• Last of the 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 (TKV) 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 there was a Mt. Rushmore of yoga, Desikachar’s face would be carved there.

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

    We measure TKV’s life next to that of Indra Devi (1899 – 2002), K. Pattabhi Jois (1915 – 2009), and Desikachar’s uncle, B.K.S. Iyengar (1918 – 2014).

    Desikachar exhibiting yoga poses as a young man

    Desikachar exhibiting yoga poses as a young man


    Born in 1938, his father’s legendary ferocity pushed him, but Desikachar felt no enthusiasm for the practice.

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

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

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


    Desikachar with Mark Whitwell

    Desikachar with Mark Whitwell


    When the great spiritual guide, Krishnamurti, approached Krishnamacharya for yoga instruction in 1965, Krishnamacharya gave Desikachar the assignment.  

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

    Desikachar’s began regular instructional trips to the U.S. in 1976, when he was 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 students of his father, A. G. Mohan and Srivatsa Ramaswami.

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

    His skill in healing, humility as a teacher, and practical attitude toward what yoga could offer the world, won him enduring fame.

    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 their primary guide, 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 the pursuit of physical and mental health.

    Among his eight books were two translations of yoga’s “Bible”:  The Yoga Sutras. There, he de-emphasized its advice for lonely, striving yogis, and revealed the book’s value for householders.

    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 isn’t known.

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


    Sherri Baptiste and Desikachar

  • 4 Responses to "Last of the 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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