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Practice As Many As You Can: T. Krishnamacharya's Yoga (Rerun)

By Ninazolotow @Yoga4HealthyAge
by Nina

Practice As Many As You Can: T. Krishnamacharya's Yoga (Rerun)

T. Krishnamachrya in a "New" Pose

I thought this would be a good post to rerun this week because it may help inspire some of you to start practicing yoga at home or to change up what you're doing! —Nina

In my post Authentic Yoga, I mentioned that most of the yoga asana we do these days were invented in the early 20th century. In his book on the origins of modern posture practice Yoga Body, Mark Singleton focuses in particular on the innovations of T. Krishnamacharya, the teacher of three very influential 20th century yoga teachers who had a tremendous impact on yoga in the western word, Iyengar, Jois, and Desikachar. Krishnamacharya was clearly a genius, whose system, as Singleton puts it:

"can be fruitfully considered a synthetic revival of indigenous exercise (comprising yogasana alongside other types) within the context of Westernized curricular physical education in late colonial India."
Because so many people are reluctant to practice yoga at home due to concerns that they might not be doing it “right” or don’t have time to do what they would do in one of their full-length classes, it’s worth taking a little time to look at what Krishnamacharya (who was, for many of us, the original teacher of our teacher, or our teacher’s teacher) was doing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dear readers, he was making stuff up! For details you can see the wonderful book The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace by N.E. Sjoman. But for now let’s just look at this quote in Yoga Body from T.R.S. Sharma, one of a group of students at the yogasala in Mysyore, which confirms that Krishnamacharya’s teaching was intended to be, and in practice was, experimental:

"was innovating all the time in response to his students. He would make up variations of the postures when he saw that some of his students could do them easily. “Try this, putting this here, and here.” He was inventing and innovating. Krishnmachrya never emphasized a particular order of poses, there was nothing sacrosanct about observing order with him. He would tell me “practice as many as you can.”

The quote as whole really brings home the idea that, regardless of what we may have been told by certain teachers, the practice of yoga asana traditionally was not a rigid system that you have to follow or else it won’t be effective. And it seems to me, if you’ve been reluctant to practice at home due to time restrictions or concerns about doing something wrong, this quote contains a great motto for home practice in general: 

Practice as many as you can.

Since it is December already and you may be thinking about New Year’s resolutions, “practice as many as you can” also seems like an excellent resolution for starting or deepening a home practice next year.

P.S. Hey, Krishnamacharya's alignment in Utthita Parsvokasana (Extended Side Angle pose) in the photo above doesn't look the same as what I've been taught is "correct," so that must mean....

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