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As early as 1934, we get reports of the “Father of Modern Yoga,” Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, demonstrating new dynamic vinyasas of his own design which incorporated the movement flow pattern of Surya Namaskar (the Sun Salutation).

His vinyasas added the new elements of jump-throughs, dands (downdog, updog and plank pose) and bethaks (our modern form of utkatasana).

20th-Century-born Surya Namaskara A

Krishnamacharya was probably influenced by Western choreographies. Except for the distinctive Indian contortion-work, most of K’s pose vocabulary was discoverable in the popular group gymnastics of the Dane, Neils Bukh (as well as his jump-backs into plank pose).

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Bhavanrao Pant Pratinidhi

As a form of exercise, Sun Salutation had gone through a revival in the middle part of the previous century.

However, it waned after the 1870s before Bhavanrao Pant Pratinidhi (1868–1951)–who would become king of the Indian princely state of Aundh, 100 m. south of Pune)–revived it in the late 1890s.

After influential work as a government minister, he ascended to Aundh’s throne in 1909 and made the practice mandatory in all his principality’s schools.

He also taught the SS in England (where he got favorable press for his work and picked up a ghostwriter for his second book), and authored two texts on the practice.

Pant’s efforts caught the wave of interest in fitness that blossomed in India at that time. By the early 1920s, Surya Namaskar had again become popular–mostly in India’s southwest.

Then Krishnamacharya came on the scene.

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Krishnamacharya’s Scholarly Gymnastics

Though Krishnamacharya’s contemporary, Sri Yogendra, had done some work approaching K’s synthesis, it was K who expanded the practice, chocking it with complexity and creating his scriptural justifications novel Surya-Namaskar-patterned vinyasas.

K cited what’s probably a fictional text, Vamana Rishi’s Yoga Korunta, in his conversations with K. P Jois, who would later popularize the practice through his worldwide Ashtanga Yoga. At the same time, Krishnamacharya systematized his “Vinyasa Krama” in numerous sequences in his 1934 book, Yoga Makaranda.

But Krishnamacharya doesn’t mention the Yoga Korunta in the bibliography of the Makraranda–or in any of his books. Most scholars guess the Korunta is a fiction (though the plot thickens as Dr. Jim Mallinson recently came across an old yoga treatise with “Korunta” in the author’s name).

K. Pattabhi Jois in Warrior 1, circa 1939.

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Warrior Pose

As far as the Warrior Pose (Virabhadrasana) now found popularized by the pose sequences of K’s students, it isn’t named, depicted, or described in any pre-20th-Century yoga treatise or archeological site.

Nor do we see Warrior in publications by K’s contemporaries (Sivananda, Kuvalyananda, Yogendra, Kola Iyer, etc.) that were produced before Krishnamacharya’s lively inventions.

The classic SS taught by Pant used only a high-lunge movement (seen above). The knee isn’t raised and the arms aren’t taken up to make Warrior Pose.

Pant Pranidhi in the high lunge position of his Sun Salute

Pant’s sun salutation lacks Warrior, dands, bethaks, and jump-throughs. This older, simpler, less-vigorous salutation is found in Swami Sivananda’s teaching tradition, too.

The earliest modern picture of a person in Warrior Pose is one of Jois from near 1939.

Neither K’s other famous student, BKS Iyengar, K, Iyengar’s sisters, nor K’s daughters assume the pose in the famous 1938 film (below) of them all practicing, and though Krishnamacharya’s students popularized Warrior, it isn’t known for certain if the man himself integrated Warrior into his sequences.

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We do see pictures of Krishnamacharya in the pose–but not until the 1980s.

Neither Warrior, nor the exact Surya Namaskar A and B sequences are mentioned in any of Krishnamacharya’s four books on yogasana–Yoga Makaranda (1934), Yoga Rahasya (c. 1937), Yogasanagalu (1941) or Salutation to the Teacher and the Eternal One (c. 1955).

Besides the Jois picture of 1939, there is also a circa 1942 picture of BKS Iyengar in Warrior 1.

We see Warrior 1 in the books of K’s students, Srivatsa Ramaswami and A. G. Mohan, too (who began study with K in 1954 and 1970, respectively).

The Warrior-pose-laden, 20th-Century-born Surya Namaskara B

The history of Warrior Pose in India’s art stretches back to the first century, and many of these images of gods in pratimas (“power poses”) also doubled as yoga postures.

However, Warrior Pose probably didn’t jump from pratima to posture until the 1930s.

 

A Warrior-like pose on a 1st Century Indo-Scythian Coin

The form of Warrior 2 doesn’t appear until even later. It’s first seen in Light on Yoga (pub. 1965).

Because early pics of Iyengar and Jois in Warrior I exist, my guess is that K invented and taught both Warrior 1 and 2, but, for some reason, he did not include them in any sequences or pose descriptions in the books he wrote.

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Iyengar’s Warrior 2

The Moon Salutation

Laura Cornell focussed her doctoral thesis on the Moon Salutation. I was lucky to be in attendance when she gave her dissertation defense at San Francisco’s California Institute of Integral Studies in 2005.

Despite its worthiness as a scholarly topic, the Moon Salutation is a modern invention, having been formulated by a group of senior Kripalu Yoga teachers at their Stockbridge, Massachusetts ashram (now Kripalu Center) in the late 1980s.

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The Moon Salutation

The “Source Text” for Surya Namaskar A & B

As far as Ashtanga’ Yoga’s Surya Namaskar A & B sequences–taught by Jois, but supposedly derived from Krishnamacharya–neither are expressly formulated in K’s work.

The “source text” for these sequences is Jois’s own book, Yoga Mala.

Though composed in 1958, it was not published until 1962 in the Telegu language. In 1999, it was published in English by America’s North Point Press.

Lino Miele published a slim paperback with the A & B sequences titled, Ashtanga Yoga, a half-decade earlier–near 1993.

I know of no other older publication that describes these vinyasas.

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Innovation, Creativity, and Tradition

As far as modern origins go, such designations do nothing to limit the power of techniques for living yogis.

The potency of these practices is enhanced by their design for the current age.

All inner and outer technologies were invented by wise men and women at some point in cultural history. We can praise Krishnamacharya, Jois, Iyengar, and the teachers of Kripalu for providing many potent new ways to interface with the power of yoga.

 

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