Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Little Bit of History: Jois, Iyengar and Others

In a previous post I discussed some of the roots of the Ashtanga practice. To grow our knowledge a bit more, I’d like to touch on the instructors Krishnamacharya influenced, who continue to bring us a wonderful, rich tradition of yoga.

In no particular order:
Krishnamacharya (1888-1989)
B.K.S. Iyengar
Pattabhi Jois (started when 12 years old, has been teaching for 64 years, 92 yrs old)
Indra Devi (first woman to learn and teach a modified Ashtanga sequence)
T.K.V. Desikachar (Krishnamachara’s son)


How to sum up such a rich history in just a few sentences? We must Summerize!


Pattabhi Jois began his instruction at the age of 12, focusing on the vinyasa style as taught by Krishnamacharya. For years Jois has preserved, refined and polished the asana sequence without significant modification. He continues to teach today at his yogashala in Mysore India. Influential students of his include: David Swenson, Doug Swenson, Beryl Bender Birch, Richard Freeman, Nancy Gilgoff and many, many others. You can read more about Jois at his website here.

Indra Devi (born Zhenia Labunskaia in pre-Soviet Russia) is credited with being the first to truly introduce yoga to the West and the first woman to learn a modified form of the Ashtanga practice. After her apprenticeship she went on to open the first yoga school in China, counting Madam Chaing Kai-shek as one of her students. After lengthy negotiations with Soviet Russia to convince them yoga was not a religion, she opened a school there as well. In 1974 she came to the US. However, her form of teaching became quite different from Krishnamacharya’s or even Pattabhi Jois, focusing on a gentler practice that incorporated breath work and chanting. For more information on Indra, try here and here.

B.K.S Iyengar stayed with Krishnamacharya for only a few years, having suffered a grievous hamstring injury when Krishnamacharya demanded he do Harumasana (the splits) before he had a chance to actually learn it. Over the years Iyengar also deviated from the vinyasa style to focus on the nature of internal alignment utilizing prop when necessary, to look at every part of the body to develop the pose. Iyengar saw the body as a temple and the asana as a prayer. Here is Iyengar's website.

Here's a couple of links to see some of these yogi's in action:

Pattabhi Jois video

BKS Iyengar Video

1 comment:

Shivani said...

Thanks for this article. I am just trying to figure out whether to go the Iyengar or Vinyasa route and am a current Vinyasa beginner. Nice to see details on all the teachers, particularly Iyengar ji and Jois ji. Huge respect for both.