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Saturday, 28 September 2013

What was it like to Study Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga with Krishnamacharya?

Teaching Vinyasa Krama last night I felt very much aware of what tends to get referred to as lineage, the feeling I was,...passing something along, teaching a practice just as Ramaswami had taught me and just as Krishnamacharya had taught him. Lineage sounds a little too grand but I did I feel as if I was  channelling Krishnamacharya somewhat and realised perhaps why Ramaswami feels so strongly about passing on Krishnamacharya's teaching, just as he was taught.

I saw a quote from Ramaswami recently (from here)

"I teach what my guru taught me, not what he wrote".

- Srivatsa Ramaswami

This post comes from sitting in marichiyasana teaching the Marichiyasana subroutine from Ramaswami's Asymmetric sequence and getting a flash back of the second picture below.

I wanted to bring together some of the reports of Krishnamacharya's teaching, so we have

Richard Schechner's Notebooks (excerpts)
Notes from Namarupa 115 article 

My Studies with Sri Krishnamacharya by Srivatsa Ramaswami ( excerpts)
again Namarupa.

Interview with Yvonne Millerand

It's a long post, scan through it, find little snippits you like, bookmark it perhaps and come back again and again, there are treasures hidden away in these reports, I promise.

At the end I have a couple of videos that I've been thinking recently strike me as Ramaswami perhaps channelling Krishnamacharya himself. I wonder if Ramaswami heard his teacher's voice in his head, just as I did last night "Stretch, stretch, stretch") as he recorded these videos.

But first this, Krishnamacharya (in colour) in Mysore in 1938 (aged 50, same age as I am now) demonstrating some of the shoulder and headstand variations (3 minutes in) that Ramaswami taught to us and that I was able to share a taste of last night (more to come).

Such a pleasure to share this practice last night, thank you.

Richard Schechner's Notebooks (excerpts)
Notes from Namarupa 115 article

K taught him in an English which sounded very clear yet very terse, as when he had Richard hold a pose and told him something like, “Keep mind fixed on the god.” p4

When he studied with K in Madras (Chennai), it was just for about 4 weeks. He would go to K’s house in Madras, 4 or 5 times a week, and they would work in a private room for more than an hour at a time. K said this was the first part in a full course of study that would comprise 7 stages.

At the end of these 4 weeks of study, when Richard was about to leave Madras, K invited him to return to India again to continue to the second course, and Richard said he told K he’d be back. “That’s what they all say,” K responded (to paraphrase). In the end, Richard did not return.

But Richard said that to his surprise, even after just a month’s study, K told him he could teach others what he had learned. However, he said that it should be taught one on one, or at the most he should teach two at a time. p4

my practice of pranayama permanently changed the way I breathe. p5

Richard said that when he asked K if this was an acceptable way of lying down, K said no, he should lie on his back, legs extended and arms at his side. Furthermore, K told him not to lie with palms up or legs wide apart, which he said was not good. He instead had him lie with palms down and feet together (as in tadaka mudra), which he said was better for the blood flow. p6

Richard said K’s teaching methodology consisted of 4 steps. First, he would demonstrate. Then he would dictate the steps verbally and Richard would take notes and/or draw a picture. Then K had Richard do it while he dictated the steps. Lastly, Richard would do it on his own and K would watch without dictating.

K said to practice for only 45 minutes to an hour; longer was not good for the organs.

Richard asked K early on (1st meeting) what yoga was. K laughed and said they could get to that next time. Richard said he kept asking K, and eventually K gave him a vedantic interpretation: union of the soul with God.

For years, he has been sharing what K taught him, with performers. He often leads long workshops, and the asanas and breathing exercises p7

So, it was through them, and maybe some people at Kalakshetra too— I don’t remember who— that I got introduced to Krishnamarcharya. I went to meet him. He interviewed the people who wanted to study with him. Joan went with me. We talked with K. I don’t know how he interviewed others. With me, he met me, he asked a few questions such as why did I want to study yoga, he looked me over with his very wide but gentle eyes. After not very long, he said he would accept me as a student. I had no idea who he was, beyond a yoga teacher. I didn’t know then that he was the yoga teacher, the great Krishnamarcharya. He was simply a teacher I found by asking. He was the teacher people sent me to. p10

The drawings are mine, but the words are his, in his own very particular way of speaking English: “Sit on soft mat, face east, pray God. Stretch both legs forward. Toes, heels, knees together. Do not bend knees, while with hissing sound in throat pit, go over head both arms, turning palms up.”

“Interlock fingers, turn hands upwards, tight fingers, straight elbows. If possible, shoulders joined with ears. Erect spine. “Chin down between two collar bones. Eyes and mouth closed,” I mean, I can hear him saying these things. p12

 “Expand chest, spread shoulders, chin down against chest. Keep chin like log”— I like that one— “Repeat 6 exhalations, inhalations with hissing sound. Lie down flat, rest 1 minute.”

“Must keep lower, middle, upper portions of body like a stick. Lower is buttocks, rectum, thighs, knees, legs, ankles, feet and toes. Middle is shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, hands, fingers, chest, stomach, gut and genitals. Upper is neck, face and head. Throat pit: place at the bottom of throat where the two collar bones join. Constriction of inside of throat at that point produces hissing sound. Stick pose is very good for reducing fat, for tonsil complaints, to free circulation and respiration and pain in joints.” p12

 And then he ends with telling about the “hints” and what yoga is based on. “These poses you should practice continually.” In other words, by that he meant don’t begin one without the other. Like the shoulder stand, the headstand and the body twist, always do them [sequentially]…. “Hints: Do not practice with loaded stomach. Do not exhale/inhale with force. Do not speak in the middle of an exercise.” [laughter] “Should not be practiced in the open air.” That was really striking to me. “Breath comes short, breath whistles, much dust.” Of course, that’s India. “No smoking. Do not eat too much chili.” And then, “Yoga is based God, mind, soul, breath, restricted diet.” And then he said it [again as] “Restricted diet, soul, mind, God.”  p14

His first question to me: ‘What do you want?’”

when he’s telling me the L-form, the urdhva prasarita padasana, the up-stretched foot, then, “When I finished it, Krishnamacharya tells me, ‘Do not do this exercise fast.’ He shows how many people do it fast. ‘This is very harmful to internal organs. After few years, liver, stomach, bladder, other organs all out of shape.’

Leslie: And here, this is interesting. He had something under your head.
Richard: Oh yes, he always had something under my head at that point, for the lying postures. I still use that.
Leslie: But it makes your chin tuck more.
Richard: Yeah, that’s the point. He wanted my chin down.
Leslie: These days, people put things under the shoulders to take pressure off the neck. [To Eddie and Daniel] He’s got him in dvipada pitham here, with something under the head.
Richard: I always put something under the head, still. I put a little yoga brick or roll up a towel, or my shoe, to keep my chin down. You don’t advise that?
Leslie: This is classical form. Jalandhara bandha is really the first bandha you learn. p14

always found yoga to be like sailing a ship. You’re looking at an island out there, and then you reach it and you realize there’s more sea on the other side. It’s always infinite. So, in my own mind, my infinite challenge is to inhale forever— or exhale forever. You know, to extend the breath. p15

Leslie: So, when he said 7 levels, the implication was that there were 7, sort of, sequences? That you learn each one as a unit, and progress through them as he teaches you? Or, when he said 7, was it this model [points to diagram in the notebook, with concentric circles].
Richard: Yeah, here are circles. Well, I don’t know, but here I see that’s also 7. So, let me see what he said here...
“December. Today is the end of the
lesson, which that day was effective but very short, less than half an hour, I asked K again about the meaning of the word yoga. He laughed again, as though all this curiosity of mine was very funny. I was sitting and he was standing, and he began moving around rapidly, almost dancing. Today again, for the first time in a few weeks, he started grinning, giving me again Sanskrit names for exercises. He explained that yoga meant union with the supreme God, but that there were circles of yoga. Outer body, internal body, senses, mind, breath, soul and supreme God. ‘A man cannot control the world but he can control his body. The way to be supreme God, your God, is inward.’ When I numbered the circles from outside in, he corrected me, ‘No, supreme God is the first circle’”— See [points to diagram], I started numbering them the wrong way— “‘then the soul, the breath, the mind, the senses, the internal physical body and the outer physical body.’ p15

See, now we are doing the headstand in the lotus, which I sometimes do. I find that a real pleasurable accomplishment. To do the lotus headstand, then to bring my folded legs down to my belly, and lift up again.

Here he starts pranayama: “prana: breath, life / (a)yama: long.”  p15

Leslie: So, that’s your thing with the infinite breath, of that breath that never reaches its end; that’s ayama. p16

Richard: Oh, wow. Wow. [continues further ahead in notes] So, now he’s giving variations of headstands and shoulder stands. I didn’t realize how much. Oh, the kneeling pose. And then he give me my mantra.

Leslie: But what I will say is that you’re still practicing exactly what Krishnamarcharya taught you.
Richard: Absolutely.

Leslie: No, but there was the thought of what we leave once we’re gone, what remains of us—
Richard: Is our students.
Leslie: Is our students.
Richard: Yeah. I mean, these documents also remain, but basically what remains is our students. And that can fetch back very far. I sometimes, in a class, say, okay, let’s say you’re fifty. You are in your vital time. Or, fifty-five. And you teach something really important to a five-year-old. And that five-year- old remembers it. And when that five- year-old gets to be fifty-five, she teaches it to a five-year-old. How far back can this class reach? So, it goes 2000, 1950, 1900, 1850. You know, it takes
twenty people to get back a thousand years. And I said, isn’t possible that if something is really remembered, you really found it important and you really teach it, that it’ll be passed on intact? It’ll be somewhat changed, but it won’t change that much. So, we can reach back quite far into human knowledge history by means of oral transmission. And I believe that. So, I don’t know, I’m not a historian in yoga, but it seems to me that yoga is one of those practices, at least as I learned it. Krinamachrya was very precise. Now, I know that in oral tradition there are always variations. As you say, Iyengar went and developed his own. And I’ve taken this sequence, and when I teach it, I teach it not in the order he taught it to me but in a different order. I do the standing poses first... I do the seated poses last. And I don’t know why I decided to do that. I’m more comfortable with it, so I do it. I do it as he taught it, but I do it in a different order. So, I know that there are all these variations, but at the same time there’s a core that remains consistent, and I think that’s really important. And, you know, I know people think it’s threatened by all this digital stuff. I’m not of that opinion. I think the digital stuff, like print before, will coexist. I don’t see a great diminishment in people wanting a face-to-face. Especially when it’s something important.
Eddie: That was an amazing thing you just said about someone when they reach fifty-five telling another five-year-old. And that means to go back a thousand years you only need, twenty people.
Richard: Twenty, exactly.
Leslie: Twenty people exactly.
Richard: It’s a thousand years! Eddie: So, if the Patanjali Yoga Sutras, theoretically, were written, say 2,500 years ago, we only need fifty people to keep that link of teaching alive, and that’s like nothing. Fifty.
Richard: You could play that chain game and say, “Really remember this sentence!” And... it could be remembered.
Leslie: Well, in the gurukula system it’s really close to that, because you have someone presumably in their fifties teaching seven-year-olds who come into the system at around that age.
Richard: Right.
Eddie: It’s so great, because people, so many people doubt, “Well, okay, 2,500 years, 5,000 years, is that really what he was talking about?” But if you put it in your model— I need fifty people to remember— well, yeah. p17

“November 18, 8:30.” So, I studied with him early in the morning. “K tells me that he thinks I will be able to complete one course in the time here. ‘There are seven courses to yoga,’ he says p20

Also, I think he expects, or at least knows, that I will teach what I learn. During an exercise this morning, he tells me that the exercise is good ‘for backache,’ in a way that recognizes that I will tell others so.” So, by that time, I was recognizing that this is what he was doing.

We met in a upper floor which was quite bright and airy, early in the morning. I would get up at 6orso.Mylessonwas7:30or8,foran hour or so. But I don’t remember much about the household except that it was a household. There were people there. It was not a school, it was a house, and he had this room where he taught— or, where he taught me, at least.

Oh, now, here’s something very interesting, I’ll read this. He’s giving me the tree pose. “K says, ‘When wind moves a tree, it moves this way, that way, backwards, forwards. Your body depends on your breath and moves all ways.’ Later, he says there are 12, maybe 18, variations of the tree pose.

Of the tree pose, ‘If a very short man practices this 6 months, his height will grow, but only with the inhale-exhale system. I wonder if this system is exclusively his. He tells me not to practice more than 45 minutes at a time. This includes few minutes rest in middle. ‘Yoga is mental, spiritual, not wrestling.’ He says, ‘Too many people battle and torture their way through yoga, go too fast.’ He is happy I take the time to breathe.

‘Too many people battle and torture their way through yoga, go too fast.’ p22

Later, he tells me how to organize my yoga notes for teaching. ‘Each section, yes, standing positions, laying positions, jumping, sitting positions, face up positions, face down.’ But for now, I must keep this book as it is, chronologically.” p22

“K tells me at the end it is all right for two to practice yoga together, they can learn from each other, but no more than two at a time. Again, he mentions me teaching. He says he doesn’t know how I can learn what I need in such a short stay. I tell him I will return for more study. He is sitting, getting ready for the final prayer. He laughs. ‘They all say they will return, yes, yes.’ He gets up. I start to dress. Then, he remembers he has forgotten the final prayer. This really amuses him. As I leave, he tells me again not to practice fast with jerks or for too long a time at a stretch. ‘No more than an hour.’ And as I get on my bike, he, as usual, is cooing and playing with his little, beautiful grandson.” p24

He is nice boy but his mind is very—’ K shakes and dances his head back and forth. ‘He comes and says he can stay for six months. I work out a whole program for him, and after two months, he says, ‘I have to leave.’ He goes to see his father or something. p25

He tells me to remind him to show me
headstand starting tomorrow. He tells me never to do more than 40 minutes of yoga”— he’s always worried I’m going to do too much— “

He shows me how to breathe more easily from the throat pit. He is glad my breath is coming longer. He will teach me breathing exercises and some contemplation.

Going over the materials brought 1971 back again, clear as crystal. And K along with it all, his eyes, his delicate way of moving, his strength, his humanity. And the love and respect you and the others have. A great gift.”p25


My Studies with Sri Krishnamacharya by Srivatsa Ramaswami

In the summer of 1958 or so, I went with my parents to úrà Krishnamacharya’s house in Gopalapuram. My guru’s family had just moved to Madras from Mysore. We met his gracious wife, his eldest son, Srinivasan, his younger son Sribhashyam, and the last daughter, Shobha. His second son, úrà Desikachar, had come for summer holidays from Mysore, where he was doing undergraduate study in engineering. His father introduced me to him.
My father developed a particular liking for Srinivasan. One day, in his father’s presence and at his request, Srinivasan showed us ùàrüásana. He stood in the pose for well over fifteen minutes, absolutely motionless, with exceptionally slow breathing. It was perhaps two breaths per minute for the entire duration, instead of the
normal fifteen to sixteen breaths per minute. My father used to like talking to Srinivasan; one day, after conversing with him, my father mentioned that he was a worthy son of the great yogà úrà Krishnamacharya.


My studies with Krishnamacharya can be broadly classified into three groups. There was a longish study of Haôha Yoga, following his now famous Vinyása Krama, including individual and specific therapeutic applications. I learned several hundred vinyásas built around very important classic poses. There were preparatory vinyásas, then movements within the ásana itself, and pratikriyás or counter poses. My first few years of study were focused on general ásana practice. I studied in a small group made up of the members of my family gathered in a large room in our house. úrà Krishnamacharya came to our house in the morning almost daily to teach. He taught different ásanas to different members of our family, depending upon the age and condition of each individual. There was my eight-year-old kid sister, energetic and supple. I was about sixteen. My brother was around twenty and, at that time, in need of particular attention. úrà Krishnamacharya gave him special assistance. Then there were my thirty-five-year-old mother and my forty-five-year-old father to complete the group. While there were some ásanas and movements that all of us practiced, there were many that were different—particular and appropriate to each individual. úrà Krishnamacharya had great skills of observation. He had a booming voice and a certain firmness and authority in his instructions. It was always fascinating to see him teach so many people differently at the same time, a feat in itself.


But on the very first day of my study with úrà Krishnamacharya, I learned a yoga practice so different from what I had been taught and how I had seen others in India do yoga. He asked us to stand in tadásana—standing with both feet together. After some wait in the pose, he asked us to keep our heads down and slowly raise our arms, inhaling slowly with a “rubbing sensation” in the throat. “Inhaaaaaaaaaaaaale,” he said, “raise your arms slowly overhead; interlock your fingers and turn them outward.” To this day, that is how I start my ásana practice and how I teach a class. It was the first time I had ever heard someone instructing to move the limbs with the breath. “Exhaaaaaaaaale,” he said, “lower the arms with a hissing sound in the throat. The hands should touch the sides as you complete your exhalation.” It was so new and exciting. The seeds of Vinyása Krama were sown in me on that day with that movement.
Learning the various vinyásas was a lot of fun. Because I had done ásana practice when I was even younger, the learning was smooth. Integrating the breath with movements and keeping the mind closely following the breath made a profound impact on the practice. If yoga meant union, then the union of mind and body was easily achieved by using the breath as the harness to unite them. In addition, this initial training got one comfortable with the breath in preparation for more involved práóáyáma and sowed the seeds of dháraóá, or meditation, with the breath spot (práóa-sthána) as the focus of attention.

By that time—after twenty years of studying with my guru—I was teaching yoga at Kalakshetra, a well-known Indian arts college, teaching South Indian Bharatanatyam dance and Carnatic music, boutique painting, dance, drama, etc. The students were young, in their teens and early twenties. They were highly talented, and a challenging group to teach. Each student was required to study yoga twice a week for two years. In about six months I realized that I had taught them virtually everything I had learned, some 200 to 300 vinyásas and several breathing exercises! I turned to my teacher and explained my predicament to him. Is there anything more I can teach? I had read in his book Yoga Makaraóõa that he had learned
about 700 ásanas. With infectious enthusiasm he started teaching me more vinyásas and ásanas. “Have you taught this ásana, this vinyása?” he would ask. Over a long period thereafter, he taught me more and more vinyásas. I would practice them, then go and teach them in the class. It was wonderful to learn and teach at the same time. In the course of the next few years I learned about 700 vinyásas in about ten major sequences. This formed the basis of my teaching Vinyása Krama.


Yvonne Millerand student of Krishnamacharya in the 1960's inc. some excellent pictures.

I was sent a wonderful link this evening concerning Yvonne Millerand who studied with Krishnamacharya for nine months in the 60's here's the link

Here my friend Dmitry Baryshnikov translates an article into Russian which I have in turn put through Google translate to at least give a taste of the interview

Yvonne Millerand Krishnamacharya and lessons (from the book "A Yoga of a Yogi")

Millerand Yvonne (Yvonne Millerand) in his youth had been an athlete. She met Krishnamacharya in the 1960s (that was about 76 years). After that, she went to teach yoga, and played a key role in the creation of the French School of Yoga (French School of Yoga). She also acted as the author of "A Practical Guide to Hatha Yoga." She continued her studies with Desikachar (Krishnamacharya's son) after the death of Krishnamacharya and returned to India many times. She now lives in France and moved away from teaching, but still alive the memories of time spent with their teacher.

In search of a decent teacher I heard about Krishnamacharya . I wrote Krishnamacharya letter to Madras, and we exchanged many letters to each other before I actually went to India. About my stay was delivered several conditions. I had to promise to refrain from the use of eggs, meat or fish. Of course, I agreed. Finally, I received a very warm and inviting letter from Madras and went there at the end of August. My daughter Christina went before me, I booked a room at the hotel, and most importantly, gave me an appointment with the Master on September 3, 1964 at 5 pm. She came to me and introduced me to the Master at the first meeting.

He was sitting on the stairs. He greeted us and then asked me to come to enter the classroom. After a short pause, sitting in a chair, he said: "Show me what you can do." I was very impressed, but managed to do all that came to my mind - the slopes, deflections, cords on both sides, twisting Pashchimottanasana, Ardha Padmasana, Sarvangasana, Shirshasana and many others. I sat down and looked at him. Suddenly he asked me, "Why did you leave your teacher?" Christine and I replied at once: "He's dead, sir." English, difficult for my understanding, he said: "You do not know anything. You do not know how to breathe and you just jump up and down like a sparrow! Come back on Friday at 5 pm, not before and not after. "

I arrived just in time. Giving me a few lessons a week, he started with a simple asana practice. I was to establish a link between breath and movement. Breathing should be controlled hand movements, slower breathing, the slower the movement. Each asana followed repeated at least four times. After one hour lesson in a sitting position, I learned the sound Udzhdzhayi and be able to distinguish it from the nasal sound. He allowed me to begin the simplest Pranayama - Udzhdzhayi Anuloma and Udzhdzhayi Viloma.

Krishnamacharya used to tell me, "lift up your chest," for the fact that, due to the rise of my chest, I could fill the air flow based on my lungs. After that, he insisted on the exhale with the abdominal muscles and the perineum. Breathe in and out - of course, but with the insertion of pauses, everything changes. Coached control is felt as an affirmation of life and gives a sense of a better life, by controlling breathing and blood circulation, which are interrelated. This is what I felt.

After a few asanas, he taught me the role of counter-poses, whose mission is to revert certain negative consequences. He taught me a variety of asanas that I never met. He never imposed me their names in Sanskrit and wherever possible used the English - "posture bed, mountain pose, stand on their shoulders, stand on your head, etc." On the other hand, he taught me all the names of Pranayam in Sanskrit. After a while he began to measure my heart rate before and after class. My heart rate should not exceed 65 beats per minute, that he was sure that my breath harmoniously followed the efforts during the practice of asanas.

Time has flown by very quickly. Toward the end of my stay did Krishnamacharya special emphasis on the two postures and their variations - and Sarvangasanu shirshasana. He asked me is in these positions, first on 15 minutes, and then gradually to 20 minutes. He wanted me to be equalized the number of breaths in each case. I never managed to do it in Sarvangasane, feeling more at ease working with shirshasana.

Until now, in front of my eyes is that last experience, printed in memory before I left Madras. After a few asanas Krishnamacharya asked me to do a headstand and stay in it for 30 minutes and count my breath. He remained in the classroom, watching the clock, until the time is over. I was busy holding the account balance and the number of breaths. I lowered my fingers one by one to the back on each breath, so when I used my 10 fingers, I knew I had done 10 breaths.

Upon completion of my 36 expiration Krishnamacharya told me to lie down for a while. I felt good, but when I walked out of class to the street, to me there was a very unusual thing. I was surrounded by blue light, like I was in heaven. Around him, I could not see anything but blue. I'm still wondering how I came back to the hotel, probably as well-programmed robot, I sat in my room, my mind is blank, no thought, no movement. Blue slowly subsided and disappeared. In my head there was a question: "What happened to me?" I served almost one breath per minute. Was the reason for the slowness of my asana or breath made this emptiness in my mind? My mistake was that I did not dare tell Krishnamacharya about this experience in my next lesson.

On his last day in India, I brought a basket of fruit and a flower garland for my teacher. He handed me a diploma and gave permission to pass it on to other lessons. His wife and son were also present, which was a great honor for me. My stay in India has been the greatest adventure of my life.

My relationship with Krishnamacharya much changed during my stay. I did what I asked for, no questions asked. If I did not know the name of any asanas in Sanskrit, the master uttered it and I repeated after him. He was hard to please, but he was always fair. Gradually, I better understood the words that he used. He began to speak more softly, and I began to feel more free with it. Between you and formed something like a close connection, and he seemed pleased when he saw me. Eventually I plucked up the courage to ask, "How yogi react when confronted with poverty in the streets?" I watched the corpse lying in the street a man completely ignored by passers-by. He replied: "I care about those who are close to me. Where I can do something useful, like, feed or heal those who sleep next to my door, I'll do it. For the rest, I pray. "
We used to talk during small breaks after the practice of asanas and pranayama before.

Once I dared to ask him about what he thinks about the chakras, because at that time in Europe, all of them was talking. He said: "You should not touch the lower three chakras, as they depend on each other. On the front side of the head symbolizes the consciousness of Ajna, Sahasrara on top of the head - a symbol of perfect knowledge, but the most important is in the heart chakra. " He did not mention the throat chakra, which surprised me. The lessons continued.

One day, I was really touched when I was doing the long practice of pranayama with Krishnamacharya, sitting in front of me in a wicker chair with his eyes closed. Then I felt a strong desire to open his eyes and look at him. Descended on me from without vision - black motionless figure around which shone golden light aura, full of exciting love struck right at me and enveloped the whole, as if the master took me to a new level of consciousness. I was moved and fascinated. Anyway, I finished my practice. Not a word was said, but I will never forget this experience.

Krishnamacharya trusted me enough to offer me to use the name "Narayana" during pranayama. He pronounced it, with emphasis on the letter "p", forcing me to repeat it until he was satisfied with my pronunciation. Then he said, "It belongs to the sacred name of my tradition. You have to look at their own culture name that you wish to call in his heart. " I was free of any influence, and thanked him for it.

On return, I was greeted by a classroom and my disciples. All were eager to hear about India and master. What I taught, it was literally a revolution for the students. Asanas are either dynamic or static, which they had never done before. Nasal and "breath Udzhdzhayi" they were not familiar with. It took them several months to adapt to so many innovations. Each lesson is different. I observed the technique of "Vinyasa" preparing to asana, and then leading to its implementation.

Krishnamacharya changed my life, recognizing his student. I think it is a living entity that continues to inspire me. His wisdom and patience are still alive in me. Just as a child can love his school teacher, so I love him with all that is due to him, respectfully.
Krishnamacharya teaching Yvonne Millerand from A Yoga of a yogi (?)


On this site there are some free downloads of magazine articles ( in French) including this one that has the most wonderful pictures of Krishnamacharya teaching Yvonne.

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 know a yoga quality from a long line of Indian masters (she was a student deTirumalai Krishnamacharya) Specified in France under the name "Yoga 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 progress ... and I noticed that she was more flexible than me! She gave me my first lessons, so I make my turn its attention.

FB: What it differed teaching gymnastics?

YM: The difference with gymnastics was the fact that we were taught movements associated with breathing. For example, crossing his arms expire on a bending back on inspiration with outstretched arms. It does not impose pace, everyone did as he could, some went too fast. It was also to postures.

FB: Static? We are already in Asana!

YM: Yes, but he did not use that word!

FB: Where himself did he know?

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"). He organized meetings also allow students to explore practices of oriental origin. For example, he brought someone who "practiced OM". As elsewhere, it was taken by its core business, and its activity "healer" gradually I began to serve as his assistant (as Roger Clerc), and to work his students. Everything I learned, I diffusais in As ... or I invented ... or I was looking for myself to explore some ideas.

Then one day I was talking to the students of the descent of the diaphragm on inspiration, so they understand the mechanism of respiration, Mr. Ferrer went into the room and heard me. He then criticized this statement, "It is not breathing that you need to talk, 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 have more raw. 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 progress, Mrs. Klein, spoke of his 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, put me to the 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 issue was the Master: "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 sautillez 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 a testing classic!

FB: What were the practice in which he emphasized in particular?

YM: The length of expiration. A reason many lessons per week, it began with simple postures. I had to combine breath and movement, breathing governs the speed at which stood the arm, for example, was the breath slower, so slow was the gesture. Then he taught me the glottal to be in the cavum, cavity which lies behind the nasal and seek a slight vibration inside the head, jaw and tongue relaxed ... It is when you do that!

Each asana is supported by deep breathing, whether static or dynamic. There is no exception should feel the movement to perform according to the possible slow breath. For example, any rotation of the torso is exhale, we breathe by reducing the bust to the starting position. Inhale and exhale are acts of nature, but by inserting downtime, everything changes, the control seems to be an affirmation of life, and gives the impression to exist better managing the two main functions of breathing Traffic, which depend on each other. I liked that it was in Pranayama and Nadi Shodana Pratiloma. The delicacy of breath asked full attention, being aware of emptiness "inside the sight" ... I can not describe what I've learned, but I've never forgotten!

After a moment, he trusted me enough to suggest me to use the word "Narayana", another name for Vishnu, during Pranayama. He gave 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 my tradition, you have to find your own culture in 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 cons-poses, designed to erase some negative effects of asana last long.

I could also start the easiest Pranayama, Ujjayi and Anuloma Viloma Ujjayi.

Krishnamachrya often told me "high up the chest" that I begin to breathe in raising the chest by sending the airflow to the base of the lungs. He then insisted on expiration, using the abdominal muscles and those of the perineum, the levator ani.

FB: What was it for the purpose of asana?

YM: Entering through attention to areas which were not accessible. 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. There was also a lot that posture could be improved by a relaxed attitude, and constantly had to be supported by breathing into four phases, inspiration, full suspension, expiration, suspension empty.

He attached great importance to the concept of viniyasa, meeting with a "top", a main posture. He loved to climb slowly things difficult, wait to get the full benefit.

He made me do postures that I do not know, I never impose Sanskrit names ... When he could, he used English, "bed pose, pose hill, standing shoulder, head standing against ... By I learned all the Sanskrit names of 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 was inventive?

YM: Absolutely, he sought out lessons too rigid.

FB: In his youth, Krishnamacharya left foot, 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 in southern India?

YM: Why ask? Yoga is unique, it does not need labels!

If there was a distinction, it is rather on the side of the masters! There's good, there's bad! Krishnamacharya never spoke nor his master, nor his learning, at least this time.

FB: The spiritual aspect of yoga was there a place in your initial approach, or did you discover this dimension with Krishnamacharya?

YM: It's very strange things happened that I have neither sought nor forced, and that made ​​me discover and understand the spiritual aspect that could take a job on 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?

YM: There were stops, I was carried by his breath, for he felt himself ... Sometimes I open my eyes and see before me like a flame ... There was a communication without words of great power .... But he did not use the word meditation. He spoke of concentration ... 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 a priori, in total confidence, it was a good ground for entertaining!

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 intransportable West. "Guru and disciple one must stand close to each other, and to interview," he said.

YM: It is true that it is a mode of exchange which is not applicable here. But we may well meet his master, because it is he who teaches, and love. There were times when we were all Pranayama, a communication lightness. He knew when 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", but a trainer has a duty to pass the torch to a few students with whom he has detected a particularly fine and also understanding the sincerity in a spirit of complete confidence. Pass must not be selfish, experience must be deep. Beatrice and thee, and Charlotte, and Daniel Gerard, continue to inform teaching. You understand the meaning of my work and my research, in the spirit of discipline, humility and tenderness to my heart. 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 ... You did he fear?

YM: Not at all! He talked a little hard, but I did not care ... It was hiding something else. A kind of familiarity has 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 man who sleeps outside my door or the wall of my house ... So I do .. For others, I pray. "

FB: His teaching Westerners differ from that he lavished the Indians?

YM: I do not think so, but I think he came to regret, of all origins, some people had the body too damaged, he probably thought it was difficult if not impossible to guide control systems ...

FB: Krishnamacharya thee he shares with other facets of his scholarship?

YM: No, never! When I arrived, he deposited the books he had on his knees and began.

FB: I've heard several times that it is the interest of the West to the Yoga that gave this renewed discipline for the Indians. What do you think?

YM: Absolutely!

FB: The Western adaptation did she not have its origin in the fact that in our practitioners are mostly women, and this from the beginning?

YM: We are moving towards a feminization of yoga ... yoga Avoid "plan-plan" if you 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 brings out new sensations that will keep practicing on the way.

FB: What do you think of the current Western development of yoga? What do you think that this inevitable transformation does not turn drift?

YM: We are fortunate to have the Sutra 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 most superficial of which we would have lost the juice ...

FB: What, according to you, the right attitude of the teacher in relation to the spiritual search of a student?

YM: If given the desire to find, it is ... But it did not influence ... 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 doors in succession, and each time it is in another domain. There are physical action and then the effect, which emerges and which should be allowed 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 in India and the Master. I decided to teach an hour and a half for after the postures, having the time to explain and comment on the study of Pranayama. We had to change the way they breathe, relax the shoulders and chest to be able to start the inspiration from the top of the cage, 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 his "nose" and that of "Ujjayi".

Several months were needed to enable them to adapt to successive discoveries. I wanted that, through their work, students are more internalized, the fusion of body and mind leads them to discover in depth to be less materialistic to establish a stable, inner calm, and 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 scripts. 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

Another interview here in French from Journal of india


And here perhaps is Ramaswami channelling Krishnamacharya




5. inc. MALASANA
6.  inc. PASASANA

7. inc. FULL TADASANA ( on toes)


  1. Thanks for this Anthony!! precious as usual and I will get back to it again and again I think.
    It would have been fantastic to be able to study under the man himself but of course we have the memories and if each of his students transmits what he/she learnt as faithfully as he/she can, and we (you are doing it for many of us, really) sift through the individual understandings and modifications, we may have a glimps of him.
    Or maybe not.. he must have been a really formidable man. I think about the idea of the teacher being a mirror for the students, I feel he must have applied that concept a lot, may even explain the many (apparently) different ways he taught, more than just simply his age when he taught different people, or the age his students were the ones he taught them?

    It is also interesting to see how many things in the practice itself change with the years... that thing about taking the shoulders to the ears for example, today it would probably be frowned upon!
    Perhaps with more knowledge of anatomy, we do thing better (?) but sometimes I wonder whether this additional information is ultimately is a good or bad thing. Too much theory and you risk not letting your body and breath guide and inform your practice anymore.. although of course not everybody has the same proprioception so some guidance can be useful.

    On the changes in the practice, my teacher told us recently that for example at the KYM they now teach the low form of vajrasana (balasana with arms extended forward) with arms extended, elbows lifted from the floor and the ears in the arms line, so the front head does not touch the floor.
    He asked whether/why this was changed and they said 'oh, that was the old way, we teach it differently now' perhaps they saw that people have lower hip mobility and to put the head on the floor is too much strain, who knows...
    but then again, enter chakravakasana from such an extended form of vajrasana and it is immediately more open... oh well!!

  2. I'm almost tempted to include the pictures from the next post of Krishnamacharya and the big guy, K's warm smile while teaching, and how he is doing some of the postures with the student just as with Yvonne in this post, how I was teaching on Sunday too in fact. What was that he said to Richard in the first section about ideally teaching one at a time, two at most, perhaps he was at his happiest teaching this way.

    Re changes, I like to think of them as alternative variations of asana, they are supposed to be countless after all, as many asana as there are birds and beasts ( and Rishi). I also think more and more that if you take a video of somebody jumping through and then going into a posture, marichi D say, and then freeze the video second by second until in the full expression of the asana then all those frozen frames are also asana. Ok perhaps not all of them but every stage of getting into the asana an extra breath or two or eight could be taken, my idea of 'hidden' asana idea. I should do a post on this to illustrate what I mean. In Astanga there is that tendency to rush into a posture, you jump through and then try to get in the posture on one inhalation or exhalation rather than take four, five, to get into and then again out of the posture. I have dodgy left knee so often take a few extra breath to get into mari D, occasionally like to really milk that and take three breaths at each stage.


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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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