from Questions to Krishnamacharya from his students in
Yogacarya Krishnamacharya - The Purnacarya. Edited by Mala Srivatsan.
The 68 questions and answers below are also available in Spanish from
Patricia Aballay's Conciencia Yoga Blog
|Prof. T. Krishnamacharya from www.yogastudies.org|
1. What is Yogasana?
a. For those who have faith, yogasana is a posture which is both comfortable and firm (sthira and sukha). The asana-s done to realise the link between the jivatma and the paramatma
b. For those who do not have faith in God but accept jiva, yogasana is a particular position of the body which aids in the discipline of the senses and prana
c. For those who do not accept jiva, yogasana is a particular posture that aids in the discipline of the senses and the prana.
Whether a person is interested in bhakti or in ahangraha upasana or in mamas santi he/she has to develop the ability to remain in a state of dhyana.
Dhyana must be done in a seated position.
2. What is the role of the mantra in asana practice?
For the Indians who have faith in mantra, which is timeless, and which has been received through a teacher, the mantra has to be included in the asana practice. This is known as samantraka asanabhysa. However, this ability is left only in a few families because of the great changes and turmoils that have taken place in bharata
3. What should the duration of pranava be during recitation?
The time for pranava should be six seconds during the practice of pranayama
4. What is the first step in dhyana for a beginner?
For a beginner it is desirable to use a very beautiful murti (idol).
5. At what age can one start practicing yogasanas?
A person is fit to practice when they can eat by themselves.
6. How many asanas are there?
There are as many as the number of species.
7. Can everybody do all of the asana's?
Taking into account the structure of the body and the distortions in the body one should do the appropriate asana. only experts can guide the student. However at least some student must become completely competent in the practice of asana-s.
8. Should asana vary according to age?
Yoga sadhana can be divided into three krama-s
1. Sesti krama - This is up to the twenty-fifth year coinciding with the brahmacarya asramam. At this stage there is a need for cikista, as the sadhana is done to develop the strength of the body, the senses and the mind. The body should never become weak. However, if a person is sick at that age, one has to follow a combination of srsti and sthiti krama. In the ancient times up to the age of twenty-five a person would be in gurukulam. Under the guru's care there is not much need for sthiti krama. Patanjali has shown many ways for which each sadhana according to the requirements of the individual. It is the responsibility of the instructor to guide the individual.
2. Sthiti krama - is from the age of twenty-five, when most of the people are grhasthas. For the married person, prevention of illness is desirable. however, in reality there is great scope for sickness. the power of the body, the senses and the mind get reduced, the life span is curtailed and unexpected death is likely. We should make sure that the yoga sadhana will avoid or correct this for, under no circumstances should one be deprived of good health.
3. Samara krama - Practices from the age of seventy-five to one hundred. Only that yoga sadhana that will promote para, a para vaigram, jnanam and bhakti must be practiced. Moreover, if one practices yogasana-s, without respecting proper inhalation and exhalation, failure both in terms of immediate and long term benefits will result. the person may also suffer from some ailments.
9. Can a person practice yogasana using photographs?
Yoga, music, medicine and dance should be learned through a guru. Otherwise it is dangerous.
10. How many times should one practice yogasana's?
It should be practised for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening before meals.
11. How long should a person stay in an asana every day?
A person should stay in any one asana for at least fifteen minutes.
12. How long were the sages practicing yoga?
Nine hours a day. they included the performance of sandhyavandanam three times a day
13. What must form an essential part of a person's daily practice?
A minimum of ten minutes in antah-tratakam, sanmukhi mudra or mahamudra is essential.
14. What should be done when there is limited time available for practice?
When time is limited one can reduce the time taken to practice sirsasana and sarvangasana.
15. When can one see the results of practice?
After three months of continuous practice.
16. What should be the ratio of practice between asana, pranayama and dhyana?
The time spent in pranayama should at the very least be equal to the time spent in asana. The time spent in dhyana should be equal to the time spent in pranayama. Jada yoga is the practice done without a mantra or without the attitude of Ishvara pranidhana.
17. Should the asana practice be done fast and why not?
Fast movements will distort both blood circulation and the respiration. This results in crookedness of the body and injury to the different parts of the body. Slow practice of asana-s with proper respiration will not only remove the defects in the body but result in cotta ckagrata. However, I must insist that this practice should be done from the direct instruction of a teacher.
18. What does jitasana (asana jay am) mean?
Jitsana is the capacity of the person to stay in an asana for a length of time without experiencing pain. In ancient times the sages were able to stay in an asana for more than three hours during their pranayama and shyana practice.
19. What is meant by jitasvasam?
When a person is capable of doing any length of bhya kumbhaka (hold after exhalation) and anta kumbhaka (hold after inhalation) without getting tired, such a person is called a jitasvasi
20. How long should one stay in Sirsasana and Sarvangasana?
The time spent in each asana should be the same. The number of breaths taken in Sirsasana should be equal to the the number of breaths taken in sarvangasana. The length of each breath should also be equal. The postures are like the eyes of yoga. They strengthen the senses and the respiratory organs. A person with a heart problem should approach the practice of these asana-s with the utmost care. Only when a student is capable of doing sarvangasana should the teacher think of teaching him Sirsasana. people with asthma will have problems in practicing these postures. In the beginning these people should stay for two or three breaths only
21. Is there a difference in the practice for men and women?
The practice for unmarried women is the same as that for men except during their menstrual cycle.
22. How should very obese people and pregnant women be taught?
They should not be allowed to practice on their own without a teacher. When obese people practice on their own they may experience chest pain, vomiting and giddiness, due to the changes in the breathing pattern there could be a displacement in the womb.
23. What about the practice for women after child birth?
They can begin to practice three days after the childs birth, if they do not have any illness. They should begin with ujjayi pranayama, without kumbhaka, twenty-four breaths three times a day, for one week. They can then proceed to lie on their backs, legs bent, in desk pose and move their arms with breathing. Still later, they can raise their legs to touch the toes. After 15 days they can do dandasana. After a month they can do parvatasana and nadisodhana pranayama. After two months they can do sarvangasana. However, during pregnancy they should not do sirsasana and sarvangasana after the 5th month. They should not do paschimottanasana and similar postures. they may do mahamudra.
24. What is yoga?
One should work towards the knowledge and proper functioning of the sarira (body), the indriya-s (senses), the prana (breath) and the mamas (mind. Only while maintaining good health, alertness, longevity, comprehension and dharana sakti ( one pointedness), can one experience the jivatma, paramatma and the universe. the pratices leading to this experience is called yoga. The sastras (sacred teaching) that teaches this is called yoga sastra and has been in existence from unknown times.
25. How many kinds of Yoga are there?
There are four kinds of yoga. Sarira yoga (concerning the body) indriyaki yoga (the senses), manasika yoga ( the mind) and the adhyatmika yoga (the atma). The yoga that brings strength to the body by removing illness is known as sarira yoga. The yoga that promotes and sharpens the senses is known as indriyaki yoga. The yoga where the mind becomes stable and free from worries and which leads to a state of ekagrata ( one pointedness ) is known as manasika yoga. When a person is able to practice long and smooth inhalation and exhalation without becoming breathless, illness is removed. Such a person becomes stronger, has a longer life and can do better sadhana. This leads to the actual experience of the jivatma, paramatma and the universe. This is know as adhyatma yoga.
26. Who is competent to the practice the yogabhyasa?
Any person who aspires to experience the joy of sarira, indriya, mamas and adyatmika yoga, is eligible to practice yoga. there is no restriction of sati (caste), kulam (clan), gotta (lineage), stir (women), purusa (man), age, wealth, position or ashram (stage of life).
27. What is yogabyasa krama?
There has to be a krama (order of practice) for yogabhyasa. In the yoga sutra, niyamas (disciplines) are proscribed according to the individuals capacity. These niyamas form the yogana-s that are mentioned in the sastra-s. the yoganga-s are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and smadhi.
a) Yama: This comprises
(1) Ahimsa - not to cause any himsa (injury) to others.
(2) Satya - to be truthful in thought speech and action.
(3) Asteya - not to aspire for another persons wealth.
(4) Brahmacarya - to observe jitendriyam ( mastery over the senses) and pativram (fidelity to ones wife/husband).
(5) Aparigraha - to have only what one actually needs and not possess in excess.
b) Niyama: This comprises.
(1) Sauca - to have both internal and external cleanliness. External cleanliness deals with snanam (bath), panam ( what you drink), vastradharanam (clothing) and bhojanam ( the quality of food you eat). Internal cleanliness refers to the mamas (mind). The mind must not pursue bad thoughts. If this is not checked, it leads to apavitram (impurity) which will result in the decline of health and would not bring the benefits of yoga.
(2) Santosha - To accept gracefully whatever happens as the will of the Lord.
(3) Tapas - to have one meal once in eight days and to fast for an entire day, once in fifteen days. To follow the sastra-s. To undergo physical discipline and live in austerity exposing oneself to the forces of nature.
(4) Svadhyaya - to study the vedas according to ones sakha (branch) and to do japam according to the upadasa of his acarya.
(5) Ishvarpranidharna - to offer to lord Narayana, with love, all the benefits of the nitya (daily) karma-s. One must aspire to this and work towards it's growth day by day. These disciplines must be developed step by step without deluding oneself. T
These niyama-s make the yogabhyasa krama
28. What is the procedure one follows for yoga?
Asana-s are the means of reducing illness and for promoting health. The practice of asana makes a person agile. The asana-s should be taught according to the individuals requirements and must be taught in vinyasa. There should be a niyama in the breathing while practicing asana-s. Inhalation and exhalation should be decided according to the movement of the body. The length of the recaka and puraka depends on the asana and this is what helps the healing of illness. If the correct breathing is not done the practice is a waste of time. It is important to learn from a guru. If a person learns from a book then there is no point blaming the sastra-s from not realising the benefits mentioned therein.
29. Why is there the division of hatha-yoga and raja-yoga?
In his work Hatha-Yoga-Pradipka, yogi Svatmarama says ha-tha yoga is the bringing together of the two vayu-s the prana and the apana which are moving in the two nadir the ida and pingala. To have this vayu enter and remain in the susumna is hatha. The word ha- means ida and the word tha- means pinga'a. They are symbolic. The Hatha Yoga Pradipka itself says, that Hatha yoga vidya is to prepare the person to Raja yoga. Raja yoga here means bringing together of the jivatma and paramatma through Asamprajnata Samadhi.
30. On what basis do we follow the practice of yogasana?
The adharma for Yogasana-s are the four veda-s, the upa-veda-s, the eighteen Puranas, the sutras and the smrtis. They have been handed down to us through the upadesa and the anutsthana of the respective acaryas.
31. Is there any relation between the approach to sickness in Nathamuni's school and Ayurveda?
Nathamuni deals with disease and therapy in conformity with the teachings of Ayuraveda. However, Nathamuni-s emphasis is on Niskamaya karma, yoga-anga anusthana, sattvika ahara, maunam, ekanta-vasa, bhakti and prapatti. In Ayuraveda, however there is more emphasis on medicine and surgery. Except for this there is no difference between Nathamuni's school and Ayuraveda.
32. Is it possible to learn pratyahara and antaranga sadhana from a teacher?
Practices like pratyahara can be learnt from a teacher. However, this should be after the age of sixty. Until then pranayama is adequate to give healthy long life. there is no doubt about this.
33. How many kinds of vinyasa's are there?
The number of vinyasa-s vary from five to fifty
34. There seems to be identical verses in Sivasamhita, Gherenda Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipka. Does it mean they are all based on the same text or did they have a common teacher?
If yoga is still vogue it is because of these texts. The authors did not write anything new. They received these sloka-s from their teachers and have presented them in the sloka form. The original master for yoga was Brahma himself. This is what Siva has spoken in the Ahirbhudnya Samhita. In the beginning of Kali yuga the first teacher was Sathagopa maharani. He lived in Alvar Tirunagari and his decedent and decibel was nathamini of Viranarayanapuram. It is sad that some of my own students have given up on sampradaya and are instructing differently.
35. Which is the most important yoga text today?
What is most important is that the student and the teacher must begin and end their yoga practice with a prayer to Ananta Nagaraja and Ananta Pradmanabha.
36. Are the techniques like viloma pranayama, anuloma pranayama, pratiloma pranayama, the different asanas and vinyasas that we use mentioned in any adhara grant (text)? or does it follow a guru parampara?
The pranayama-s are mentioned in the Nathamuni's sampradaya.
37. How are the texts like Goraksa Samhita and the Hathayoga Pradipka compare with the approach of the Yoga Sutra?
Goraksa Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipka contain certain practices such as nauli, dhauti, basti, kundalini, calina etc. These are not consistent with the spirit of the yama and niyama of the Yoga Sutra. Besides the claims made in those texts about the benefits of Sad kriyas are contradicted in the Hatha Yoga Pradipka. The most important differences is that, in the Yoga Sutra the focus is in Citta Vritti Nirodha. However some of the practices in the Hatha Yoga Pradipka and Goraksa Samhita are useful. It is suggested that these texts prepare a person for Raja yoga. Raja yoga is another name for the Yoga Sutra.
38. Why should one do vaidika-sastriya karma?
For the present benefit and for the future (after death).
39. Why should there be upasana of the devata?
Istartha Siddhi - you attain what you desire.
40. But this becomes kamayam. Is it desirable?
Kamyam is possible but it is not desirable.
41. What is dharma? Please explain in simple terms.
That which prevents a persons fall.
42. There are many approaches to the word 'Yoga', Which of these have to be refuted?
Adharmika yoga is to be refuted.
43. What is Adarmika yoga?
Adharmika yoga is the yoga that has not been mentioned in the Yoga Sutra.
44. Where in the Yoga Sutra is the Sadanga yoga of Nathamuni mentioned?
Isvarapranidhanadva is the sadanga yoga. Sadanga yoga is surrender. The six steps that are involved in Bhakti are
1) that God is ultimate.
2) the ideas that are not in line with this are rejected
3) to have confidence that 'HE' would protect us.
4) one ought to praise him, like worship.
5) that you are at the service of God.
6) there are no compromises - i.e. you ask him only for his blessings and nothing else.
This type of bhakti is called visvasam
45. What is the evidence that bhakti alone leads to mukti?
The same sutra is the answer. Yogasutra 1.23 to 1.30
46. What does the bhakti mean to a person who has no belief in Isvara?
Love is bhakti for them
47. What is the difference between prakrti and prapancam?
Prakrti and prapancam are the same
48. Prakrti that has guns-s is mentioned as acaitanyam. How is this?
That which changes is acaitanyam. That which doesn't fluctuate is caitanyam
49. How can there be a samyoga between the prakrti, paramatma and the jivatma?
Samyoga can only be through paramatma
50. What is Jnana yoga?
Jnana yoga is the understanding of the relationship between the paramatma, jivatma and prakrti
51. Are bhakti and prapatti the same?
No, In prapatti the Sadanga yoga is predominant.
52. What is Raja yoga?
Raja means paramatma. So raja Yoga is jnana yoga. Yoga here refers to the paramatma jnanam
53. Does Hatha yoga mean a forceful yoga?
54. Some people describe that the kundalini goes through the susumna to the sahasrara. is it correct?
No. It is the prana vayu that moves through the susumna.
55. What happens to the kundalini when the highest of hathayoga is mastered?
It is not explained in our sastras. It's position itself is disputed i.e. where and when it happens to to the kundalini is not clearly mentioned in the sastras.
56. Is dhyana, dharana, samadhi a sadhana or a siddhi?
Since it has been mentioned as a samyama it is attainable. So it has to be a sahana.
57. Should yama and niyama, precede the practice of asana and pranayama?
Yama, niyama, asana, and pranayama go together. Without the varnasrama dharma, yama and niyama are not possible.
58. Yoga means to join. It is like many grains together?
It's like sugar and water or salt and water.
59. When there is samyoga, how will there be viniyoga again? Is it also an activity? If so how does it happen?
When we are linked to the outside we are automatically delinked inside. If we are linked to the inside we are automatically delinked to the outside. This could happen either because of the gunas-s or the power of the visaya (object). When there is a link with a visaya it is samyoga with that, but viyoga with the others.
60. What does prapancam mean? is it sat yam?
Prapancam (universe) is the imagination: nor is it distorted.
61. Is there any significance attached to our dress and to the sati to which we belong?
Our dress indicates the culture to which we belong
62. Is brahmacarya practiced in grhasthasrama? What is the difference between a brahmacarya in grathasrama and a brahmacarya in a brahmacarya asrama?
In brahmacarya asrama, studies are most important, but the priority changes in grhasthasram.
63. It has been said that our mind is linked to the kind of food we eat. What about our other samaras and sahavasam?
Whatever has been mentioned for the suddhi (clarity ) of the mamas (mind ) is important. That is why food has been given so much importance.
64. There are many texts on Yoga. Which of them are important and which are less important?
Any text that does not emphasise astanga yoga is not an authority.
65. Where is the evidence that Visnu is sattvika devam, siva rajasika devam and sakti tamasika devam?
The evidence is in the puranas.
66. How is it that we are able to understand the suksma visaya that has been mentioned in the sastras?
Due to the effect of the parinama. Some times the suksma visaya becomes sthulam and during such time there are people who can comprehend it. that is why some have the experience of the suksma visaya while others do not.
67. What is the difference between sa-guna and nir-guna?
Sa-guna has a predominance of the three tunas. In ni-guna the tunas are not predominant. It doesn't mean that there are no tunas but the attaributes of the Lord transcends the tunas.
68. What is your message to humanity?
Works by Krishnamacharya
unfortunately most of the articles mentioned have not been released
The video below produced by AG Mohan