Krishnamacharya was a great yogi and a modern day sage. But he was always very humble and rarely attempted to bring attention to himself. He only taught what he thought would be useful to the student and not to show off his knowledge. Though he knew a large number of yoga asanas and their variations, he would just teach a few asanas as appropriate to any one given student. This is the story of how one particular student was fortunate enough to learn about 700 Vinyasas from Krishnamacharya. (Vinyasas are variations in the yoga asana or yoga posture).
Outside his immediate family Srivatsa Ramaswami is reputed to have spent the most time learning yoga from him, getting introduced to him in 1955 when he was just 16. After about 20 years of study with Krishnamacharya, Srivatsa began to teach yoga at an arts college to students of dance. As part of their curriculum the students had to study yoga for two years, twice a week. The students were young, in their teens and early twenties, extremely talented, and a challenging group to teach. Since they were such quick learners Srivatsa found that in about 6 months he had taught them everything he knew! In all he had communicated to them about 200 Vinyasas and a few breathing techniques. There was still 18 months of teaching to be done. Not knowing what to do, he turned to Krishnamacharya for guidance and help.
With infectious enthusiasm Krishnamacharya began to teach Srivatsa new asanas and Vinyasas. “Have you taught this asana, this vinyasa?” he would ask. For the remaining duration of the course, Krishnamacharya would teach Srivatsa a new yoga asana or vinyasa. Srivatsa would practice it front of Krishnamacharya till he had mastered it, and then go out and teach his students. By the time they were done Srivatsa was fortunate to have learned from Krishnamacharya about 700 Vinyasas in about 10 major sequences. What is even more important that Srivatsa has now published a book titled The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga that has provided a detailed description of each Vinyasa with over 1100 color pictures. Thanks to sheer providence we now have a knowledge base that is preserved for all time to come that would have otherwise been lost!
There is an element of art and aesthetics in the sequencing of Vinyasas to form a sequence according to Srivatsa. “The basic parameters used in Vinyasa Krama are steadiness of posture, a calm mind, synchronization of breath with slow movements of the limbs, and while in the postures, having the mind closely follow the breath,” Srivatsa says.