What is the difference between Surya Namaskara & Candra Namaskara?

Surya Namaskara is the technical name that is given to a sequence of practice which is popularly known today as the Sun Salutation. Some people also do a variation and call it as the Candra Namaskara. Many Yoga teachers and students ask me the question of where is the origin of these sequences, what are the effects, especially the differences in the effects between the two.

The origin of these two sequences is relatively unknown. There are many texts that do not talk about these sequences, especially the Yoga texts. It is my understanding that these sequences have been borrowed from what is called as the “Sastanga Namaskara”, the normal prostration done in the Indian tradition.

What makes this sequence as the Sun Salutation or the Moon Salutation is not the sequence itself. In traditional times these sequences were not done as a physical practice but rather as a spiritual practice with the inclusion of Mantra that honour the deity. So, when they chanted the Sun Mantras – the Surya Namaskara Mantras the sequence came to be what is called the Surya Namaskara. When they chanted the Moon Mantras the sequence became known as the Candra Namaskara.

The Sun Salutation or the Surya Namaskara is much more common and popular for many reasons. Firstly because of the importantance of the Gayatri Mantra which is a part of the procedure “Sandyavandanam” that is done three times a day where we are doing the sequence with the Sun Mantras and therefore we are invoking the Sun. That is why the Surya Namaskara is much more popular in today’s context. The effects will depend on the Mantras that are used because the Sun has different sets of Mantras, the Moon also has different sets of Mantras. But normally speaking the Sun Mantras are much more stimulating , heating and energizing than the Moon Mantras. So the difference is not in the sequence or position but the difference is in the Mantras that are used during the practice.

This is the difference between Surya Namaskara and Candra Namaskara.


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

Why does the Viniyoga® tradition combine Mantras with Asana and Pranayama?

This is a very important question about the role of Mantras in Asana and Pranayama. First of all we have to understand that Yoga is not the movement of body. Yoga is the movement of Prana, an energy. That is why the Yogis were very clear that they wanted to work with Prana. In the Vedic tradition, that tool actually manifest Prana and works with Prana is mantra.

Whether it is a Pranayama technique or an Asana technique they were using Mantra as a part of the practice so that the Prana would get activated and it will move in the body the way it is meant to be.

If you think about Asana for example, in the traditional times the Yogis were doing Asana-s statically. They were not jumping from one Asana to another like monkeys will jump from one tree to the other.  They were actually staying in the Asana practice for some time. What were they doing in the Asana when they were staying?  The were regulating the breath.

Asana is actually a Pranayama practice. In every Asana they would stay with some focus on the breathing,because the breathing would direct the energy to certain parts of the body which the Asana would facilitate. When you twist one side the energy is focused on one side. When you twist to the other side the energy is focused on the other side. That is what they were doing in the Asana practice where they would stay and breathe. We all know that in Pranayama we have to measure the breathing capacity. Inhale equal seconds and exhale twice the duration of the inhale etc. In modern time we are using a watch to  measure what is 5 seconds, what is 10 seconds etc. But think about the Yogis long time ago when they didn’t have a watch. What did they use? This is where the role of Mantra comes in. When they would stay in a position where they had to breathe inhale and exhale with equal duration they would use the same mantra during inhale and same mantra during exhale by reciting mentally. So the Mantra would become the measure of breathing.

That is not the only reason why they are using Mantras. Certain Mantras triggers certain effects on the body like Mantras on the fire or Sun or Mantras that are heating and therefore they are targeting the Pita system in the body. Whereas Mantras like water or earth are much more grounding or  much more cooling,  they would focus on lower Cakras in the body which is connected with Kapa.

Different Mantras have different effects as well. That is why they would choose different Mantras in Asanas and Pranayama so that these kind of effects would also manifest.

We all must remember that the Yogis did not practice Yoga sadhana whether it is Asana or Pranayama based on modern science. The Yoga has its own science and it’s the responsibility of all modern Yoga Teachers, Yoga Therapists to learn the Yoga science. Working on the Asanas and Pranayama through the modern understanding of human body like this Asana will work on this muscles  or that Asana will work on that muscle is not actually very accurate. If we take that approach it is like following the blind person or referring to Google Maps of directions in Lisbon when you are actually searching for a Restaurant in Rome . It just doesn’t make sense.

The Yogis used the ancient knowledge of understanding the human body that come from both Yoga, Ayurveda and particularly Sankya Philosophy to make the tools of Yoga work. According to Sankya Philosophy the most fundamental structure in our human system, the material structure in the human system is what is called the “Sabta Tanmatra” the fundamental element of sound. So when we are using the Mantras we are influencing the very subtle system in our body and through that there is changes in the gross skystem in the body as well. This is yet another reason why Yogis used the Mantras in Asanas, Pranayama and other practices.

This is another reason why the Mantras were used in the Yoga practices because Mantras influence very subtle systems in our structure.


Dr.Kausthub Desikachar
Viniyoga® Teacher @ Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation

What are the benefits of extension of breathing?

Pranayama is a very important aspect of Yoga and the goal of Pranayama is “Deerga and Shukshma” i.e. the breath has to be long and smooth. Breath extension is very important because it has consequent impact on our neurological system, on our emotional system and also on our physiological system.  When the breathing is long and smooth the body feels relaxed. Therefore the relaxation response is triggered in the body. So the body’s muscular structure feels relaxed, strong not tensed and on the edge the neurological system is relaxed and so it is not in the state of panic but rather when we are relaxed our sensory system in environment will perceive accurately so our responses will be accurate.  In the same way, our emotional system will also function in the appropriate manner when we are relaxed.  For these reasons the extension of breath is important.

What is very important is the extension of breath alongwith the smoothness or subtlety of breath. Patanjali does not say “Deerga Prana”.  He is talking about the “Deerga and Shukshma” the subtlety. The quality of breath is as important as the length of breath. We can’t just extend the breath where the quality of breath is dropping. Smoothness and the subtlety of breath is very important because the smoothness and the subtlety of breath has a direct impact on our energetic system. That’s why we must not think of Pranayama as a championship  with our source where everyday we are competing so that our breath becomes  longer each day.

We also have to focus on the smoothness of the breath because if the breath is not smooth it indicates that there are some psychological and physiological obstacles. We need to learn these obstacles and overcome these obstacles so that the smoothness can be ensured.

So, my friends, do not only focus on the extension of breathing, focus on the extension of breath with the smoothness of breath as well. The “Deerga and Shukshma” are both essential and important parameters to measure the quality of our breathing. In yoga the quantity is not always important but its the quality also equally or  perhaps even more significantly important.

Namaste my friends!

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar

Viniyoga® Teacher @ Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation

Why should I practice retention after Inhale and Exhale?

This is a very important and an interesting question in Yoga practice.  Basically, in Yoga practice a very important tool is Pranayama because we are working directly there with Prana, our energy system.  The way we work with our energy system is through regulation of breath, conscious regulation of breath. We have to extend the inhale, we have to extend the exhale etc.

A long inhale and a long exhalation is representative of a very calm and steady mind. When you are excited or when you are distracted or when you are disturbed the breathing will become shallow and short. Whereas, when we are focused and when we feel relaxed you will see that the breath will be much longer; much more quieter. You can see this in babies. When babies are in the comfortable arms of their mother they are relaxed and the breathing becomes very very smooth, very very long. compared to them of course.  Whereas when a stranger carry the baby, when he comes and takes the baby, the baby gets disturbed and you can see that the breath starts to get  short. So breath extention is not for extending the breath like the championship as to who has the longest breath. Breath extension has consequences into our mind structure so that the mind becomes more relaxed and therefore in turn then the has an impact in our physiological and emotional structures as well because we are a holistic entity.

But breath cannot be continuously extended. I can’t just extend my inhale and exhale as I want. So, at some point we need to educate our respiratory system to become able to extend the breath. One of the tools that allow us to extend the breath is retention after exhale and retention after inhale.  The retention after exhale vitalizes the exhalation and the retention after inhale vitalizes the inhalation.  At some point when we are not able to extend the breath further, say after inhale or after exhale, we use the retention after exhale and the retention after inhale to vitalise the breath for the current moment and over a period of time you will see that by extension of the  retentions after exhalation, the retention of the breath will become possible because the muscular capacity of the respiratory system will get trained in this manner. This is one of the main reasons why retention after inhalation and the retention after exhalation were suggested.

There are many other reasons as well. But the scope of this video prevents us from going into such kind of detailed explanation.


Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher

What are the Yogic Tools for calming the Mind?

Yoga definitely is about influencing the mind to become more and more calm. Calm mind is able to achieve much more than a distracted or an agitated mind.  You can observe this in your daily life.  When you are actually calm you are able to do much more than when you are disturbed or agitated. This is for many reasons. First of all, a calm mind needs less energy than a distracted energy or an agitated mind. When we use the calm mind, we have much more energy at our disposal, whereas when the mind is agitated or distracted the energy is lost unnecessarily and therefore we cannot do much more.

There is also another reason. When we are having a calm mind, we are able to reflect much more peacefully and therefore come to a much more appropriate solution rather than when we are agitated or distracted. That is why Yoga is emphasizing on calming the mind.

There are many tools that are presented for calming the mind in Yoga practices. A key among them is the technique of Pranayama. Pranayama is considered one of the best tools and the simplest tools to calm the mind. The longer our breathing becomes the more calm the mind also becomes.  Pranayama is considered as one of the best tools because it directly influences the mind and it can be done everywhere. I remember when I used to travel with my teacher, my father, sometimes we would be on the flight, he will just put the blanket around his head and do Pranayama under it because he didn’t want the people to be disturbed or get distracted from what they are doing. That is the flexibility of Pranayama. You can do it anywhere you want including the plane – as a passenger not as a pilot hopefully, as a passenger in a car you can do it in your house or yoga studio, you could do in a park or wherever you want.  This is why it is one of the most efficient and effective tools because it’s very practical.

But there are also other tools like visualization, meditation, mantra practices which are also very effective in calming the mind. What would be ideal is to check with our teachers what would be the best practice to be ideal for each of us to calm the mind in a most efficient and effective manner. This is because each of us are very different, we have different responsibilities in our life, we are in different stages of our life, and therefore what may appeal to us at this moment will be different from what will appeal to another person in the same moment. Its also possible that what will appeal to us at one point in our own life may be different from what will appeal to us at a different point of time.

That is why Yoga is not giving us one method but it is giving us many methods to calm our mind.

Keep calm and carry on.


Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher

Why do some people call this tradition Viniyoga® ?

Let’s look at why some people call this tradition Viniyoga®. A very important aspect of Yoga is that we have to respect each and every individual as an unique being. Nobody is the same. We are all having different heights, different weights,  different body types, different constitutions, different potentials, different interests and very importantly different purposes and paths in this life.

Patanjali, the Master of Yoga, was very clear that one way will not be suitable for everybody. Patanjali offers practices that have to be tailor-made to suit every individual so that the best of each person can shine. If we take a standardized approach it will not work for everybody. It is not work for anybody in their whole life because we are changing each day of our life.

We are not the same people as we were few years ago and nor we will remain the same person few years from now. That’s why Patanjali calls the process of appropriate application of the tools of Yoga as the Viniyoga® of Yoga. Acarya T. Krishnamacharya was very instrumental in reviving this art when this art was slowly losing its relevance from the field of Yoga when group classes had become very common since the 1930s. Acarya T.

Krishnamacharya was very clear that we have to teach Yoga individually so that the best potential of every person can actually come forth. This becomes more important even in the domain of Yoga as a Therapy. Yoga as a Therapy cannot be done in group situations to the best possible way because every individual’s experience with the disease is different. Some one may have diabetes with high blood pressure; one person may have diabetes with arthritis; one person may have diabetes with depression. The same tools will not work for everybody. It is very important even in the field of Yoga as a Therapy and more so because we have to deal with people one to one as their experience is very unique. Because Acarya T. Krishnamacharya brought this back in a very strong way and it was made very popular by his son and primary student Sri. TKV Desikachar.

A lot of people started to associate this tradition of Yoga as the “Viniyoga®” tradition. It would be inaccurate to call this tradition as Viniyoga® tradition because there is no style of yoga of Viniyoga® of Yoga is only an approach of Yoga that every tradition of Yoga must embrace. The word Viniyoga® in this context is a verb and not a noun. In the Viniyoga® of Yoga where the Yoga is the noun Viniyoga® is the verb which means the appropriate application of Yoga. It would be inaccurate to call Viniyoga® as a particular style of Yoga. Viniyoga® is the approach of Yoga that everyone must embrace for Yoga actually is to reach every person in the most appropriate manner. Viniyoga® is the Universal term that has to be followed, not just for Yoga but in every aspect of life. We do that in many aspects of our life we must not forget that in the context of Yoga.

By Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher


Meditation is among the most important tools in Yoga practice. Patanjali dedicates an entire chapter – Chapter 3 for meditative practices. Meditation is the process of staying linked with an object of focus without any distraction which includes not only distractions from the outside but also distractions from the inside.

What does it mean? It means that many times we get distracted based on the memories we have of the object, imaginations we have of the object and even past experiences  we have of the object. When we relate with an object in thatway, when we are staying with that object in that way, we are no more in the present connection.

So meditation is a process of staying present or staying connected to an object of focus without judgements, without pre-conceived ideas, without any memories or imaginations. This can happen only when we make sure that the connection happens from our heart. So meditation is the process of opening our heart. Making a connection to the object of focus and the heart. Staying sustained with that object of focus within the heart so that we internalize the object of focus and eventually we achieve the qualities of these object of focus.

Presenting a more simple definition of meditation is my own teacher Sri TKV Desikachar. Sir TKV Desikachar defines Yoga as a meditation and as a relationship. What happens in a relationship? When we are really in a Relationship in a deep way it is a heart to heart relationship. That is what is meditation. Meditation is the relationship from our heart to the heart of the object of focus. This is Yoga. This is meditation.

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher

What is the difference between Yoga and Vedanta?

India has a very rich cultural heritage. Many wonderful philosophies have originated from this land. Six of these philosophies are considered extremely important and together they are called as the “Shat Vaidika Darshanas”, the six Vedic Philosophical schools. The role of all these philosophical schools was very simple.  They wanted to eleminate our sufferings. But the methods they chose to eliminate the sufferings were slightly different. Among these six philosophical schools are Yoga and Vedanta. So in an effort they are of these six philosophical schools.

While Yoga understands that our sufferings come from our mind based on to see the world and therefore he prescribes a path of understanding the mind, training the mind and utilizing the mind to its full potential.  Vedanta takes a slightly different approach where the Vedanta says that the reason we are suffering is because of the disconnection we have from the divine. Yoga is more like a psychological school. It asks us to look into our self to understand and explore the mind and find solutions to problems in the world. Vedanta is asking us to look at the entire world as a part of the world with grand divinity. This is the fundamental difference between the two systems. Yoga system authored by Patanjali is presenting all the different ways in understanding the human system and gives connection to the divine as a choice.

Whereas in the Vedanta school the connection to the divine is not a choice, but a necessity. This is the very fundamental difference between the two schools. Yoga is also saying that the liberation is freedom from suffering. The school of Vedanta says that liberation is freedom from birth and rebirth, the cycle of life.  So there are certain fundamental differences between the two tradition. What is common is that both of them are meant to reduce human sufferings.

What is very unique about the Vedanta tradition is that while the Vedanta tradition rejects the idea of Yoga’s presentation of the divine, it still says that the method to meditate on the divine must be taken from the Yoga school. In a sense, the Vedanta accepts the meditation and other practice aspects of Yoga however the difference is that the Vedanta Schools says that we must choose to meditate only on the divine. Patanjali’s Yoga school says that we can choose to meditate any on the objects in this world which is includes the divine.

By Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga® Teacher

Why Yoga is about a Heart Connection?


Patanjali defines Yoga as “Chitavrutti Nirodha”. It is a beautiful Sutra. Why is Patanjali genius is that he not only was an expert in Sanskrit language but also he was an expert in understanding the Hymns. Patanjali uses the word Chitta to represent yoga in the Sutra “Chitavrutti Nirodhaha”. He is not using any other word for the mind such as “manas”, or “bhudhi” etc.

This is because there are different kinds of minds that we have which get activated in different instances. For example, the ‘manas’ mind is a mind that is connected to the senses. What the senses would like to follow is governed by the manas mind, because our senses do not perceive all that are in front of our eyes, the manas mind is driving the sense to see what it wants to see. That is what is called the manas – the sensory mind.   Then comes what is called “ahankara” the identification mind. Patanjali calls it “asmita”, Sankya calls it “ahankara”. We also identify this mind to identify things. This  is my house, this is my camera, this is my dog, this is my cat, I am a male, I am a Hindu, I am an Indian, I am Christian etc. All these kind of identities are part of what is called the ‘asmita’ mind. That is also lying at some times.

When I was watching a cricket match my mother wants to identify with the Indian team. That is the ‘asmita’ mind predominant at that time. Then comes what is called the “Bhudhi” mind, which is the analytical mind. What is right, what is wrong, what will happen if I do this, what will happen if I don’t do this? This is what we call as analysis. Why somebody spoke to me like that, why should I speak to somebody like that, etc. This is the mind that is having the capacity to  analyse. That is also an important part of the day to day functions. That is the mind that is functioning at the time which is called “Bhudhi”. These three minds are called “Vichitha” the external minds. These three are capable for being in the Yoga state. Deeper than that is what is called the subtle mind – “Antarchitta” the internal mind. That is where the mind called “Chitta” comes. “Chittha” mind is that which is close to the consciousness. “Chtiobhava Chittam ”.   Because the consciousness is in the heart the “Chittha” mind is the mind that is close to the consciousness which must also be in the heart.

That is why my father, TKV Desikachar, who developed Viniyoga®, often used to call it “the heart of the mind”. That is the mind that is capable of making a connection to something and Yoga is a connection itself.  That is why Patanjali uses the word “Chitthavrutti Nerodha” – that is the mind that can make the connection. That is why it is very important to remember that Yoga is more coming from the heart. When we say ‘heart’ it is not the emotion but the light in the heart.  This is what is the preciseness of Patanjali when he uses the word “Chitthavrutti Nerodhaha”. That’s where Dharana, Dyanam, Samadhi etc., all start.

Deeper than the Chitta mind is what is called the “Pratya” mind. The “Pratya” mind is the mind that is in state of meditation. Dyanam and Samadhi happens in the “Pratya” mind. Dharanaj happens in the chitta mind.  Most deep is what is called as the “Satva” mind – reflective mind. The mind that is silent. That is the mind that is dominant when we are in a state of kaivalyam (Liberation). When you analyse the Sutras very carefully you will see that Patanjali uses these different words when he is defining these different concepts. For example, “Deshabandhaha Chittasya Dharaha, Yogaha Chitavrutti Nirodhaha”.

These sutras used the word Chitta. Before meditation, “Yantra, pratya eka Dharaka Gnanam. Thadeva ardhamathra nirupam swarupa Shunyamiva samadihi. Dyanam and Samadhi he uses the word pratya. Kaivalyam – Satyapurushayoho nisamye kaivalyam . If you follow the Sutras you will see that Patanjali is a generous where using very precise words such experiences. It is not by randomness. It is because it is very well thought of and only such kind of minds can be in such kind of states. That’s why Yoga is about the heart empowering the mind which is connected to the consciousness which is called chitta and that is in our heart.

By Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, Viniyoga Teacher


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