Your Gurus’ Guru: T. Krishnamacharya

The teacher of Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, and Desikachar emphasized individuality rather than one treatment for every illness.

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If you’re fairly new to yoga, you may not recognize the name Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, but you’ve probably heard of three of his students: B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois, and T.K.V. Desikachar, who went on to develop Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, and Viniyoga, respectively. Born in 1888 in Mysore, India, Krishnamacharya received his first instruction in Sanskrit and yoga from his father. He went on to attend the Royal College of Mysore and later spent seven years studying in Tibet. He returned to Mysore in 1924 and later opened a yoga school. In 1976, Krishnamacharya’s son and closest disciple, T.K.V. Desikachar, founded the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, a yoga center in Madras. Krishnamacharya worked there until his death in 1989. Drawing on his father’s teachings, Desikachar developed Viniyoga, which tailors a yoga practice to the needs of the individual student. In 1995, Desikachar told Yoga Journal, “The way yoga is taught nowadays often gives the impression that there is one treatment for every illness. What makes my father’s yoga teachings unique is his insistence on attending to each individual and to his or her uniqueness.”