8 Short Stories that Reveal What Kind of Man Krishnamacharya Was.

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One day Krishanamacharya was conducting a “rare” demonstration-class where he mentioned that there are thirty-two variations of headstands.  The class was silent.  A.G.Mohan doubted him but did not say anything, however, the muscles in his face betrayed him and showed his feelings. Krishnamacharya looks at him and says:

What? It looks like you don’t believe me.  Fold that mat and place it here“. He then demonstrated the 32 variations of headstand.  He was 85 years-old.


Note: All these stories come from the book: Krishnamacharya His Life and Teachings, which is highly recommended, by A.G.Mohan. T.Krishnamacharya was a Master Yogi and the teacher of Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar, Indra Devi, Desikachar, Mohan and Ramaswami, among others.  He is pretty much the grandfather of yoga as we know it today.

Another day while practicing asana and in the warrior pose, Krishamacharya says to A.G. Mohan:

Keep in mind that you are in the service of the Divine. As you extend your arms and look down, bring the feeling that you are above the world and its various concerns but close to the Divine. As you bring your arms by your side with the palms facing upward, feel that the feet of the Divine are resting on your hands”

Mohan inquiries further: “This is relevant to me but what if a practitioner has no religious beliefs?

Still the imagery is valuable. Instead of thinking of the Divine the practitioner can bring the feeling that “I am without fear or burden. I am not troubled by the future or the past, flying above wordly pressures


On an interview in 1970 -age almost 90- the question is posed: Who taught you to stop your pulse and heart beat?

All happened automatically. What is amazing in that? I did it by practicing pranayama, vishama vrtti and nadishodhana pranayama. And meditation as well

On one occasion a student comes to him for healing and poses this question to TK: “What fees do I need to pay?”- “How long have you had this disease” asks T.K. – “more than 20 years” comes the reply – “Then it will cost you one hundred rupees, bring them next class” (that was the equivalent of about US$ 5,000 of today).

When the student returns the next week with the money, T.K. says: “I don’t want a hundred rupees from you. You can take it back. I only wanted to know if you had enough committment to follow the disciplines and restrictions I am going to suggest to you

One time Mohan asks T.K. about a very advanced sequence he had had his youngest daughter, Shubha demonstrate… “How could a yoga teacher teach these asanas to an ordinary person who comes with health issues? He replied:

It was a demonstration for propaganda!. You should not take it literally.  Shubha can do it, but for others you must suggest appropriate asanas. Only the principle is important

Another time A.G. Mohan was to give a talk on pranayama in Switzerland, in 1979. Krishnamacharya advised:

Propagate yoga wisely

One day Krishnamacharya got curious about how A.G. Mohan teaching a group of students, upon inquiring “how is it going” he proceeded to give “brief but invaluable advise”:

There is a saying that poets and women should never be coerced. It will only result in suffering, and the desired result will not materialize. Similarly, never use force in teaching or practicing asnanas

After many years of studying and surrendering to Krishnamacharya, A.G. Mohan finally gets the guts to ask the guru to be initiated in a mantra.  To his surprise T.K. agrees. After the initiation, A.G. asks how many times should he repeat the mantra, Krishnamacharya replies:

Traditionally one round of meditation is considered complete when you have repeated the mantra one hundred thousand times for each syllable, your mantra is twelve syllables, so that is twelve hundred times“.

Mohan was speechless. Krishnamacharya went on to say:

But in these days few people can do it. At the very least, ensure that for the rest of your life, every day, you repeat the mantra 108 times, slowly, with complete concentration.”

A few days before Krishnamacharya died A.G. Mohan asks: what is most important in life?:

Money is not important. Health, Longevity. A tranquil mind.”


A.G. Mohan studied with Krishnamacharya for almost 20 years, one-on-one. He has authored two books and gives lectures, here is his website.

I  heard that in January he gave a conference at Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore.  Was anyone there? Please tell me if you were.

What do you think of Krishnamacharya saying: “you can’t coerce a poet”? Why did he use the word: “poet”?

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Claudia Azula Altucher

Claudia Azula Altucher has studied yoga for a long time. Her only focus these past eight years has been on Ashtanga through which she studied at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India (three study visits so far), and at Centered Yoga in Thailand (focus on practice, philosophy and pranayama).

Currently she studies at Pure Yoga in NYC. She has taught yoga classes in both Spanish and English.
She is also the Author of: 21 Things To Know Before Starting an Ashtanga Yoga Practice (you can get a free PDF at her blog). She writes daily at ClaudiaYoga.com And you can follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ClaudiaYoga

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anonymous May 7, 2015 1:07am

Really check out Yogic Mindfulness 10-day course A.G. Mohan is still teaching around the world. He is a rare gem still traveling around and teaching the teachings of Krishnamacharya. When around Amsterdam, keep an eye on my website – as I organize teachings with their son Ganesh Mohan, a conference on yoga therapy & research and much more! 🙂 ALL in lineage of Krishnamachraya…. Much Love, Anneke annekesips [dot] com

anonymous Oct 30, 2012 3:15pm

[…] during a yoga therapy teacher training, taught by Kaustaub Desikachar, grandson of yoga master, Krishnamacharya, I learned yet another definition of yoga, in spite of what I thought yoga […]

anonymous May 31, 2011 5:00am

[…] Krishnamacharya: 8 Short Stories that Reveal What Kind of Person He Was […]

anonymous May 19, 2011 7:15pm

Always interesting to read about Krishnamacharya and love it when people spread the word.

I guess he talked about poets because poets are sensitive people, such as women, as he said.

Great quote btw. Gotta love those who teach with kindness.

    anonymous May 20, 2011 6:29am

    Btw, does anyone know how keen Krishnamacharya was on alignment? Was it a big focus in his classes, like Mr. Iyengar would later practice and teach, or he just gave basic directions to get in the asana and not be so meticulous about it?


      anonymous Jan 29, 2012 10:44am

      Hi Peter

      what I understand is that Krsnamacharya went through different phases in his teaching lie, which in a way ref
      ect the ages of man. A more dynamic phase, which is also when he taught Patthabi Jois the vinyasas that were to become the core of what we know as astanga vinyasa. He then taught Iyengar, and that teaching phase wasone of the perfect posture, which Iyengar went on and propagate. So I imagine that in that phase he wudl have been rather meticulous about alignment. He then later taught his son Desikachar, after a pause where to raise money had to do a myriad different jobs and mostly practiced Ayurveda.
      So when Desikachar became his student, Krsnamacharya was in a more mature phase, and wanted to get to the heart of yoga, and the flowingnof prana and not the external appearance took more importance. He went on to also introduce chanting and mantras into the vinyasa flow, which I believe was a major innovation in the yoga tradition. Not sure this information is completely correct, but this is what I understand.
      What a man!!! I am so proud to be studying in his and Desikachar lineage!

      anonymous Jan 29, 2012 1:38pm

      Sri Krishnamacharya's emphasis was on what the asana was doing for the individual on multiple levels, not how the individual was doing the asana. Achieving a certain function, rather than perfecting a form, was essential. Mr. Iyengar, who learned from TK as a young man, admits to having created his own style of yoga – likely influenced by the more strict teaching of asana to children that he was familiar with.

anonymous May 18, 2011 3:27pm

Asana is poetry not merely fitness or bodybuilding.

anonymous May 17, 2011 7:48am

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[…] 8 Short Stories that Reveal What Kind of Man Krishnamacharya Was. […]

anonymous Apr 29, 2011 1:15pm

I love this, and what perfect timing when the world of EJ has been consumed with the passing of Sai Baba. What a wonderful example to the community of an authentic human being.

    anonymous Apr 29, 2011 2:13pm

    Thanks Jessica, he definitelly was the real thing, I get completely inspired reading him before practice every day, glad you liked it too 🙂

Bob Weisenberg Apr 28, 2011 3:27pm

Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

Bob Weisenberg Apr 28, 2011 3:07pm

Well done, Claudia.

Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

Bob W.
Yoga Editor

anonymous Apr 28, 2011 11:20am

Claudia, I am inclined to think that "poet" in this context is a term that could be taken as a generic term for "artist". I think it speaks to both the mindset of the poet/artist and the creative process. Neither can be coerced, or rushed. Chris

    anonymous Apr 28, 2011 1:45pm

    Totally, yes, I would definitelly agree that an artist with true inspiration could not ever be coerced…. Then again, why not say "men" as well…

anonymous Apr 28, 2011 7:58am

Love this. I love reading about Krishnamacharya. Thanks for compiling these. Look forward to getting a hold of that book.

My favorites here were the getting money together to demonstrate commitment, and then pointing out of the purpose of the demonstration!


    anonymous Apr 28, 2011 8:00am

    Hi Kimberly, yes I love that part too… he was SOMETHING wasn't he? You are welcome on the compilation, it was a pleasure really. The thing that gets me is the "poet" part, why did he chose that word?…. still thinking about it….

anonymous Apr 28, 2011 7:23am

Thanks, enjoyed this article.

    anonymous Apr 28, 2011 7:29am

    You are welcome Ramesh, thanks for your comment