"Tirumalai Krishnamacharya" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tirumalai_Krishnamacharya.png#/media/File:Tirumalai_Krishnamacharya.png


Krishnamacharya is one of the more interesting figures in the paradigm of modern yoga’s founders. He probably had the greatest effect on the types of yoga that we practice today in the west and he healed many people during the course of his life. He used Ayurveda in conjunction with yoga to restore health and well-being to the individuals he treated and he wrote four books on yoga. He might have invented vinyasa flow as we know it today.

Tirumalai Krishnamacharya lived for 100 years; was born in 1888 and died in 1989. During his lifetime he taught many of the world’s most renowned yoga teachers: BKS Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, TKV Desikachar (his son), and A.G Mohan (worked alongside Desikachar).

Krishnamacharya had a traditional childhood; when he was six he underwent upanayaya when he learnt to write and read Sanskrit, chant the Vedas, and learnt asana and pranayama from his father. When he was 10, Krishnamacharya’s father died and his family moved to his grandfather’s house in Mysore. In Mysore Krishnamacharya attended more advanced schooling and began traveling around India when he was in Mysore.

When he was 18 he moved to Benares to study logic and sanskrit, but would visit Mysore again at 21 to study at the university of Mysore. He would continue to study and practice his yoga in Mysore and Benares until he walked 2 and a half months to the base of Mount Kailash in Tibet, where Brahmachari lived with his family. Krishnamacharya spent 7 & 1/2 years studying under his guru and took payment of teaching yoga, having a family, and maintaining a household.

Krishnamacharya returned to the world and traveled to Varnasi, where he did menial labor for a time until his knowledge was recognized and he was introduced to various nobility for his healing and yogic knowledge and skills. The Maharaja of Mysore took particular interest in Krishnamacharya and installed the yoga teacher in his palace in Mysore. Krishnamacharya would move on to perform lectures all over India, stimulating interest in yoga and eventually was able to start a yoga shala in Mysore.

While in Mysore, Krishnamacharya authored several books and taught yoga consistently, a guru to many of the world’s future gurus. Many scholars also place emphasis on some of  Krishnamacharya’s sources, saying that he used books referencing western gymnastics in many of his exercises. In 1946 India gained its independence, but this was bad news for Krishnamacharya; he was forced to travel to find students and to support his family. His yoga school eventually closed in 1960.

The remainder of Krishnamacharya’s life was spent in scholarship; he viewed himself as an eternal student. When he was 96 he fractured his hip, but refused surgery to treat himself while in bed. He lived and taught in Chennai until he died in 1989, at the ripe age of 100. Even though Krishnamacharya’s teachings radically changed the world he never left his homeland of India. He is one of the most influential figures in yoga; it is possible that he even invented modern yoga as it is known today; he was a learned scholar with degrees in philosophy, logic, divinity, philology, and music; and you might have heard of him. He is certainly one of the most influential individuals of the modern age.



Taoism in Modern Yoga

It has recently started to become more and more apparent to me that Zen Buddhism, Taoism, yoga, Hinduism, and Jainism are all very inter-related, and that the western teaching of yoga is in fact much more than traditional (Krishnamacharya influenced) yoga based in Hinduism.

The definition of the Tao is a great replacement for the idea of what people really mean when they mention god, or the universe in modern context. The concept is almost completely equivalent to the Brahman (unchanging reality, universal life-force energy) of Hinduism.

A great definition of the eternal Tao:

“Look at it and do not see it: we call it invisible.

Listen to it and do not hear it: we call it inaudible.

Touch it and do not feel it: we call it subtle. . . .

Infinite and boundless, it cannot be named;

It belongs to where there are no beings.

It may be called the shape of no-shape,

It may be called the form of no-form.

Call it vague and obscure.

Meet it, yet you cannot see its head,

Follow it, yet you cannot see its back.” (chpt. 14)

As you can see, this fits perfectly as a substitute for Brahman, even the Zen concept of Nirvana. The eternal nothingness at the core of the somethingness of all of nature. They say that the normal human faculties are just not equipped to deal with this, very parallel to the Hindu idea of Maya, the illusion of consciousness. Buddhism just does away with it altogether and describes everything as illusory.

Really, the icing, cake, and decorations are all about forcing the body to breath in different ways, with gymnastic exercises for strengthening and purification of the body’s energies. Advanced techniques in all practices advise a lifting of the pelvic floor during breathing exercises. Mula Bandha. All focus on breath retention, seamless breathing, as well as forceful breathing in order to sit still and meditate for longer and longer periods of time.

Each has a medicinal system that compliments the physical practices of gymnastic and demanding physical posture, movement, and full body movements. All are focused on restoring the balances of energies in the body and aim for longevity, in many myths and legends giving rise to divine beings with superpowers.

All place emphasis on learning your own nature, learning how energy flows in the body, and aligning with a greater, universal nature. All place emphasis on detachment, especially from desire and quelling the senses.

All have very simple teaching that can take a lifetime to understand.

I don’t believe any one system is better or worse than another. They simply have different ways of teaching and expanding knowledge within the body and the mind. I know a lot of Ashtanga yogis want to believe that the six series ‘ARE THE ONLY PERFECT’ Series, but I find this to be a load of crap. The same crap Catholics spew when they tout the necessity of communion and how you need communion, reconciliation, or some other traditional method to be cleansed. There are always other ways. So maybe the primary series is great for learning, but like the bible, it is one source that we draw from when formulation hypothesis, or formulating our ideas about how things tend to operation and function. To view one path as superior is the only way to be wrong, because surely, an alternate path has the possibility to be better for a different person.

So I don’t drink cool-aid. If it seems to easy, then it is. Once you think you are right, you are wrong, so I stay skeptical because I haven’t been convinced by evidence yet. And the evidence would be the person in front of me.

This is why I think I came across the world to practice with a traditional guru in a traditional system (75 years old). Because I wanted to explore the experience and I knew that I would learn more about myself and my world in the process.

I’ll conclude by showing you a couple of ritualistic preparatory exercises used by Taoism and Ashtanga, which I find to be incredibly similar and yet depicts some of the different approaches to the same problem.

Translated opening incantation for Taoism:

“In my room, the seven jewels come together,

Doors and windows open of themselves.

Utter in my purity, I strive for deeper truth,

Riding on bright light, I ascend the purple sky.

Sun and moon shine to my right and left,

I go to the immortals and find eternal life.”

Opening chant of the Ashtanga Practice:

“I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Guru

which awaken insight into the happiness of pure Being,

which are the refuge, the jungle physician,

which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara (conditioned existence).”


Ayruvedic Oils: from right to left, Lavender, Saffron oil, Sandalwood oil, Lotus oil

Ayurveda | आयुर्वेद

About 80% of the world’s population relies on tradition remedies for their health care needs. India has many alternative medical practices that date back over 5,000 years, alongside yoga in the Indus Valley Civilization.

Ayurveda means “knowledge of life” and includes the use of herbal medicines, mineral or metal supplementation (rasa shastra), surgical techniques, opium, probiotic, CannabisIndica, and application of oil bymassages. In the laboratory, Ayurvedic techniques have shown promise, however, due to the enormous amount of confounding variables associated with the healing techniques, many applications of Ayurveda have yet to be proven. Part of the reason for this is that Ayurveda is used to promote vitality, wellness, and optimal health, which is hard to measure in the body, compared to illness and  visible cellular degeneration.

The other reason that America has no idea about the effectiveness of Ayurveda is that there is little money in it. Almost all of the plants used grow naturally and are therefore unpatentable. However, I believe that Ayurveda has tremendous value in application and am going to explore the Indian knowledge of its uses while I am here. But it is very hard to find real scientific data behind the practice of Ayurveda here.

There is one major problem with Ayurveda; many of the processing and mixing techniques are not effective in mass production. This can lead to oils having too many heavy metals and toxic chemicals such as Mercury and Arsenic. The answer to this problem is toxicology and spectroscopy of the final produced products, which is not a readily available practice in India due to the economic circumstances. However, the higher quality oils are somewhat guaranteed, at least this is what I have learned from foreigners and locals alike. The best manufacturers create pure oils.

Within the first four nights of living in Mysore, I have met two of the major pure oil suppliers (not-mixed) and the most renown statue maker in India. All were very persuasive business men that I kind of had to dismiss because they were so interested in selling to me, partially because I am an American and partially because I am a potential customer. I’ll talk about the statue maker later with some of the Hindu religious practices, temples, and deities.

The first supplier was excellent. I could see the quality of his oil, pure, and the distributor assured me that they were highest quality and that he used them himself. He said there was only one distributor with higher quality oils than himself. I will be returning to him, but he sold me lavender, which I find to be extremely soothing and helps me to sleep. It also has anti-septic and anti-inflammatory properties and is relatively easy to find and process into oil.

The second supplier was even better. He assured me that he was the highest quality supplier in India and that Kino MacGregor and other yogis come to him personally to supply themselves with oil. He showed me letters from satisfied American customers and all had amazing things to say about him. If possible, I will be starting an export business in the US with him, which he agreed to. But I also stipulated that I would need toxicology reports on the chemical mixtures of the oils. He agreed, but has no idea how to do it. Maybe I can figure out how to use spectroscopy to measure this, but I am pretty sure I will need to find another partner skilled in pharmacology, or some similar discipline.

I bought Lotus oil, Saffron oil, and Sandalwood oil, all at very good prices $10 for 25mg. Saffron is very rare, it should last me a long time and is used for energy, known as a mood enhancer because of the way it interacts with serotonin in the gut, and is used to increase respiratory health. Lotus oil is used for meditation, but is relatively unstudied in the lab. Major uses include arthritis, diabetes, and fungal infections. Sandalwood oil is the final oil I bought and is used for mental health, focus, and raises blood pressure. All of the oils have anti-carcinogenic properties.

I am very satisfied with the quality of the oils, but I am really interested to learn more about how they interact with body chemistry and affect the different organs. It is really silly that we don’t know more about these basic remedies, instead of finding new chemicals that can be patented. It shows the corruption of the current American pharmaceutical industry, that is not interested in healthy people, but making money. It’s not really a criticism, just an objective observation. There is interest in helping people, but the corporations are not regulated appropriately to really produce the most efficient, quality results. The problem again, is mass consumption and production instead of personalization and customization for the unique qualities of each individual.

Here are a few more pictures from the last few days:

Mysore Garbage Collectorbuilding_under_construction desolation in India indian_workers

Shiva Spray Painted portrait

My First Mysore Style Practice and a New Friend

I have to admit that I am always a bit surprised when I meet people in other countries that I connect with. It always seems like such destiny, like I had already known them for a long time.

Two days ago when I first arrived, I kind of blew off a rickshaw driver He was pretty close to my age, but I felt like I wasn’t sure if he was trying to swindle me or not. He tried to make a plan with me where he would take me to the palace, then come back to pick me up and show me other stuff. It was a pretty sweet deal honestly, I was just very skeptical and wasn’t sure about how much rupees were actually worth. Well, today I passed him as I walked back from Gokulam and he was a little disappointed that I didn’t come back to his rickshaw. He just wanted to be friendly.

In the afternoon, I went to Gokulam, in the Northwest of the city, which is where all of the yoga shalas are (I didn’t know this at the time), there  where I met Sharath’s son and we got to play a little soccer outside of the yoga shala. I think Sharath might have walked outside, but I wasn’t sure, then Saraswathi came out to meet me and tell me what to do. Arrive at 9am tomorrow, practice at 9:30. Then register in the afternoon. They are also giving me a break on the price without even asking, which is extremely considerate of them. I think they probably do well for themselves and their kids, but it always nice to be considered for my age, because I really don’t have a lot of money and this is going to make things much easier as my bank account dwindles down.

On my way back from Gokulam, which is on the
Northeastern part of the city, and I was planning on walking the whole way home to keep strengthening my legs. I was pretty close by the palace, but completely lost and pretty tired when I saw the rickshaw driver again. I still can’t remember his name.

We got to talking and he started to tell me about his friend who is into Ayurveda and they showed me their awesome essential oils, made completely from plants. Sandal oil, Lavender, Amber, you name it they have it. I bought some lavender, but I’ll give you the full details in my next post on Ayurvedic medicine. We made a plan for real this time and I decided that I would give a little trust because he seemed to just genuinely be interested in me and in general liked foreigners. He took me to the palace to see it at night, with the lights, which is pretty incredible.

We then went to his friends medicine shop, where I found all kinds of awesome oils and medicines. They had a ton of marijuana oil for therapeutic and medicinal benefits, but I didn’t try any cause I didn’t want to pay for it. Then we went to dinner and I ate like a freaking king for under 4 dollars.

Afterwards, we went to a restaurant that has the best Indian food I’ve ever had, hands down. We hung out for an hour or so and I got to ask them all kinds of questions. Indian people are so laid back its incredible. Apparently, the Jois shala is currently the top school of yoga and Saraswathi the best teacher, though they spoke a bit about the elite nature of the shala. That means there are a lot of arrogant white people around, though I haven’t really seen this side of things and really don’t want to. Learning about Saraswathi’s unique method from the outside was pretty cool to hear, especially considering that I met her earlier and I will be practicing with her for the entirety of my stay. One woman named Katie that was studying under her told me that Kino McGregor and some other semi-famous yogi were here and she said that the Jois fire was the hottest around. It’s also the most expensive. Cool, I guess.

Back to the rickshaw homie; this guy was just totally showing me India and just being my friend for no reason other than he knew I was foreign! It was awesome! I think that foreign people must be extremely interesting to them, because it is very expensive to travel outside of the country. But the driver and his friend were cool enough that when I couldn’t take money out of the ATM, they lent me some dough for food! I will repay them tomorrow, but wow it’s really amazing how generous they were. I am so grateful that I got to eat good Indian food and make a couple of friends!

There is a really interesting juxtaposition between acceptance of poverty and greed and it all has to do with expectation. Some seek to receive, others seem to avoid it for no reason. I tried to give one guy an extra 10 rupee for a raw coconut and he refused. On the other hand, the dinner server couldn’t seem to wait for his tip. He was standing over me as I got out my wallet and paid.

I came back to Gokulam this morning, but my friend didn’t show up on time so I had to take a separate rickshaw, which sucked. Some rickshaw drivers really can be jerks, they try to take advantage all the time. But I got to the Shala at 9, walked in and started the primary series.

I practiced this morning so I finished my 5 sun salutation A & B, then started working towards standing postures, triangles and side angles. That’s really all I have been taught in the strict traditional method and I forget the order of poses, so Saraswathi started telling me what to do, in spite of everyone else in the room. It was kind of awesome, to receive that kind of attention while she was assisting others she just kept talking to me, trying to tell me what to do, how to go about the postures and such. At the end her assistant came up to me to make sure I was okay and I think she was surprised that I didn’t understand what she meant. I’d rather be critiqued completely on something rather than left to stagnate in bad habits. Yoga is truly a practice where bad habits can be formed, whether it’s a thought process, or an alignment issue, or whatever.

The traditional Ashtanga method have some particulars that I am very unused to, in transitions and even in the postures themselves. It’s probably going to take a few days to get it all down, but the standing postures are rad, I’m happy to do them a bunch. I’ll probably practice the order mostly, rather than working with my breath tonight, just to get my body used to it so I can stop thinking about it. It’s kind of weird for me to think about my practice while I do it because I am used to just flowing with what my body wants. This is more disciplined and more rewarding as a result.

I am very excited for tomorrow, and for hanging out tonight, I am on a mission to find my friend, but I can’t remember his damned name!

Also, I saw my first monkey today, from a distance, in a tree above the city. Next quest monkey pictures!

In the meantime, check out my latest pictures below:

cows and dogs eating trash




calves on the street







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