How long?

picture of skyiver
One guy asked the skydiving instructor,

“If our chute doesn’t open, and the reserve doesn’t open, how long do we have until we hit the ground?”

The jump master looked at him in perfect deadpan and answered,

“The rest of your life.”

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Source: somebody e-mailed this to us.

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A Guru’s burden

Picture of Krishnamacharya
Krishnamacharya was struggling. With a steadily dwindling number of students, his campaign to promote yoga was going nowhere. He had a family to support and his only source of steady income was now under a threat. Krishnamacharya faced a critical decision. Should he compromise and secure his income or should he stick to his values and all that he stood for?

In many ways a guru is different from a teacher. A teacher’s personal life is divorced from what she teaches. A history teacher need not worry that her personal decisions have any bearing on what she teaches. A guru on the other hand has no such luxury. A guru is a guide that shines light on the path to God. A guru’s life is an example and what he/she says has to reflect in his or her actions.

In the early 1900’s hatha-yoga (the yoga of postures) was on the decline. Krishnamacharya’s guru had asked that he make it his life’s mission to promote and popularize yoga. Krishnamacharya had accepted this challenge and had plunged head long into this task. But this was an uphill battle to wage for a single man of limited means living in a remote corner of the world. Krishnamacharya’s brilliance lay in the fact that he understood that his battle was not external but internal. His struggle was not in trying to make others follow what he wanted, but in mastering himself so that his life would be an example for others. He had to become a guru.

Let us jump back to Krishnamacharya’s story taken from A. G. Mohan’s wonderful book. In the 1950’s Krishnamacharya was teaching yoga in a college in Chennai. At this point in his life the income he earned from this was vital for him. However there was a difference of opinion with the management of the college on how he should be conducting the class. The management told him that he should change how and what he was teaching, and if he did not comply his service would be terminated. Rather than compromise Krishnamacharya responded, “Very well then. I will have more time for my own practice!”

This is a small incident but illustrates what goes into the making of a guru. Most of us at this point are thinking, “The burden of being a guru is too big to bear. Thank God I do not have to carry this burden!” Unfortunately for those of us who are parents or guardians, we cannot wish away this burden. A child’s first gurus are always its parents.

A quote by Robert Fulghum is appropriate to end this post. “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

Related: The Story Of Yoga

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The story of yoga

Yoga is practiced by millions today. But in the early 1900s yoga was unknown and on the decline. What happened that led to this tranformation? This story tells you how yoga moved from the obscurity of the caves in the himalayas and into our everyday lives. The story of yoga is the story of extraordinary sacrifice and extraordinary people. Now in about 5 minutes you will get this story that has never been told in this way before!

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Krishnamacharya time-line

Picture of Krishnamacharya

1888: Born. First learns yoga and pranayama from his father.

His father dies at an early age but has planted the seeds of yoga in young Krishnamacharya. When the young boy asks his dad a difficult spiritual question he replies that he should study Patanjali’s yoga sutra. His father also lets the young boy know that Nathamuni was their ancestor. Nathamuni lived in about 900 AD, was a poet-saint, and a practitioner of all the 8 limbs of yoga.

1904: Age 16 Krishnamacharya has a deep mystical experience.

At the age of sixteen, Krishnamacharya was visited in his dream by the saint Nathamuni who directed him to go to the town of Alvar. Krishnamacharya travels to Alvar as instructed . Once he reached there he falls in a trance like state. He found himself in the presence of three sages; one of them was Nathamuni himself. Nathamuni began to recite from the long lost text called Yoga Rahasya (Secrets of Yoga). When he awoke from the trance he found that the sages were gone but he remembered every single verse of the text! This experience was the foundation that set Krishnamacharya on his epic quest into yoga. About 30 years later Krishnamacharya authored the book Yoga Rahasya but he never claimed to be the original author.

1904-1906: Joins Mysore University and also learns from local religious order.
1906: At the age of 18 leaves Mysore for Benares.

A monk observing him practice yoga, saw his proficiency, and directed him to the yoga master Babu Bhagvan Das. On completing his study with him he earned the degree in yoga and Samkhya philosophy.

Krishnamacharya felt he needed to go deeper into yoga and made inquiries. The principal of the college in Benares then recommended him to go to Tibet and study with one of the last remaining masters of yoga: Ramamohan Brahmachari.

1911: Aged 23 travels to Tibet.

Stays for 7.5 years till 1918 with Ramamohan Brahmachari who teaches him yoga.

1924: Age 36, stay in Benares ends and he moves back to Mysore.

Maharaja of Mysore eventually opens a yoga school for him to teach at.

1925: At the age of 37 gets married to Namagiriammal.
1927: Meets Pattabhi Jois (age 12) and accepts him as student for 2 years.
1932: reunited with Pattabhi Jois (age 17) who studies with him till about 1945.
1934: Teaches BKS Iyengar, his wife’s younger brother, for two years.
1937: Meets Indra Devi (Eugenie Peterson) and cures her in a few months.

Indra Devi stays with him another year and learns yoga.

1947: Yoga patronage ends as the powers of Maharajas is curtailed

India gets freedom from the British in 1947

1953: Now 65 years old, moves to Chennai.
1955 meets Srivatsa Ramaswami.
1961: TKV Desikachar, his son, has change of heart.

Desikachar gives up his lucrative career and begins study of yoga with his father.

1971: meets AG Mohan.
1984: At the age of 95 suffers fall but refuses surgery.
1989: Age 100 dies.

Related: His story in a short video: The Story Of Yoga

Some of the time-lines differ from wikepedia, these are taken from A. G. Mohan book which we deem more authentic.

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The story of 700 Vinyasas

Picture of Srivatsa Ramaswami

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.

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