You may never have heard of him, but Tirumalai Krishnamacharya influenced or perhaps even
invented your yoga.
By Fernando Pagés Ruiz
Whether you practice the dynamic series of Pattabhi Jois, the refined alignments of B.K.S. Iyengar,
the classical postures of Indra Devi, or the customized vinyasa of Viniyoga, your practice stems from
one source: a five-foot, two-inch Brahmin born more than one hundred years ago in a small South
He never crossed an ocean, but Krishnamacharya's yoga has spread through Europe, Asia, and the
Americas. Today it's difficult to find an asana tradition he hasn't influenced. Even if you learned from a
yogi now outside the traditions associated with Krishnamacharya, there's a good chance your teacher
trained in the Iyengar, Ashtanga, or Viniyoga lineages before developing another style. Rodney Yee,
for instance, who appears in many popular videos, studied with Iyengar. Richard Hittleman, a wellknown TV yogi of the 1970s, trained with Devi. Other teachers have borrowed from several
Krishnamacharya-based styles, creating unique approaches such as Ganga White's White Lotus Yoga
and Manny Finger's ISHTA Yoga. Most teachers, even from styles not directly linked to
Krishnamacharya—Sivananda Yoga and Bikram Yoga, for example—have been influenced by some
aspect of Krishnamacharya's teachings.
Many of his contributions have been so thoroughly integrated into the fabric of yoga that their source
has been forgotten. It's been said that he's responsible for the modern emphasis on Sirsasana
(Headstand) and Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand). He was a pioneer in refining postures, sequencing
them optimally, and ascribing therapeutic value to specific asanas. By combining pranayama and
asana, he made the postures an integral part of meditation instead of just a step leading toward it.
In fact, Krishnamacharya's influence can be seen most clearly in the emphasis on asana practice that's