The YJ Interview: Partners in Peace

An amusing storyteller, A.G. Mohan often recounts comical and profound moments from his 18 years of study with Sri T. Krishnamacharya, who is known as “the father of modern yoga.” Mohan’s new book, Krishnamacharya: His Life and Teachings (Shambhala Publications, 2010), offers a loving remembrance of those years. With his wife, Indra, Mohan travels internationally, teaching the Yoga Sutra and other yoga texts. With their son Ganesh, the Mohans founded Svastha Yoga and Ayurveda, based in Chennai, India.

How did you meet Krishnamacharya? A.G.: We met him in 1971—the same year we were married. I was 25 years old and had degrees in engineering and management and a good job. I also had a strong interest in spirituality and so attended one of Krishnamacharya’s lectures. He was 82 but seemed much younger. He stood straight and still like a statue and spoke without hesitation. I was spellbound. By 1978, I had quit my engineering job and devoted myself full-time to studying with Krishnamacharya and teaching yoga.

You often teach Patanjali‘s Yoga Sutra. Why do you emphasize that? A.G.: Yoga is a “do-it-yourself” path. No one can give peace to you. But the Yoga Sutra shows you how to find it. Patanjali teaches from experience and shows us what we need to do if we want to steady our minds and live in peace.

What is your teaching style? Indra: We don’t offer ongoing classes. Sri Krishnamacharya emphasized that the practice has to be personalized. When we look at a group of students, we see that the needs of each one are different. So we focus on individual practice rather than a group practice. However, we do teach some group asana classes during seminars.

You’ve been studying together and teaching as a couple for many years. What is that like? Indra: It has been a great journey for both of us. We are very fortunate and blessed to have similar interests in life. It is very fulfilling to study and discuss the timeless message of the great seers and then to share this knowledge with interested students.

How has your practice evolved? Indra: It has deepened over the years as we continue to reflect on the profound message of the ancient texts. We get up a little before sunrise and practice asana and Pranayama. We do our puja [ritual] and continue with mantra and meditation. In the evening, before dinner, we practice asana, then pranayama and meditation. This has been our practice for many years.

If you could communicate only one thing to students, what would it be? Indra: Based on Krishnamacharya’s message, I would tell students that whatever practice they do—be it asana, pranayama, or meditation—the attitude of letting go and connecting with the inner presence of quiet and steadiness is most important.

A.G.: Make steadiness of mind your goal. In every life, there is happiness and unhappiness. We can’t control that. But through diligent practice, we can remain steady and peaceful.