At the workshop this past weekend, Beryl Bender Birch drew a picture that caught my imagination. Back in the days of the Palace of Mysore when the trio of future gurus of classical yoga (T.K.V. Desikachar, B.K.S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois) were studying under Krisnamacharya, the father of hatha yoga (it’s his 1938 video to the right), the Maharaja of Mysore was also patron to Western gymnastics that was brought to India by the British colonial regime. The two groups of students stood at opposite sites of the courtyard that served as classroom, copying techniques from each other. She said that a lot of the sequencing of vinyasa come from that cultural cross-pollination. It struck me as ironic that the East-West convergence influenced the formation of classic yoga. And today you’re getting another round of convergence as yoga meshes with American (and other Western) culture.
You can see a historic video of Iyengar from the same period.