Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888 – 1989) is considered one of the most influential Yoga teachers and is referred to as the „father of modern Yoga“ – and with good reason as his students range from such big names as BKS Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, Desikachar and Indra Devi.

Krishnamarcharya had studied various subjects, was a scholar of Sanskrit and Indian philosophy, studied and taught at various universities. He would have had a great career even without Yoga, I assume.

Then he spent 7 years with his guru, Rama Mohan Brahmacharya, living in a cave in a remote region of the Himalayas.

And for those who think being taught by a guru in a cave is for free – it’s not!

And you don’t even know what you have to “pay” until the end. Only when you are finished, one traditionally is presented with the “price” for those studies, and Krishnamacharya was told by his guru:

“Go out and teach what I have taught you!”

So Krishnamacharya did exactly that, he spent his life sharing his knowledge and experience of Yoga and taught in various places throughout India.

Now why didn’t he stop after a couple of years, thinking that it’s been enough? Why didn’t he loose interest?

I think if we have a purpose in life, a goal that is bigger than ourselves, there is no point in stopping. And Krishnamacharya had this strong purpose and followed it until his death at age 100. And it’s not that this purpose was confining him to only teach classes or going to a cave himself waiting for students. He came up with many ways to share his knowledge and do what his guru had told him.

He traveled through India giving demonstrations, wrote books, taught Yoga to the sick to cure them, taught the guards and children at the Mysore Palace to make them strong. And even though it seems that he always stayed traditional, the teaching was always adjusted to address the audience and their momentary needs. One quote of him even says:

“Always teach that which is appropriate for the individual.”

I think we can learn a lot from this man and his story.

  • Learn under direction of a good teacher
  • Follow one traditional path for an extended time to really understand it instead of switching teachers and Yoga schools and traditions according to what feels good today
  • Still be open to studying various related subjects (I read that Krishnamacharya not only studied Hinduistic and Buddhistic Philosophy, but also Sufism)
  • Keep practicing and base your teaching on your practice, always stay a practitioner first (Krishnamacharya supposedly practiced Yoga until his death at age 100).
  • Follow your purpose but
  • Adjust the means to achieve it to the current times, your talents and skills and to your audience.

What’s the take-away here?

Passion and enthusiasm for Yoga might motivate you to teach Yoga for a couple of years, but to dedicate yourself to a life of inspiring people to practice Yoga will require a strong Why, a Why that goes beyond “because it’s fun to teach”.

Once you know your Why, you can still find ways to live your Why – your purpose – in a way that is perfectly suiting you and serving your students (see also my article about different ways to teach Yoga).

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Tom Richter
Tom Richter

Ashtanga Yoga practitioner, passionate Yoga teacher, healthy-living enthusiast, Yoga Teacher Coach