Poses and postures

T.K.V. Desikachar on teaching yoga to J. Krishnamurti, popularising the discipline and making the city of Chennai his own

April 20, 2010 06:30 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 12:37 am IST



Our family lived in Mysore for generations, but my father Krishnamacharya came to Madras in the early 1960s at the request of some of his yoga students. I came to Madras to see my father and ended up never leaving, attracted by his work. I began to learn yoga from my father, and started teaching as well at a time when the practice of yoga didn't have the respect it enjoys today.

Teaching yoga was not seen as a serious profession. A turning point in the popularity of yoga was when I started teaching J. Krishnamurti, the famous philosopher. A Frenchman who had taken lessons and whose health had improved suggested that Krishnamurti learn yoga from us. So, on January 1, 1966, I began teaching him asanas .

Krishnamurti's foundation was in Vasant Vihar, a huge building on Greenways Road. It was very calm and quiet there, even with thousands of people coming to listen to his lectures every day. I would teach him in the morning for 20 minutes before he gave his talk, and then again in the evening. Sometimes, I would stay behind and listen to his lecture as well. I remember, every time I arrived for a class, he would be waiting with a rose in his hand to receive me in the portico!

He was so pleased with the improvement in his health that he began to advise those who came to him to practice yoga as well, and yoga became more and more popular in the city. I began to accompany Krishnamurti when he travelled in Europe, and several of his followers there, Indians and foreigners alike, became my students.

More people started coming from abroad to learn yoga. One of his followers, Gerard Blitz, the founder of Club Mediterranee, brought an entire group from Europe who stayed here and studied yoga in 1967.

Suddenly, I had a lot more students and became very busy. Through Krishnamurti, Rukmini Devi Arundale also became my student — she had been unwell and was having difficulty walking. I would go to Kalakshetra at 7 a.m. and teach her. Her health improved as well, and she decided that everyone at Kalakshetra should have yoga lessons. That practise continues to this day.

Initially, we lived in a small apartment in Gopalapuram. In Mysore, we had a huge house with large grounds filled with mango and papaya trees, so it was quite a change! Later, however, we purchased a large property (close to where Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram is located today).

At that time, the area was full of flies, which was a source of annoyance to everyone. You see, people used to tie up their cows in small huts, milk them and sell the milk there. But after we started construction, the flies went away; the people in surrounding areas were very glad!

I taught yoga from a room in that house for quite some time. The Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram trust was founded in 1976 with a mere Rs. 1,000, and we later moved to new premises. But I continued to study with my father, whom I had absolute belief in, until the day he died in 1989.

(As told to DIVYA KUMAR)

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.