• Last of the Four Great World Teachers, T. K. V. Desikachar is Dead at 78, YOGA INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE, AUGUST 2016

    Posted in Articles by Eric Shaw


    Tirumalai Krishnamacharya Venkata Desikachar, who was trained as an engineer but became a world-renowned proponent of Yoga Therapy, died August 8th at 2:45am in Chennai, India.

    If we carved a Mt. Rushmore of Yoga, Desikachar’s face would be one of four there.

    His moderate age at death seems to deny yoga’s promise, but all three of his great colleagues (and their shared guru—Desikachar’s father—T. Krishnamacharya) thrived past 90.

    TKV’s life is measured next to that of the Latvian, Indra Devi (1899 – 2002), K. Pattabhi Jois (1915 – 2009), and his uncle, B.K.S. Iyengar (1918 – 2014).

    Desikachar exhibiting yoga poses as a young man

    Desikachar exhibiting yoga poses as a young man


    Facing his father’s legendary ferocity as a boy, Desikachar was disinterested in yoga.

    In one story, he climbed a tree to flee his practice.

    But Krishnamacharya waited stealthily for him and rope-tied him in lotus pose when he came down—leaving him to stew a few hours.

    As a young man, Desikachar pursued a degree in  mechanical engineering in school, planning to settle in that field, but he turned to his father’s guruship in 1961, becoming one of his most passionate advocates and long-studied apprentices.


    Desikachar with Mark Whitwell

    Desikachar with Mark Whitwell


    In 1965, the spiritual teacher, Krishanmurti, approached Krishnamacharya for teaching, but he referred him to T. K. V.

    The relationship between the young teacher and the great philosopher prospered, and that same year, Krishnamurti sponsored Desikachar’s first teaching trips abroad—to the U.K. and Switzerland.

    Desikachar began regular trips to America in 1976, first hosted by Colgate University.


    Krishnamacharya teaching poses to Desikachar

    Krishnamacharya teaching poses to Desikachar

    That same year, TKV founded the Krishnamcharya Yoga Mandiram (KYM) in Chennai, partnering with two other longtime Krishnamacharya students, A. G. Mohan and Srivastsa Ramaswami.

    At KYM, he elaborated the practice of yoga therapy, integrating asana, pranayama and the principles of Ayurveda for patient care.

    His fame grew, based on his skill in healing, humility as a teacher, and practical attitude toward what yoga could offer the world.


    Desikachar teaching yoga poses to his daughter, Mekhala

    Desikachar teaching yoga poses to his daughter, Mekhala


    Both local and international students flocked to the Mandiram, and numerous famous teachers acknowledged Desikachar as a primary guide in the practice, including Chase Bossart, Kate Holcombe, Leslie Kaminoff, Gary Kraftsow, Larry Payne and Mark Whitwell.

    Like his father, Desikachar saw yoga as a science to aid all people in their push toward physical and mental health.

    Among his eight books were two translations of the Yoga Sutras. There, he de-emphasized the lonely path of striving yogis, and steered the book’s message toward householder life.

    This interpretation, first offered by his father’s writing and teaching, was evident throughout his 1999 reference book, The Heart of Yoga—widely used in teacher training programs—and his moving Health, Healing and Beyond (2005) where he mixed his father’s life story with pragmatic messages about the yoga path.

    Though he was a committed secularist, he was deeply interested in the interface between yoga and religion. He lectured and published on the topic and famously submitted to his father’s tutelage only on the condition that religion be left out of it.

    In his last years, he suffered from dementia.

    The immediate cause of his death is not yet known.

    Among family members who have made their mark in the practice, he is survived by his son, Kausthub, who teaches worldwide and has published a biography of his father, and by his younger brother, Sri T.K. Sribhashyam, who teaches yoga in Europe and authored of The Emergence of Yoga (2014) a book on yoga’s history, philosophy and practice.


    Sherri Baptiste and Desikachar

  • 4 Responses to "Last of the Four Great World Teachers, T. K. V. Desikachar is Dead at 78, YOGA INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE, AUGUST 2016"

    1. d August 17, 2016 08:24 am

      a nice write-up for a man gone too soon. It does strike me as a bit strange, though, to list Kausthub as someone who “teaches worldwide,” as that is no longer the case due to his sexual abuse of his students.

    2. Nathalie Hérion August 20, 2016 23:03 pm

      2 comments if I may. In Belgium, there are some teachers who studied directly with TKV Desikachar : Claude Maréchal and Frans Moors, Simone Tempelhof-Moors. Claude brought “our” yoga to Belgium, France, Québec, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and Portugal.
      FIY, Kausthub still teaches … in Belgium and Germany, which I personally regret. Fortunately, Dr NC – Chandrasekaran too.

    3. Eric Shaw August 21, 2016 10:19 am

      Hey Nathalie — Thanks for this info. I look forward to learning more about Dr. N. C. Chandrasekaran. -ES

    4. Nathalie Hérion January 16, 2017 04:26 am

      Hello Eric, Finding this conversation only now. For Dr N. Chandrasekaran, see here : http://www.yanayoga.eu/en/yoga-2/104-dr-n-chandrasekaran- AND here : mbbs.htmlhttp://www.yogavaidyasala.net/

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