See Krishnamacharya (and Iyengar) on Video


the BKS Iyengar video

Three very old videos have surfaced on, the main site for video sharing on the internet. Apparently, they were shot in 1938, and MCPetruk, who uploaded them, told me via email that he obtained them as part of the footage from an Iyengar Institute VHS.

Thank you to Dipita for the tip and to MCPetruk for sharing.

Links to the 3 films (one of the actual films is at the end of this post):

  • Krishnamacharya in inversions, nauli and various advanced pranayama techniques (4:32)
  • BKS Iyengar part 1 (3:11)
  • BKS Iyengar part 2 (3:26)
  • After hearing and reading so much about him,


    Krishnamacharya at 50

    it is amazing to see Krishnamacharya on film. And what a film it is. In these short 4 minutes, you get a glimpse of a total mastery of the body, the postures and the breathing. The stories about Krishnamacharya stopping his heart become much more believable. His legendary strictness is apparent, too.

    I tried to remind myself as I was watching that Krishnamacharya was 50 years old when the film was shot. He does not look a day over 30.


    Iyengar in Upward Dog
    in the middle of a vinyasa (!)

    Iyengar is also very impressive doing what seems to be a modified version of the Advanced A Series of Ashtanga. He is actually doing vinyasas! He must have been around 20 years old during that time, before he decided that vinyasas were “too much jumping”.

    Krishnamacharya practicing yoga in 1938

16 thoughts on “See Krishnamacharya (and Iyengar) on Video

  1. Alan Little

    This has been all over the Yoga Web in the last few days, and I’m beginning to wonder if I’m the only person who wonders about how posting other people’s copyright material on the web squares with asteya?

    I suppose one can just about argue that only posting short snippets is going to work as advertising for the whole thing. But the fact is, anybody who is interested in this and wants to see it should go to their local Iyengar Yoga Institute and damn well buy it like I did.

  2. tracy

    I agree with you that it would be nice for people to buy the VHS video and that’s why we posted a photo of the video with a link to the website where readers can buy it… Absolutely, credit should be given where due and we should support with our $$$ those people who bring us things of value.

    And yes, unfortunately, lots of people will not.

    So, I do think that “asteya” is a little harsh, and view this as more advertising and sharing with our community. The YouTube videos constitute a small portion of a one-hour long video.

    While I think MCPetruk could have given better credit to the video’s producers, I think we (AshtangaNews) have actually done a really good job of that.

    Your comment prompted the thought that it’d be interesting to see what the video’s producers think…more later…

  3. Pingback: we like yoga - a weblog focusing on the latest in yoga news, fashion, and lifestyle » copyright your yoga

  4. Terence

    I’m not a copyright lawyer, but until Disney hijacked congress and got the Bono bill passed that turned copyright into a revenue subsidy for content owning media companies, copyright ran for 28 years from date of publication, with an optional extension to 67 years total, from the date of the work, for any work that was published before 1967. (Handy chart available at:

    What the legal status is of a newreel movie (perhaps not even owned by Iyengar) filmed in India in 1938 is under US copyright statutes is a question for someone with real legal training.

    The bigger issue here is actually fair use. Contrary to what is commonly bandied about, copyright does NOT give the holder an absolute stranglehold on the use of the copyrighted work. Fair use is a doctrine created to allow the discussion and examination of creative works. There is no clear standard for what constitutes fair use, but the four tests outlined in US copyright law are:

    “Section 107 of the Copyright Act*** sets forth the four fair use factors which should be considered in each instance, based on particular facts of a given case, to determine whether a use is a “fair use”: (1) the purpose and character of use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes, (2) the nature of the copyrighted work, (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”


    Given the intention here to discuss the nature and practice of yoga, presumably absent the motivation to capture sales from the Iyengar video, this may fall under this provision also.

  5. Terence

    Quick amendment….the Copyright Extension Act retroactively extended copyright for older works, so these may very well be covered. ( This also seems to depend on who the legal “author” is.

    From a non-lawyer point of view, asking if this is “stealing” in some abstract sense is interesting. Do you suppose the sales of Iyengar’s video were limited more by:

    1) The people that could afford it, were considering buying it, but are now satisified because there is a free snippet available on YouTube, thus cheating him out of a sale


    2) The people that had no idea it existed, some fraction of which are now aware of it’s existence via YouTube, thus gaining sales for the full video.

    Of course, this argument has no actual legal merit, but if we’re discussing the abstract ethics of this distribution….

  6. Terence

    Last boring post on yoga and copyright issues. Doing some research and looking at the NEWSREEL stamp on the YouTube videos, it seems that there are two probable companies that produced these 1938 films. One is Universal Newsreel and the other is March of Time. (These are the two newsreel companies active at the time, and with operations in India.) If these videos are sourced from Universal Newsreel footage, we call all breathe easy, as the owner (Universal) released all this footage into the public domain in 1976. (Go Universal!) Lots of Universal’s footage is available for free use at the Internet Archive:

    The status of the March of Time newsreels is less clear, and may still be owned by Time, Inc.

    In either case, if these are newsreel footage, then Iyengar is most probably not the owner, and the “wronged” party may be Richard Parsons, CEO of AOL-Time-Warner. (And Iyengar selling the video may also be on the wrong legal side of the tracks!)

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled yoga content…. 🙂

  7. Lauren

    Hi…I am catching the tail end of this discussion, but thought I would add my two cents, as a former IP lawyer.

    Fair Use: This would NOT fall under fair use. Fair use does not cover the wide distribution of copyrighted work just because it is “informative” or “useful”. For fair use to apply in an educational sense, there has to be an actual educational institution using the work. The internet doesn’t count.

    Copyright Duration: I do not remember what the duration of copyright is from the 1909 Act, or how it is extended now that the Act has been amended. However, I am going to assume that this film clip IS protected by copyright. BUT even if it were not, if a publishing company reissues a work whose copyright has expired, in a significantly creative NEW expression…say, a compilation of videos, or an annotated cut, or some such, then a whole NEW copyright claim arises.

    I would say that a clip like this is likely a violation of copyright laws. But the only person/entity that can claim that is the owner of the copyright. If they say nothing, if they let this wide and free distribution happen, then it’s their issue. Someone who purchased the video for real money at a yoga studio might be pissed off, but the claim is for the copyright owner to make (not only to protect their valuable work’s ownership, but also to prevent a dissolution of goodwill such as what may be happening here with AL and others who spent money to buy the video).

    This is not legal advice! Just musings of a former practicing copyright lawyer.


  8. Madrid

    I was viewing this footage, and thinking over and over again… “When the student is ready, the master will appear.”

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring piece of moving art~
    I’m familiar with a handful of yoga’s, but this was fantastic!!

    I’m thankful for the educational institute at my fingertips, and the sharing of music, video, life, love, and good timez~
    I’m am witness to someone listening to a burnt copy of music and going out to buy the C.D.
    Those who can… will~
    Keep it flowing~

  9. supol

    i don’t think those guru serious in the copyright. copyright is just a selfish rule of westerner or “farang” made for protect something call “intellectual property”. i’d like to ask all of you, lord budha, jesus and alloh ever to request coyright fee from all of us or not?

  10. david watson

    For any of you that have mis-understood Iyengar or his method of yoga, yes he is doing vinyasas here because he was able to because he was already at a very high level and had worked exstensivley in the postures , Iyengar sticks very much too Krishnamachrya teachings which is that one must develop ones practice around ones own body type, age and doshic type. He does teach hundreds of vinyasa sequences but only at a later stage once a student has built strength and acheived some level of mastery in the poses only then is he/she ready to start linking and jumping and moving in between them……

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