A few favorite paragraphs near the end of A.G. Mohan’s excellent and brief biography, Krishnamacharya:
‘In purity of food lies purity of mind. When the mind is pure, awareness is unbroken.’ Chandogya Upanishad 7.26.2
Traditional explanations of this famous saying note that the word food refers not merely to what we eat but to what we see, hear, smell, or touch as well. Pratyahara is to restrict all ‘food’ for the senses. Control over the senses is necessary to lead the mind to purity. And only a clear mind can remain undisturbed in the practice of awareness, the cardinal practice of yoga.
Krishnamacharya used to emphasize that food in its literal sense was very important: disciplining the diet is one of the first steps in gaining control over the mind. In addition to controlling his food habits, though, Krishnamacharya also controlled his other senses. As an example mentioned earlier, he generally kept his eyes down, whether he was sitting on the verandah or in his room or walking to teach a class. As our gaze wanders, our mind follows. By preventing our gaze from straying needlessly from the task at hand, we take in fewer distractions.
Other favorite gems from the book, which rates a solid five stars for its lucid and precise stories and anecdotes from a devoted student of Krishnamacharya. An inspiration to any on the path of yoga.
The Centre for Yoga Studies website also has a number of articles written about Krishnamacharya by his students. Interesting material if you’d like to read more about this modern-day yoga pioneer.