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.