A Bhāvana doesn’t depend on the reality of what I fix upon……

bhavana

“A Bhāvana doesn’t depend on the reality of what I fix upon.
I can direct my Bhāvana to a real sensation,
such as the contact between my feet and the ground, for instance.
But I could easily imagine myself in good health,
when in reality I am ill.”
– ‘Concerning the Cakra’ by TKV Desikachar

Bhāvana means that I create for myself a place, an idea, an image……

bhavana

Bhāvana means that I create for myself a place,
an idea, an image, a vision
and I direct my attention towards it.”
– ‘Concerning the Cakra’ by TKV Desikachar

Whilst Prāṇa circulates in us, we live, and when it goes, we die.

prana

“Each time we wish to understand a system whatever it is, we need a structure. What applies to modern science already applied to the ancient yogic sages when they were concerning themselves with the human system.

The method of the ancients was to reflect, to meditate and to attempt to find clear replies to their questions. They tried to give a form to what they wanted to understand, corresponding to what they already understood. In this way of proceeding, they did not differ from the sages of the ancient medical science of Āyurveda who also tried to understand the human organism in a particular way, nor from the doctor philosophers of ancient China.

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Your mind is a product of your food, memory is linked to food……

smrti

“Your mind is a product of your food, memory is linked to food.
My stability, my confidence is linked to food.
All these facts are mentioned in the texts.
For these reasons I said that food is very important and becomes me.
Not just the muscles, but the whole me, the whole personality.”
– TKV Desikachar from an interview in the Journal Viniyoga Italia on Yoga and Well Being.

The best word for health is the Saṃskṛta word Svastha.

The best word for health is the Saṃskṛta word Svastha.

Question to TKV Desikachar:
Sir, could you please tell us what is meant by health? How do you understand a healthy person?

TKV Desikachar Response:
The best word that comes to my mind for health is the Saṃskṛta word Svastha. Sva plus Stha is Svastha. Sva indicates myself and Stha means to remain.

For me health is that state of being where I can manage myself. This is indicated by the word Svastha. A-svastha is that state where I am not able to manage by myself.

– Extract from an interview in the Journal Viniyoga Italia on Yoga and Well Being.

What is the relationship between Yoga and Āyurveda?

patanjali-1

Question to TKV Desikachar:
What is the relationship between Yoga and Āyurveda?

TKV Desikachar Response:
First of all, we believe that the same master gave us Āyurveda and Yoga: Patañjali. We worship Patañjali remembering him as the person who gave us Āyurveda for the body and Yoga for the mind.

Body and mind are so interlinked that you cannot really separate them. Since Āyurveda is a complete system, they talk also about Yoga. Yoga is defined in Āyurveda. And the language of Yoga is such that a person cannot understand the Yoga texts without understanding the concepts of Āyurveda.

At least in theory, these sciences go very well together. However, in India, the treatment given to Yoga in the Āyurveda University is very scarce, it is not even worth mentioning. So, in reality, Āyurveda people are not familiar with Yoga as much as they should be. The only exception was my father. He knew both, that is why he was able to mix both systems, according to the need.

“What Patañjali gave for the mind through Yoga,
he gave for the body through Āyurveda.”

What I would say is, what Patañjali gave for the mind through Yoga, he gave for the body through Āyurveda.

– Extract from an interview in the Journal Viniyoga Italia on Yoga and Well Being.

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A text like the Yoga Sūtra is something so very special……

atha yoganusasanam web

“A text like the Yoga Sūtra is something so very special,
it becomes a life-companion.
It is so deep, if taken seriously,
but it can also be very shallow
if the depth of the study is not there
and if there is no application.”
– TKV Desikachar from an interview in the
Journal Viniyoga Italia on Yoga and Well Being.

What is the relationship between diet and health?

annam

Question to TKV Desikachar:
What is the relationship between diet and health?

TKV Desikachar Response:
It is a big subject. Our system has to be nourished. Food or Annam is needed. There is the Annamaya, we have a body which has to be nourished. The food we need and eat is Annam.

“Annam is that which will nourish you or that which will eat you.”

This Annam is a very interesting Saṃskṛta word. Annam is that which will nourish you or that which will eat you. The Annam or food must nourish me, it should not consume me. For this reason there is given so much importance to Annam that nourishes and Annam that will consume.
– Extract from an interview in the Journal Viniyoga Italia on Yoga and Well Being.

I told this person that I had learnt 380 postures in six months……

Āsana_12

“I told this person that I had learnt something like 380 postures in six months,
my daughter could do the same thing in three months,
but this was when I did not know Yoga.
It has taken me years to know how to behave with somebody,
and that is probably more Yoga.”
– TKV Desikachar from an interview in the Journal Viniyoga Italia on Yoga and Well Being.

How is Āyurveda linked to Cikitsā or the therapeutic application of Yoga?

Question to TKV Desikachar:
“How is Āyurveda linked to Cikitsā or the therapeutic application of Yoga?”

TKV Desikachar Response:
“There is a lot of difference. As far as Yoga is concerned, we are concerned with the personality of the person, the mental aspect and the higher aspirations of the student.

That is why Yoga has a lot to offer. For the body Āyurveda is the solution. A good combination would be Āyurveda and Yoga.

My father used to do that. He would teach Āsana practice, or Prāṇāyāma or meditation and he would talk about diet and he would also give some Āyurveda medicine.

He was treating not only the body but the whole person with the help of this great combination.”

– Extract from an interview in the Journal Viniyoga Italia on Yoga and Well Being.

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Kuṇḍalinī represents that which blocks access to the central energetic channel…..

Unknown

“The great yogin Yājñavalkhya said that the constant and intensive practice of Prāṇāyāma brought Prāṇa and Agni together,
and gradually the obstacle at the base of the Suṣumnā would be totally dissolved.
He gave this block the name ‘Kuṇḍali’ meaning coiled or ‘Kuṇḍalinī’ meaning ‘rolled up’ in other texts.
Kuṇḍalinī represents that which blocks access to the central energetic channel.
When this obstacle is eliminated, Prāṇa penetrates and begins to rise in the central channel.
This is the most precise description we have of the process.
This is also the most clear and coherent.”
– ‘Concerning the Cakra’ by TKV Desikachar

It is clear that no examination of the body will reveal Cakra.

2visuddhi

“It is clear that no examination of the body will reveal Cakra. The ancients knew this well and my father often repeated it. The system of Cakra is a subtle vision of the Yogi, in accordance with his own personal experience. For this reason there are different descriptions.

If we want to concern ourselves with the Cakra, we must accept them and recognise them in this way. This is why it is a a waste of time to argue about it, as people tend to do these days. Why does it matter if this or that Cakra is one or two centimetres higher or lower, if it is vertical or horizontal, blue or green.

On the contrary, it is a question of showing that we are concerned with particular inner images and to avoid this ridiculous situation of having useless arguments.”

– ‘Concerning the Cakra’ by TKV Desikachar

Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy

Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy

Interview with TKV Desikachar

By Paul Harvey in 2000 whilst studying with TKV Desikachar in Chennai

Paul thanks Desikachar for agreeing to give time for this interview and Desikachar replies with thanks.

Question from Paul Harvey

It is a very broad area that we want to look at around science and medical conditions, as there is a tremendous interest in Yoga as a therapy in the world today.

I would like to start by maybe getting a historical perspective on Yoga and asking questions on your understanding of it. Where do you feel that this link started between Yoga and Science? Because Yoga originally was something that was not associated with science.

It was something that was done for personal development, spiritual development, or even perhaps physical development and somewhere we seem to have made this link with science, which was predominantly something that was growing up in the West whilst at the same time Yoga was growing or has grown in India, with less connection directly with science.

So I am wondering if you could help develop this question about the link between Yoga and Science.

Response from TKV Desikachar

If we look at the history of India, for centuries and centuries for different reasons India has always fascinated the West. More people have travelled to India from the West than from other parts because the Chinese could not come because of the mountains. There has been silk; there has been a lot of mix about India’s great history; also many conquerors came.

Through these travels people from the West, which is the source of modern science, heard about many things that are happening. Among the things that they came to know about were some of what we call the ‘feats’ of Yogis. In fact long, long ago Yoga was linked only to all these feats, levitation, flying, etc.

In the 18th and 19th Century, in the beginning of the 19th Century, there was an observation made during the time of the great King, Ranjit Singh in the Punjab, which fascinated some of the travellers of the West. There was a Yogi who was kept in a box and buried underground. He was there for a number of days and he did not die.

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But we need to know how to help the person……

we need to know how to help the person

Question from Paul Harvey

So to conclude from what you are saying, because somebody comes in with a particular problem and Yoga helps that person with a problem we cannot turn it around and say therefore that Yoga helps that problem in all situations.

 Response from TKV Desikachar

We help the person, because we help the person certain illnesses are reduced
but we need to know how to help the person.

– Extract from Interview with TKV Desikachar by Paul Harvey in 2000
on ‘Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy’.

I still do not know the answer until I meet the person……

I still do not know the answer until I meet the person

Question from Paul Harvey

If I may conclude with an awkward question. For somebody reading this interview they would perhaps understand from it that Yoga is not a straightforward means of for this problem this solution.

Yet there are many, many Yoga books already on the marketplace that offer precisely this, almost as a glossy self-help manual with quite specific links between postures and diseases or breathing techniques and diseases, between techniques and illnesses.

What have you to say to the reader with this respect, because there is this large body of, I cannot say evidence of, there is this large body of information that is there. What is the reader to do? With all this what can help?

Response from TKV Desikachar

There is such a large body of information that is there which tells that this disease can be cured by this posture or by this breathing that I wonder if the reader should think why there are more and more people and more and more sicknesses if all these solutions are there.

I think most of the doctors must close their shop, but it has not happened and how many of these authors who have written these things can really honestly say there have been out of these problems they are talking about.

Today if somebody comes to me after how many years now, thirty nine years I have been teaching, if somebody comes to me with all this experience I still do not know the answer until I meet the person, interact with the person I do not know what is possible even if it is a simple headache.

– Extract from Interview with TKV Desikachar by Paul Harvey in 2000 on ‘Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy’.

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We make sure of that in our School that there is a strong internship……

Question from Paul Harvey

So we as students come to Yoga. How do teachers evaluate, if from what you are saying it could be that the same symptom. If we take stress for example, similar stress could produce five different responses. One person gets blood pressure, one person will get digestive problems, another person will have headaches, and another person will get sleep problems and another person it will effect their relationship.

How do you evaluate? What are the principles on which we can evaluate in order to decide what could be helpful for a problem when there are so many variables based on the same, even on the same symptoms such as in particular stress which can produce some of the results.

Response from TKV Desikachar

First I must have the training, anybody can have good training. I can work on the computer but I must have training. I know nothing I must have training. Training includes certain knowledge of the basics of Yoga, knowledge of the human system, personal pride so that you have some conviction of what you are talking about which means personal experience, internship where we see how the more experienced teacher is doing that work she is doing. We make sure of that in our School that there is a strong internship.

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That is why in Yoga the word for earning confidence is ‘Atha’……

atha

Question from Paul Harvey

Would you say that this response is true for the West, because I know in India the role of relationship, especially with the teacher, is much more pronounced, much more prominent, much more an accepted part of society, whereas in the West we tend to live in a more remote way and therefore using books, using videos is much more acceptable for us in terms of relationships.

Do you feel that your words, which have come out of another culture in our society, can have the same impact for us in the West where we are much more used to going to the bookshop, much more used to being able to do it ourselves.

Also, it is almost for us in the West to be seen as a failure if I have to go to somebody. Sometimes when people go into therapy they regard it as a failure that they have to go to a therapist and talk to someone because I am not able to do it myself.

Response from TKV Desikachar

You know Paul I am not just of India, I am also of South India and there people like you come to see me in India. Once there is some confidence I do not see much difference between East and West, it is a question earning the confidence.

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That is the difference between what we get out of a book and……

Question from Paul Harvey

In today’s society we see many books on positive attitude, positive thinking, so what is it about Yoga that is different from say going into a bookshop and picking up a book that says ’think positive’.

What are the qualities in Yoga that makes it unique and different than from say reading a book on positive action, trying to cultivate positive action because in some sense it could be less effort to just pick up a book.

Why Yoga and how does Yoga work in this area of positive attitude?

Response from TKV Desikachar

This eminent neuroscientist who had the by-pass who also was shocked by the by-pass he has said a lot of things, he was written a lot of books, he is a great scholar and what in fact they had was intellectual but when he went to a teacher, in this case me, when I spoke to him it had a stronger impact to the extent that it stayed, it stayed and became a part of his life.

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A positive approach has a positive effect on the immune system……

desikachar_ph

Question to TKV Desikachar:
So we can consider then that the effect of Yoga is not seen to be directly on the symptom as in modern medicine, it appears from what you are saying it is more to do with the relationship with that problem.

At what level is the human system changing? Because there must be some change in order for that change to reach to the level of the symptom or to my relationship with the symptom. At what level of the human system do you think these changes are occurring at?

Response from TKV Desikachar:
I have asked this question to experts because one of my jobs is also to write about these things. I have asked people how does it happen. Positive attitudes they say produce positive things in your immune system. There are a lot of technical terms for that. Negative attitudes produces negative immune system. Attitudes influence how the immune system functions.

Somebody who is asthmatic who is so miserable who thinks she cannot do anything, when she starts she can do something, she is not so unfit, she can raise the arms, she can breath a little more than she thinks she can. When she gets confidence in herself she becomes more positive about herself, even the medicine she takes has a more positive effect as we have seen sometimes when people do Yoga with this affection, with this love, the need for medicine is reduced.

So I think from the scientific point of view a positive approach has a positive effect on the immune system and the rest is a question of time.

– Extract from Interview with TKV Desikachar by Paul Harvey in 2000 on ‘Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga Therapy’.

If I love my body my body will heal……

If I love my body my body will heal

Question from Paul Harvey

So if we find that Yoga is difficult to evaluate in terms of Science and I appreciate that it does not work in the same way that Western medicine does in that Western medicine looks at the symptom then tries to tackle the particular symptom. How in your opinion does Yoga work, what is in Yoga that is so precious, so special?

Response from TKV Desikachar

I had an expert medical doctor, super expert doctor she had some problem with headaches. An extremely competent person but nothing could help, she is a surgeon also, a great writer and then somebody suggested why don’t you try Yoga, that is all. She came to us. I did not teach her, I asked one of my colleagues to teach her. After one month she just said, this is magic. I cannot explain it and the science to it, I have done research, I tried meditating, nothing happened, and this is magic, that is all I can say. She is very grateful for this. I asked her how do you explain some of simple things that we taught you. One thing I must say she said is that you seem to know more about the body than we do. You seem to know about the intricacies of the body but we do not know how the body moves, we do not know what is stiffness what is flexibility, we do not know how to make a body flexible.

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The problem is what does this word ’Yoga’ mean……

The problem is what does this word ’Yoga’ mean

Question from Paul Harvey

On the question of clinical conditions, the Western way treats disease in terms of the use of drugs and has a consistent response to disease and this is seen as something that is of great interest to people in the West.

In terms of Yoga research could you talk more about what exists in terms of research into Yoga in India from a medical viewpoint.

Response from TKV Desikachar

We have a lot of data to say that somebody had a problem, they went to some Yoga courses and then they got better. We have enormous data back in India. This is because India has many Yoga teachers, reputable teachers and not so reputable teachers. When I look at the journals and newspapers many Institutions are doing a lot of good work where people feel better after going to Yoga.

The problem is what does this word ’Yoga’ mean. Because science is exact, science expects that we know what was given and what were the conditions in which it was given and what are the effects and science expects this to be repeated again and again. A particular medicine is given for a particular condition again and again and again and when it was not given it does not work and when it is given it works, this is why they have this double blind test.

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The situation today is that more Indians come to Yoga for clinical conditions than for any enlightenment.

desikachar_ph

Question from Paul Harvey

This link with Science and Yoga appears to have given way to more of a link between Yoga and medical conditions, what we call clinical conditions, pathology, to what was originally as you say the power of mind over body. It has become now much more of an interest in problems of the body and problems of the mind.

Could you talk more about how you saw this link developing, because on the one hand we have these as you say feats, these tremendous feats, you gave examples of these feats and now we have this interest in Yoga for clinical conditions. Do you have some understanding of how this has evolved into looking at Yoga in this way?

Response from TKV Desikachar

When these scientists, also medical scientists, became interested in Yoga they began to read books on it. Some of these books were translated into English at the beginning of the previous century. Some great English scholars translated some of the ancient Yoga books into English. Some of these books i.e. The Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā talk about the effect of Yoga practise on illness. They talk about certain postures, Āsana, curing certain diseases. This is not the only book; quite a few books talk about the curative aspects of Yoga.

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So this is the initial relationship between Science and Yoga……

Question from Paul Harvey

It is a very broad area that we want to look at around science and medical conditions, as there is a tremendous interest in Yoga as a therapy in the world today.

I would like to start by maybe getting a historical perspective on Yoga and asking questions on your understanding of it. Where do you feel that this link started between Yoga and Science? Because Yoga originally was something that was not associated with science.

It was something that was done for personal development, spiritual development, or even perhaps physical development and somewhere we seem to have made this link with science, which was predominantly something that was growing up in the West whilst at the same time Yoga was growing or has grown in India, with less connection directly with science.

So I am wondering if you could help develop this question about the link between Yoga and Science.

Response from TKV Desikachar

If we look at the history of India, for centuries and centuries for different reasons India has always fascinated the West. More people have travelled to India from the West than from other parts because the Chinese could not come because of the mountains. There has been silk; there has been a lot of mix about India’s great history; also many conquerors came.

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One of the important rules is that we should know what not to teach.

One of the important rules is that we should know what not to teach

“One of the important rules is that we should know what not to teach.”
– Extract from Interview with TKV Desikachar by Paul Harvey in 2000 on ‘Science, Medical Conditions and Yoga as a Therapy’.
n.b. This ‘rule’ was one of the primary foci for my first years 121 lessons
on Pathology and Yoga Cikitsa with Desikachar when living in Madras through 1980.

When somebody comes to us they are not coming with one problem……

they are not coming with one problem

Question by Paul Harvey

So from what you are saying it appears that it is not really possible to evaluate Yoga in the terms that would satisfy Western science, in terms of having several study groups, one group practising Yoga, one group practising some placebo, one group not practising; measuring the different groups and trying to determine the effect over the same period of time.

Response from TKV Desikachar

It is a challenge. Now I am not saying that people have not done this type of study, I always want to call it study, I do not call it a conclusion, study is being done by scientific people interested in Yoga, studies are being done but there is a tendency to make a hasty conclusion. There are many Institutions in India that say we have done these studies

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