T. Krishnamacharya Asanas
India, Mysore, 1938
Sponsored by Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodiyar
Digital copy of a lost black-and-white film, 57 min.
Courtesy of Dan Mcguire
Film proved the perfect medium for disseminating yoga’s dynamic potential as sequential movement. In 1938, the Mysore maharaja Krishnaraja Wodiyar sponsored what may be the earliest footage of harmoniously linked postures. Distributed widely as an act of nation building, the maharaja’s goal was to introduce new audiences to yoga and to attract students who might otherwise adopt Western regimens of physical culture.
The film stars the legendary practitioner and teacher T. Krishnamacharya (1888–1989), whose extraordinarily influential students B. K. S. Iyengar (born 1918), K. Pattabhi Jois (1915–2009), T. K. Desikachar (born 1938), and Indra Devi (1899–2002) further developed and propagated postural yoga in India and across the globe. Between the early 1930s and early 1950s, the period in his long teaching career that most strongly colors today’s physicalized forms of yoga, Krishnamacharya developed a system that joined demanding series of asanas with repetitive linking sequences.
In the film, Krishnamacharya and a young Iyengar stunningly demonstrate sustained control, strength, and grace. The slow, almost hypnotic unfolding of asanas complements the camera’s rigorous focus on the practitioner, illuminating the role of the visual in transforming teachers into enduring exemplars, establishing innovative practices, and creating new ways of perceiving yoga.