The Master’s Voice: Audio Recordings of Sri T. Krishnamacharya

Svastha Yoga/Ayurveda; from Gardens of Yoga; (813) 831-1598;; CD; 70 minutes.

This cd collects 15 recordings, made over a period of 14 years, of T. Krishnamacharya (who died in 1989 at the age of 100). Krishnamacharya was an eminent yoga scholar and the spiritual “father” of three important modern schools: the Ashtanga Yoga of K. Pattabhi Jois, the Viniyoga of T.K.V. Desikachar (Krish-
namacharya’s son), and the eponymously named Iyengar Yoga. (B.K.S. Iyengar was Krishnamacharya’s brother-in-law.) The recordings consist primarily of prayers and chants from various ancient Vedic texts, most of them shorter than five minutes.

This CD offers a rare opportunity to listen to the japa (recitation) of a 20th-century yoga giant. There are, however, a couple of problems. First, all the recordings are in Sanskrit or Krishnamacharya’s native Tamil, and while there are transliterations of a couple of the tracks available online—that is, the Sanskrit is rendered into the English alphabet—there aren’t any translations, nor are the sources of some selections cited. So, unless you know Sanskrit or Tamil, it’s impossible to understand what’s being said. Second, half the selected chants are drawn from a little-read portion of the Vedas—for example, the longest, at 25 minutes (more than a third of the CD’s total time), comes from the Yajur Veda, an obscure, hard-to-find text. The second-longest chant, at 13 minutes, is the first chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika; it’s a relatively easy text to find and read, but since it consists largely of bare-bones asana instruction, it’s hardly as inspirational as, say, the Bhagavad Gita.

The Master’s Voice obviously has significant historical value, so someone in charge of the archives of a large yoga school, ashram, or retreat center—especially in the Ashtanga, Viniyoga, and Iyengar lineages (or that of Indra Devi, Krishnamacharya’s first female student)—will definitely want to have a copy. It also has some practical value: If you’re a yoga aficionado, you’ll surely want to hear how japa is traditionally performed, whether or not you can understand the words. Indeed, no true yoga nut will want to be without this recording. For the average student, however, there just isn’t enough supporting material—such as translations and commentaries—to make this interesting or valuable. It’s worth noting, though, that profits from the recording’s sale will be used to support the preservation of Vedic knowledge.

Contributing Editor Richard Rosen teaches public yoga classes in Northern California. He is the author of The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama.