Tirumalai Krishnamacharya is often regarded as the progenitor of modern yoga. He spent the majority of his life travelling the world teaching, demonstrating, and living the practice, empowering himself and countless numbers of students through his developing skills.
A great scholar, holding degrees in all six darsanas (Indian Philosophies) and studying logic, grammar, and Sanskrit under Brahmashri Shastry — one of the greatest grammarians of the time — Krishnamacharya lived for many years in relative obscurity. After a time, he caught the attention of the Indian Monarchs, and rose to a position of great honor in Indian society. He enjoyed this position until the government’s reorganization in the 1940s, when his yoga school was closed and he was forced to travel and teach extensively to support himself.
Through all these life experiences, Krishnamacharya came to formulate what, today, is the most influential and commonly practiced form of yoga on earth: Vinyasa, in which the movement of the body is synchronized with the breath.
While he is remembered in the west mainly as a teacher and popularizer of this form of yoga, in the east it is his skill in physical and spiritual healing that is recognized above all. Indeed, many accounts paint him as being somewhat of an an anomaly, able to stop his own heart beat(!) and living to the ripe old age of 100.
The following quotes have been curated in order to convey the core of his incredibly powerful teachings.
1.“Why do we need money beyond a point? If we are free of ill-health, enmity, and debt, is that not enough? Too much money only leads to less peace.”
2. “This creator, is he in front of us or not? If not, how does this work? Without doubt we all realize that work does not happen without a reason. Therefore, one who is giving us this variety of unlimited fruits without end in this tree of universe must be immensely powerful, with unlimited knowledge, unfathomable, have infinite empathy and having many other amazing qualities. His existence is documented in all Vedas and Puranas.”
3. “Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.”
4. “Rid your body of its impurities, let your speech be true and sweet, feel friendship for the world, and with humility seek wealth and knowledge.”
5. “Master your breath, let the self be in bliss, contemplate on the sublime within you.”
6. “In the practice of Yoga one can emphasize the body, the mind or the self and hence the effort can never be fruitless.”
7. “Knowing all objects to be impermanent, let not their contact blind you, resolve again and again to be aware of the Self that is permanent.”
8.”Where is the delusion when truth is known? Where is the disease when the mind is clear? Where is death when the Breath is controlled? Therefore surrender to Yoga.”
9.“Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.”
10. “Let your speech be true and sweet.”
11. “The moment I say I am a Yogi — I am not a Yogi.”
12. “Action with an unclear mind is a circuitous route. Action with a clear mind is a straight route.”
13. “When disturbances that take the mind everywhere but nowhere are contained, then the individual is like a high-class diamond, with no blemishes.”
14. “In recommending Yoga practices, teachers should always consider an individual’s particular circumstances. Just as other activities and practices must be adapted to the changes in one’s life, such as aging, so too Yoga practices need to be adapted as the practitioner changes.”
15. “Breath is indispensable for life, and its absence is death. Hence the necessity to make it longer and accumulate the Prāṇa Śakti. Just as a rich man accumulates money slowly to get wealthy, so also one should practice every day through the proper use of the breath in Āsana to maintain good health.”
16. “Impurities in the heart cause mental agitation – anxiety, lack of direction, anger. This agitation, in turn, affects the body, sometimes making it impossible to sit still even for a few minutes.”
17. “How we feel during the action is the quality of the action.”
18. “According to my teacher, trying to calm the agitations of the mind by reflecting on external objects is like trying to get milk from the wattles hanging from the neck of a goat. All seekers of truth are therefore advised to focus, instead, only on objects that are in the realm of the divine.”
19. “In order to discipline the mind, we need to develop a mental practice that clearly reveals the distinction between the nature of spirit and matter.”