Book Review: Health, Healing and Beyond – Yoga and the Living Tradition of Krishnamacharya by R.H. Cravens & T.K.V. Desikachar

Book Review by Marcus J Freed and

Health, Healing and Beyond – Yoga and the Living Tradition of T. Krishnamacharya is one of the most enjoyable yoga books I’ve read in years. Krishnamacharya is the best-kept secret in the history of yoga, because he has directly influenced virtually every single yoga class that is almost available in the Western world. Very little of the yoga-going public know his name and the power of teachings.

Sri Krishnamacharya is also an important figure for members of the Jewish Yoga Network as he presented yoga in a light that is harmonious with all religious practices, but more about that later.

There are very different forms of yoga classes available in today’s world, ranging from fast-paced flowing vinyasa that derive from the Ashtanga Yoga school, or the slower-moving precise alignment-based classes of Iyengar Yoga and it’s spin-offs. These two seemingly different forms came through the legendary teachers Patthabi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar, both of whom had exactly the same teacher – T.K.S. Krishnamacharya. His other students included the highly-influential teachers Indra Devi and T.K.V. Desikachar, the latter being his son.

It is Desikachar who wrote Health, Healing and Beyond, shedding new light into the world and teachings of his father. Explaining yoga is simple, as he explains that ‘In Yoga, we strive to become one with the object of our concentration’ (p.29) but the path is more arduous and demanding in discipline.

Krishnamacharya had a surprisingly open approach to integrating yoga within other religious traditions:

“Others are wary of practices such as chanting and meditation. In this connection, one of the most frequently asked questions is: Doesn’t Yoga always lead to Hinduism? The answer: Emphatically not – unless you are a Hindu and wish to raw closer to your religion. Yoga leads to the threshold of the Absolute., which may then be experienced according to each individual’s need or destiny, whether sacred or not. In fact, I am often asked to design meditations for devotees of other religions. I usually ask the students to get approval from their own spiritual advisors because it does seem odd, say, that a Hindu in Chennai creates a meditation for a Catholic who lives in Barcelona.” (p 22-23).

This is inspiring stuff, and Health, Healing and Beyond is a superb read for all practitioners of yoga.