By Saraswathi Vasudevan
Saraswathi Vasudevan pays rich tribute to her yoga teacher, Sri TKV Desikachar, who passed away recently
On August 8, 2016, at 2.45 am our teacher, Sri TKV Desikachar, “Sir” to all of us, breathed his last. Son of Sri T Krishnamacharya, acclaimed yoga guru of the 20th century, he had been ailing for sometime and we knew that the end was near. Despite this, the pain of losing him is immense and difficult to deal with. As we grieve the loss and try to cope, using all the ways he equipped us with, we also realise that he has left a big part of himself in each one of us to cherish, nurture, preserve and share!
Our teacher was not out in the world, proclaiming great knowledge or demonstrating extraordinary yogic powers. What was most inspiring and endearing about him was his quiet, unassuming nature, clarity of mind, and subtle strength that anybody in his presence could draw from. Over the 17 years I studied with him, he has been available for all of us anytime we wanted his help and support. For a teacher who had students spread across the world, with a busy schedule and strict personal discipline, how he managed to give everybody quality time – one-on-one – is still a great mystery!
Yoga is a “relationship”
What Desikachar lived and taught was a simple, yet profound philosophy. He defined yoga as a “relationship”. “When you establish a heart-to-heart connection with a person, and offer what is appropriate, from that space, healing happens,” he would explain. And we saw this happening all the time.
Whether we went to him with our own problems or witnessed him working with people who came for healing, he always held unwavering attention, reverence and compassion for the person in front of him. It did not matter if it was a playful child, a rebellious teenager, or a sceptic; the person walking out of the consultation room was not the person who entered.
Please don’t get me wrong. I am not talking about faith healing or magic here. My teacher knew how to calm the person and awaken his healing force within most effortlessly. With an almost clairvoyant intuition and absolute precision, he brought in a rare kind of beauty and freshness to the yoga practices he offered each person. Even a simple asana-pranayama routine helped in healing the most complex problems people came in with.
Yoga is resourcefulness
All that he taught, he said, was what he had learnt from his father, quoting his “Appa” often. But we know that the very precise method of course planning in asana, or building ratios in pranayama, or creating highly specific meditative practices for each individual that were creative and quite unconventional, were perhaps his own innovations. He prescribed special diets that he also taught us to cook. He drew from a rich repertoire of tools of yoga, offered with great thoughtfulness, even negotiating with the student rather than imposing. “Yoga is yukti” he would say, “we have to be resourceful!” He taught us to keep this creative spark alive in us so that we could develop the most appropriate practice for a student.
Our teacher could hold so many of us together, inspire us to continue to study, practice and offer only the best of ourselves to our students.
Even when he was ailing and lost to the world, he was, and continues to be, very much alive in our life and work each day. When I receive a student into my class, I remember how he would greet and make somebody meeting him for the first time feel so much at ease! When he walked with them to the gate after the session and said goodbye, he left people feeling they had already overcome most of their hurdles!
About the author : Saraswathi Vasudevan is a yoga therapist trainer in the tradition of Sri T Krishnamacharya. She specialises in adapting yoga to the individual. (www.yogavahini.com).
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