Is Yoga Philosophy Dogmatic?

Namaste, my friends!

One of the questions I always get when I travel around the world to teach is whether Yoga is Dogmatic. I have not seen a discipline in the world as non-dogmatic as Yoga. Yoga talks about practice and detachment as the fundamental pillars of its success. It does not talk about the idea that we must conform to a particular standardized set of practices or rules.

The beauty of Yoga is the concept of Viniyoga that is presented already in the Yoga Sutras and that was subsequently expounded by Acarya-s like Nathamuni, Yogacarya T Krishnamacharya and more recently Acarya TKV Desikachar. What the principle says is that all Yoga principles must be adapted and applied according to every individual practitioner and not be standardized. The concept of standardization does not exist in Yoga but rather Yoga is talking about applying different principles in a unique manner to every individual because Yoga teaches us to honour every individual as a unique being.

Hence my friends, Yoga is definitely non-dogmatic. You don’t have to be a believer of a particular religion to practice Yoga. You don’t have to be in a particular state of flexibility to practice Yoga. You don’t have to be belong to a particular cult or a sect to practice Yoga. Yoga is non-dogmatic and universal. The only condition that it requires is that you are dedicated in your practice through daily sadhana.

Therefore, my friends please embrace Yoga as a non-dogmatic principle and teach Yoga as a non-dogmatic principle.

Namaste!

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher
Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation, Chennai, India

Why is Asana popularly known as Yoga all over the world?

Asana is indeed the most popular tool of Yoga in the world today. There are a couple of reasons, which I feel, I can attribute these to.

First of all, when Yoga spread outside India, it spread through certain great teachers like Sri. BKS Iyengar and Sri. Pattabhi Jois on the one hand, and certain disciples of Swami Shivananda on the other hand. Disciple of Swami Shivananda took more religious and a monk like approach. That is why you will see many of them engaged in Bhajans, Mantras and all these kind of practices. But students of Sri. Pattabhi Jois and Sri. BKS Iyengar took on a very physical approach because Sri. Pattabhi Jois and Sri. BKS Iyengar concentrated mostly on Asana practice. This is also because when Sri. Pattabhi Jois and Sri. BKS Iyengar studied Yoga with their Yoga Teacher Acarya T. Krishnamacharya when they were teenage boys in the 1930s and Arcarya T. Krishnamacharya taught them only Asana practices. He was of course teaching the king and the ministers in the Mysore palace the other techniques, but these students being young boys were part of the group that practiced mostly the Asanas practices.

Historically Sri BKS Iyengar moved away from Mysore when he was very young and Acarya T. Krishnamacharya also moved away from Mysore in the late 40s, so these students did not continue to have time with their masters to learn other practices of Yoga in detail. So, when their influence in the west increased, Yoga got established very much in the minds of people as Asana practices.

This is also because you could see that people like Sri BKS Iyengarji would give demonstrations to thousands of people showing amazingly and extraordinarily difficult Asanas which would “wowaha” the people and the audiences which got established very strongly in the minds of people as Yoga.

There is another reason I attribute to the popularity of Asanas. In modern society, the physical body is given intense focus. People want to develop the physical body, they want to look good, they want to look good in their profile pictures, Instagram pictures as well as in videos therefore the physical body gets a lot of attention.  Asanas are very physical in nature in the eyes of many Yoga practitioners, eventhough classically Asana is not just a physical practice. This is another reason why the Asanas have become very popular in the minds of public as Yoga practices. That is also why you will see many people who retire from Gymnastics or dance like Bale and other things. they all get attracted to Yoga because it is very easy for them to do the physical postures.

These two are in my opinion the strongest reasons the why Asanas are the most popular tools of Yoga today. However, I sincerely urge every Yoga practitioner to look beyond Asana practice, which means necessarily to give up Asanas, but to transcend the Asanas and embrace the other wonderful, deep practices of Yoga. There are many wonderful benefits to be achieved. This will be a very good motivation for people to engage in the holistic practices of Yoga.

Namaste!

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher

Do I need special clothes to practice Yoga?

A big market for Yogis today is the Yoga clothing market where many people are told to buy special Yogic clothes like yoga pants, Yoga shorts, Yoga underwear etc., which have become a very essential part of all Yoga conferences and seminars. But actually, when we go back to the history we see that Yogis were practicing Yoga in their normal clothes of that time.

The normal clothes of those times were dhotis which were very traditional Indian cloth and that is what they were wearing. This was like pants for us now. Yogis were not actually going shopping to buy some special pants for Yoga or special clothes for Yoga, but they practiced with what they had.

In the 1950s Acarya T. Krishnamacharya wrote an article on this topic of why Yoga is in fact the most accessible ways for practicing for the main public.  In this he describes that one of the reasons is that it is very economical, no need to buy extra clothing, no need to by extra equipment etc.  In fact references on this can also be found in his first book the “Yogamakaranta” which he wrote in 1934.

If you look at all this Yoga actually does not require not just extra clothing but extra equipment like crops and all those kinds of things. The Yogis were very practical and used what was available. There is no need to buy anything additional to practice Yoga. The only investment that we need to practice is “time”.

Dr.Kausthub DesikacharViniyoga® Teacher

WHO IS SIR TKV DESIKACHAR?

Sir TKV Desikachar, who developed Viniyoga® (a term from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali),is the son and successor of Acarya T. Krishnamacharya.  What Madhurakavi Azhwar was in the Vaishnavism in the discovery of Nammazhwar Sir TKV Desikachar is in the field of yoga for the public know the entire range of Acarya T Krishnamacharya’s teachings.

Before Sir TKV Desikachar came into the field of Yoga Acarya T. Krishnamacharya was a legend already, but not very well known, especially his teaching was not very well known.  The spectrum of teaching was not very well known.  It was TKV Desikachar the second son of T. Krishnamacharya who really brought out the multitude of  Acarya T. Krishnamacharya’s teachings and built bridges between the traditional Acarya T. Krishnamacharya and the modern world.

If today Acarya T. Krishnamacharya’s teaching is well known the most important credit goes to Sir TKV Desikachar. But Sir TKV Desikachar was not just a postman or a messenger in the field of Yoga. He was a very great established Yogi in his own right and his contribution to the field of Yoga are made. He was very generous in his contributions and many of us we use them today without even knowing that these came from Sir TKV Desikachar.

One of the greatest gifts he gave to the field of Yoga is stick drawings. Today most of the people use stick drawings to represent asanas and pranayama. This was conceived and created by Sir TKV Desikachar way back in the 60s and 70s using his background in engineering and brought it as a good way and an unique way and in a simple way to communicate the teachings of Yoga  to the people so that they could write down their practices in a small piece of paper which can be taken back home to use it as reference to practice. Sir TKV Desikachar is also the one who brought greater light to the field of Yogasutra in modern Yoga circumstance.

Of course, Yogasutra has remained thousands of years. There is no doubt about it. But the modern world – the Western world did not know much about Yogasutra philosophy.  When Yoga was practiced in the 50s and the 60s few people knew about Yogasutra philosophy. When Yoga was practiced in the 60s and 70s, very few people knew about Yogasutra Philosophy.

It was Sir TKV Desikachar who opened the Doors of Yogasutra philosophy also to the public in a conference in Zynal in the early 70s. Eventually he wrote the commentary on the Yogasutra as well which became a part in the  legendary book of “The Heart of Yoga”. “The Heart of Yoga” is another major contribution of Sir TKV Desikachar which in a very simple way describes the entire teaching of Yoga in a very simple and very crisp manner. Since being published in the 90s this book has become one of the greatest references of yoga irrespective of what tradition people follow. This was one of the greatest contribution of Sir TKV Desikachar, one of the best books he ever brought. Sir TKV Desikachar is also the link between traditional Yoga and modern medical science.

He built bridges between Yoga and modern science especially medicines, inviting doctors, psychotherapist, psychoanalyst and many projects heads,  so that people would understand the Yoga Therapy functions. Acarya T. Krishnamacharya was one of the most important Yoga Therapist of his time, but very few people could understand what he was doing and how he was doing. It was Sir TKV Desikachar who built these bridges to help the Western world understand about Yoga as a Therapy function. This is another credit to Sir TKV Desikachar. Sir TKV Desikachar also helped Yoaga system and the Eastern system to many of the spiritual traditions in the world.

For example, he met with Dalai Lama, he met with the Catholic monks, the Carmelite monks, etc., to help bridges and to communicate to them that the yoga is a universal tradition that can be practiced by people irrespective of their original faith.  This was very significant because the evolution of yoga especially in the 80 s and 90s  here were some resistances where people were not open to Yoga because they thought that Yoga was cult or another religion and they have to give up their own faith to practice Yoga. Sir TKV Desikachar removed all these by engaging a wonderful conversation with all these spiritual teachers.

One of the greatest contributions of Sir TKV Desikachar to open the doors of Chanting to everybody. Prior to 80s only very few people were allowed to practice the chanting of Mantras. Women were not allowed. Western people were not allowed. This was due to the very strict rule followed by the traditional Indian Brahmins. But Sir TKV Desikachar understood how important the chanting of mantras in the field of Yoga and he opened the doors of Chanting. It is because of Sir TKV Desikachar today that the Mantra and chanting have become such an integral part of Yoga especially to women and Western audiences. These are some of his important and very profound contributions which are very practically used by people on the day to day basis.

There is also another important contribution Sir TKV Desikachar has done but not yet known to the public but drawing the process of revealing to the public which is his transalation of many of the important works of Acharya T. Krishnamacharya. Acarya T. Krishnamacharya had a very peculiar habit of using Telugu script by Sanskrit language. This promise he has made to his teacher. Very few people would interpret this because they needed to know both Telugu and Sanskrit languages to find easy relatively. The more important of all is that these are all technical manual.  So, it is necessary that somebody should know not only these languages but also its technical aspect.

Thus, Sir TKV Desikachar has translated many of these documents which we are slowly in the process art drawing,interpreting and eventual publication. Sir TKV Desikachar had been a very silent giant in the field of Yoga amazing an extraordinary that the world decided to celebrate the International Yoga Day on Sir TKV Desikachar’s birthday. That is the greatest respect that we can offer him or we have to thank him for his contributions.

Namaste! Sir TKV Desikachar.

By: Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher