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 (78) 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 put TKV in a class with 3 other yoga greats:  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 yoga.

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

At 23, Desikachar earned a degree in mechanical engineering and planned to settle in that field, but he 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 famous spiritual guide, Krishnamurti, approached Krishnamacharya for yoga instruction in 1965, Krishnamacharya gave Desikachar the assignment.  

Their relationship prospered, and later in ’65, 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 ’76, when he was hosted by Colgate University.

 

Krishnamacharya teaching poses to Desikachar

Krishnamacharya teaching poses to Desikachar

TKV also founded the Krishnamcharya Yoga Mandiram (KYM) in ’76, partnering with two other longtime students of his father, A. G. Mohan and Srivatsa Ramaswami.

At KYM, he elaborated his yoga therapy practice and applied asana, pranayama and the principles of Ayurveda to patient care.

His healing skill, humility as a teacher, and practical attitude toward yoga’s use for students, 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 took Desikachar as their primary guide in the practice, including Chase Bossart, Kate Holcombe, Leslie Kaminoff, Gary Kraftsow, Larry Payne and Mark Whitwell.

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

This interpretation, first offered by his father, was evident throughout his ’99 reference book, The Heart of Yoga—widely used in teacher training programs—and his moving Health, Healing and Beyond (2005) where he mixed pragmatic messages about the yoga path with his father’s life story.

Though he was a committed secularist, the interface between yoga and religion interested him. He lectured and published on the subject 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 wrote The Emergence of Yoga (2014), a study of yoga’s history, philosophy and practice.

 

Sherri Baptiste and Desikachar

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