Krishnamacharya on Yoga Knowledge presented by A. G. Mohan
Krishnamacharya spent the first forty years of his life completely immersed in acquiring knowledge. He often used to say, “Knowledge should never be lost”. There is a famous saying “jnanat eva tu kaivalyam”, i.e. only through right knowledge, kaivalyam, or the highest state of permanent peace, is attainable.
Since Krishnamacharya was interested in preserving knowledge, when he traveled to Benares, the city of learning, a hundred years ago he would visit the library to browse some of the ancient texts. From these texts, he noted down in a diary, some of the precise definitions of vidya or knowledge, concerning various subjects. He not only noted down the precise definition of yoga knowledge (vidya), but also that of cooking, Vedic chanting etc.
He wanted to make sure this information was not lost; and used to dictate these definitions in class and make sure I noted them down.
The definition of yoga knowledge (vidya) as dictated by him is as follows:
Samanaska, savinyasa, sapratikriyayukta, sagarbha, agarbha, beda mukha, yama, niyamadi Samadhi yukta yoga vidya.
Samanaska means yogic mindfulness, which is striving to achieve the state of sattva, through the practice of all the limbs of yoga, and to maintain that sattvikata (svasthata). This has also been quoted in the Katopanishad, one of the ancient Upanishads.
Savinyasa means with vinyasa, orderly steps appropriate to the person. There is a well-known saying, which I have also quoted in my book on Krishnamacharya - “vina vinyasa yogena asanadin na karayet”. The practice of all the disciplines, asana, pranayama, chanting etc. are to be done in orderly steps with vritti nirodha (mental restraint) according to the person.
Sapratikriya refers to balancing. Pratikriya also means reaction. If we do a strong asana practice for two hours, there will be a corresponding reaction from our system. One can have a massage for half an hour, but if it is extended to four hours, one will feel pain rather than pleasure. This is due to the fundamental changing nature of the three gunas in our system.
Sagarbha / agarbha refer to the practice of asana, pranayama and other limbs of yoga along with mantra or without mantra. When I was practicing under Krishnamacharya, while practicing the down dog pose (adho mukhasvanasana) he used to tell me to recite the following mantra aloud. “pranapana vyanodana samana me sudhyantam jyotiraham virajavipapma bhuyo saggusvahah”. The mantra could also be recited mentally. Understanding the meaning of the mantra is helpful so that we can reflect on the meaning during practice. However, even if done without knowing the meaning, the chanting alone can also give benefits.
Yamaniyamadi Samadhi yukta – the practice of all the eight limbs must be undertaken with mental restraint (vritti nirodha). As we all know, yoga practice is not merely asana practice. All the nuances of the practice should be learned from a right guru. Practicing without knowing theses nuances will not lead to the desired result. It can also result in injuries.
I have a recording of Krishnamacharya’s lecture on May 25, 1982. (It is one of several recordings that I have preserved). You can hear it now as I play it from my phone. He is speaking in the local language Tamil. He says ‘you can see the difference between a person who practices yoga knowing the nuances and one who practices without this knowledge and quotes a sutra from the second chapter (YS II-47) ‘Prayatna saitilya ananta samapattibhyam’.
In the YogaKnowledge.net platform, we will strive to disseminate the right knowledge about the practice of yoga. We will start with the Yogasutras, the foundational text on yoga and later introduce knowledge from related areas.
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