A yoga friend once ended her explanation with “… and that’s why Ashtangis don’t like Iyengar.”
Since deepening my yoga practice, not only have I delved more deeply into yoga history, but I have come to learn that within the Yoga world, there are divisions between practitioners.
Human nature does not seem to change. Over and over again, after the leader’s death, whether it is Christians, Muslims, Buddhists or Reiki practitioners, different camps repeatedly develop. Like the Tudors, the lineage holders fight over who gets to be the next in charge or who carries the mantel of authority.
Many time disciples become so attached to their guru, teacher or lineage holder, they build mental cells around themselves. As evidenced in the 2012 yoga scandals, even when practitioners witness abuse, often, they say nothing. Because of the financial and emotional investment, speaking out becomes difficult as they do not want to labelled the community’s whistle blower and thrown out. More often than not, it is a newcomer, drawn to the promise of salvation, who points out, “The Emperor has no clothes.”
Modern Ashtanga, Iyengar, Vini, Krama and Vinyasa yoga and their subsequent derivatives – hot, power, prana, and yin – all came from the teachings of one man – Sri T. Krishnamacharya.
Sri T. Krishnamacharya never taught outside of India. Only recently his books were translated into English from Kannada. His Hatha yoga circled the globe because of his legendary students.
The different yoga practices Krishnamacharya taught to his famous protégées – Pattabi Jois, BKS Iyengar, Indra Devi, and TKV Desikacher – reflected the students’ age and health as well as Krishnamacharya’s age when he taught them. For the great yogi, like his students, evolved over time.
Jois’ Ashtanga yoga reflected a twelve-year old’s robust health.
Iyengar’s yoga came from a health remedy given to him to improve his sixteen-year old’s lungs affected by TB.
Indra Devi’s yoga included insights into diet and pranayama. The fifty-year old Krishnamacharya, who by then was married and had children, believed, or realized, women benefitted from a different yoga.
Desikachar, who studied under his father for thirty years, initially rejected his father’s yoga and pursued an engineering degree. After witnessing a female student hugging his father and thanking him for helping her overcome her insomnia, he changed his mind. It was the early 1960s when he begged his nearly, 70-year-old, father to teach him his yogic healing.
It appears to me, Krishnamacharya’ s yoga is so relevant because he addressed all ages and was able to resolve many, health issues.
For those who choose discord rather than cooperation, I do not despair; the body will continue to act as the classroom. Over a lifetime, our bodies will guide us to adopt the “different” lineages and evolve into the full-spectrum of yoga Krishnamacharya practiced.