A Rich & Valuable Resource: 3 Gurus Interviewed

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Namarupa Issue 3 Fall ’04

Namarupa magazine recently made its wonderful article — 3 Gurus, 48 Questions: Matching Interviews with Sri T.K.V. Desikachar, Sri B.K.S. Iyengar & Sri K. Pattabhi Jois — free for all to download. The article is an in-depth interview of the three living yoga masters conducted by Alexander Medin over a period of months in Madras, Mysore and Pune.

Alexander asked the same questions of all three gurus, but their answers were wildly different. These differences highlight each guru’s unique approach to yoga and teaching.

The connection between the three gurus is Krishnamacharya, their legendary teacher. Each has a very different relationship to him:

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Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya

  • Desikachar is his son
  • BKS Iyengar is his brother-in-law
  • Pattabhi Jois is his disciple

It is often striking how each has a totally different take on Krishnamacharya’s teachings:

Did Krishnamacharya teach everybody the same way?
Iyengar: “No”
Pattabhi Jois: “Yes”

What was the most important thing Krishnamacharya taught you?
Desikachar: “Humility.”
Iyengar: “What he taught me was only a few asanas. That seed was what he gave me and I developed it as well as I could.”
Pattabhi Jois: “When he left for Madras he told me, Make this yoga method the work of your life.

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Krishnamacharya later in life

What are the criteria to become a good yoga teacher?
Desikachar: “Faith in God.”
Iyengar: “One has to work really hard and show the qualities of sincerity, honesty, and virtue.”
Pattabhi Jois: “Be a dedicated student for many years before you even start to think about teaching.”

What is your personal yoga practice like these days?
Desikachar: “Next question, please.”
Iyengar: “I will not boast. Everybody will tell you that I am still practicing. I do my sadhana [meditational practice] and still do the postures. I do all the postures you see in Light on Yoga and do them every day.”
Pattabhi Jois: “I continue to practice pranayama and recite the Vedas for an hour and a half to two hours every day.”

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TKV Desikachar

BKS Iyengar’s opinion of Ashtanga Vinyasa also emerges out of the interviews:

I had to question the jumping and vinyasas [synchronized movements and breath] and see what they were…What Pattabhi Jois was taught in 1934, he is still teaching now. I’m not saying this is wrong—I also taught it—but the people I talked to said it was nothing but physical movement, callisthenic-style. But now, today, the very same method is spiritual, according to some people. I don’t understand the mentality of humans.

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BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois

But as you can see from the photo, he’s made up with Pattabhi Jois since.

This article is such a rich and valuable record that I cannot possibly do it justice here. If you want to find about more about how yoga came to the West and what its foremost teachers think of it, 3 Gurus, 48 Questions is a must-read.

So much material came out of these interviews that the work is being expanded into a book. We’re looking forward it!

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