of Krishnamacharya amplified my physical and psychic sensitivity. I changed!
There were never two similar lessons. I respected the "Vinyasa" preparing a posture and then its execution. Some postures can be acquired after months of slow approach, like the lotus hips, knees and ankles are most often steep, and must be flexible with sweetness. The various difficulties encountered by students led me to find palliatives to help overcome certain obstacles and create new variations .. The great principle of "Sukha-Sthira" was our basic rule: "Ease and Firmness"! Find my students was always a joy renewed ...
FB: You've been a pioneer and explorer! There is a Chinese proverb that expresses what I feel when I think of you (and I'm probably not the only one!): "When you drink the well water, do not forget the one who dug ".
© Journal of India 200th-2010