The secret of the Master
Yoga is not a sport, it is much more than that. Yoga is a philosophy. It was first codified by men for men. Discipline and practice were reserved for male initiates only: young Indians, “filiform” teenagers. The Master’s teaching was conveyed to the disciple in a very confidential manner, as a “well-kept secret,” orally. But nowadays, what do we notice? These are mostly women who practice Yoga. Has the Master’s secret been revealed?
who is Indra Devi?
Indra Devi is the first woman in the world to be taught by one of the greatest masters of Yoga, T. Krishnamacharya. In 1937, no woman and much less a stranger is allowed to practice a Yoga. Indra Devi, born Eugenie Peterson, is an exiled Russian aristocrat. She travels to India from 1927. She is an actress and dancer. Fascinated by Indian culture, she is eager to be introduced to yogic discipline. Indra first suffers a first refusal from the Grand Master. His friend and protector, the Maharaja of Mysore, Wodeyar IV, helps “our pioneer”: he convinces T. Krishnamacharya, who finally agrees to teach at Indra. She becomes the first foreign woman disciple. Later, she will open her first yoga center in China, then in Hollywood, where she will teach Greta Garbo and Marylin Monroe, among others.
The Grand Master will declare later:
« I think if we do not encourage women, the great Indian traditions will die because men do not follow Vedic rules and regulations. They all become businessmen. » Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, 1938
It is in New York, a little more than fifteen years ago, that I discovered Yoga. Like many women, I fall in love with the discipline in my first trial class. It must be said: I have never felt so well, in my body, in my skin. But what happens to me? I float towards the exit of the course and everything becomes clear. Clear. Suddenly, I know how fits my path. I must now live Yoga and immerse myself in its mechanisms, these sensations of well-being and lightness that envelop me. This test course is revealing to me. I enroll in regular classes: I practice every day in a small center in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Over the months and sessions, Yoga changes me deeply: It strengthens me. But, how to explain this transformation? Practice alone is not enough for me anymore. I inform my teacher of my desire to study the discipline at its source, that is to say in India. Mey Elbi offers me before my departure his personal copy of Anne Cushman’s “From Here to Nirvana”. Will this manual lead me to my Guru?
On the road to India, an initiation
This is 2003. I am leaving for a year of study in South India. I spend two months touring Ashrams and Gurus of all kinds. I finally put my bags in Mysore, a city in the state of Karnataka. At this moment of my journey, I do not know yet that I will live there an affective story with this city and its inhabitants. Mysore is known for its silks, sandalwood, incense, elegant palaces and is also the capital of Ashtanga Yoga.
Ashtanga Yoga is a vigorous & rigorous practice of Yoga, developed by T. Krishnamacharya and brought to the Western world by K.Pattabhi Jois in the 1970s. It is a protocol of postures that are invariable in their sequence and practiced. six days a week.
In a popular Shala of Mysore, among Yogis around the world, while studying Ashtanga Yoga, I am the victim of a “Yoga accident”. After a little too much adjustment in a posture that my body is not ready to receive, one of my knees loose. In pain, I find myself unable to continue my learning.
I am very affected. Everything had started so well, and now everything seems finished, everything stops there, in Mysore.
It’s my meeting with Sudhesh Chandra that will change everything. This yoga teacher speaks to me for the first time of Yoga Therapy, he explains me how to continue my practice without too much solicit my knee.
Sudhesh becomes my teacher, I am his student for a year. From early morning until late at night, from 5am to 9pm, he teaches me how to practice postures without forcing my body: it is about adapting Asana to my specific needs.
I attend him in his classes, he introduces me orally to Yoga Sutra, the basic principles of Yoga. I learn Pranayama, I practice Karma Yoga, I am the only foreigner among his disciples. As a final exam at this first training, my teacher leaves me the keys of his Shala. He announces that he is going on vacation with his family. During his absence, I have to teach classes to local residents and lessons to his new students. This is my final exam.
After studying at the 2 largest and oldest schools of Yoga Therapy in India, the KYM in Chennai (whose director TKVDesikachar is none other than the son of T. Krishnamacharya) and the Yoga Institute in Mumbai, I am back in New York where I continue my apprenticeship with Leslie Kaminoff and Judith H.Lasater. I deepen my training in Yoga Therapy, but not only…
I become a mother: Yoga is part of this new stage of my life. I pursue discipline and practice. My body changes, it evolves throughout pregnancy and after childbirth, I understand and live in my flesh the need and benefits of prenatal yoga and postnatal yoga, which accompany the body gently and participate in its fitness and cleaning.
From that moment on, I decided to specialize and focus my training in Yoga Pre and Postnatal Therapy as well as Yoga for children.
In 2007, I returned to India to practice and continue my teaching apprenticeship. I move to Mysore with my family. I am refining discipline and learning. I take over the management of a Guesthouse frequented by international Yogis and I become a mother for the second time.
Return to the country…
A few years have passed and here I am back in France. I am now initiated, ready to teach and share my Yogic experience. I choose to open my own center in Annemasse, Haute-Savoie.
I offer several Yoga classes: Yoga Therapy and Vinyasa Yoga, Prenatal Yoga, Postnatal Yoga and Yoga Family. I also train teachers in Children’s Yoga by developing my method: The “Karma Chocolate Yoga”, based on a philosophy of learning by movement. This method improves the motor skills of children and their confidence while respecting the different phases of their development.
March 2014, return to India. This time, my stay will only last a few weeks. I do not travel alone. Seven women, my pupils, accompany me. We go together to discover Mysore, this city that I love so much. I find my friends, Indian Masters and Yogis. Odors, colors that never stop making my heart beat.
Our journey is all the more initiatory as it is an opportunity for my students and myself to follow in the footsteps of Indra Devi, the « first lady of Yoga ».
A friend director accompanies us, he will follow me for my investigation, the Palace and the Mysore archives, but no traces. Finally my best sources come from the United States of a Yoga teacher who is passionate about the history of this great lady of Yoga. I ended up filming cross-portraits of Mysorians asking them questions about the importance, among other things, of yoga in women’s lives.
This last Indian trip, perhaps because it was only a simple trip, sent me far more inside myself than my previous trips. He brought me back to my deep self. India is a country conducive to this return on oneself: awakening or rebirth. As we must achieve by the practice of Yoga.
It is this awakening or renewal of the senses of which I speak in my classes. In trying to meet needs that are very specific, I try to give my students a tool: Yoga as a way of life.