The Tambrahm Yogi Who Revolutionised Modern Yoga

Blog post by Aditya Jayaram

Tambrahms have become noticed as a community on account of their excellence in whichever field they entered – be it music, science and technology or civic service.This was on account of a deep foundation in spiritual practices which increased their focus, concentration and awareness.Whilst most of these practices revolved around the Nityakarmas (Nitya = daily + karma = activity) such as Sandhyavandanam, there were those who went beyond, into the esoteric with tapas, dhyana and yoga. One such stalwart was Yogacharya Sundaram of Bangalore (1901 to 1994), one of the pioneers of modern yoga.

Yogacharya Sundaram was born into a poor TamBrahm family which migrated to Bangalore from Madurai around 1910. A sickly child, he was taught asanas by a Maharashtrian lady, soon mastering it. He began teaching Yoga as a physical fitness stream in the early 1920’s, writing the world first English manual on Yoga in 1926 at age 25. Soon, he graduated to using Yoga for therapy, curing people of illnesses using a combination of yogasana and diet. He wrote extensively in Tamil, English and Sanskrit, regularly contributing articles on yoga in the Tamil weekly Ananda Vikatan.

He met his Guru Shri. Ananda Giri when he was in his 40’s and this changed his life, moving him from a materialistic to a deeply spiritual life. He soon became a favourite of his Guru and this was on account of his ability to stay in meditation for many hours with no break. In fact, another disciple asked the Guru what was so special of Sundaram’s dhyana, and the Guru asked the disciple to try and break Sundaram’s meditation. The disciple placed a rock on Sundaram’s head, shouted in his ear and in general tried to break his concentration to no avail.

A blog on the Yoga philosophies and practice of Shri Yogacharya Sundaram details the amazing contribution to Yogasana by him and his family – http://asana-therapy.blogspot.in/2016/05/dedication-to-great-yogacharya-sundaram.html

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7 thoughts on “The Tambrahm Yogi Who Revolutionised Modern Yoga

  1. The first paragraph is really hilarious! Nice work of fiction! On a serious note, I suggest you do some fact-checking. Oh, and please replace the word ‘yoga’ with ‘yogasana’ wherever possible. Look at Patanjali’s work (I’ve said it above too).

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  2. Modern Yoga as we know it was popularised mainly by stalwarts such as Yogacharya T. Krishnamacharya, S. Sundaram, Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar, A.G. Mohan etc, all tambrahms. Early Yoga was closely associated with spiritual liberation and this later metamorphosed into what it is today. Tambrahms have played an overwhelmingly significant role in this movement to popularise and take Yoga to the masses.

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      1. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is popularly called Raja Yoga. Yogacharya Sundaram wrote on the subject in Tamil in the 1940’s and subsequently in English in 1980’s, both are first of their kind on the subject. Yogacharya Sundaram also wrote extensively in Tamil but of note is his English manual on application of Yoga for health, called “Yogic Physical Culture” and a detailed document on food for health called “Diet and Digestion” in the 1920’s. These books are also first of their kind.
        A more contemporary version of Raja Yoga is available at http://yoga-shala.blogspot.in.
        There is no doubt that Tambrahms were pioneers in the field of Yoga, shaping the world of Yoga as we know it today. This achievement should be celebrated and emulated so that coming generations can be proud of our achievements as we are of our elders.

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        1. Wait. We’re not talking about something written about the Sutras. And heavens no, TamBrahms were, are and will never be pioneers of yoga because they fail miserably to understand what it is. Always. They use their analytical mind too much.

          Celebrated and emulated – never.

          Proud of our elders – nice joke. Misanthropic casteists.

          They never fully understood what it meant to be Brahman, even by their own definition of it.

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  3. Correction! Yogacharya Krishnamacharya did not fall out of favor with the Mysore royalty. Post independence, the princely states received “Privy purse” and lost the authority to rule in the process of integration with the Indian Union. The newly formed Mysore state government did not view patronage in the same manner as the Mysore Maharajas did and Mysore royal family could only watch helplessly when funding for the yoga school was cut off. The yogashala in Mysore was ordered to be closed by K.C. Reddy, the first Chief Minister of then-Mysore State (now Karnataka) in 1950. It was then the Yogacharya moved to Madras as a lecturer at Vivekananda College.

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  4. There is another famous Rogacharya, Kridhnamcharya, patronized by the Wodiyar Krishnaraja of Mysore in the 1920;s and 30’s. He had a a Yoga school in the palace. He fell out of favor (discriminating Brahmins spread to Karnataka). He moved to Chennai (Alwarpet?) and becamepopular. His son succeded him.
    Many Westerners go there to be certified,
    I went to visit (My Finnish brother-in-law was fascinated by Krishnamacharya’)s books and
    I felt it will be nice to get photos). The son was in the USA! I took photos and that was the end of my contact,.
    Yoga is big business and Mysore has a few yoga centers.
    I am not sure if it is a panacea, but one can seek and find out, Yoga has nothing to do with Tambrams, I was born one, in Chennai, and grew up in Tiruvallikeni, more akeni now.
    I am retired in Palm Beach, FL a spotless town.

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