Sunday, May 31, 2009


You can read Napper's very personal account of the puja in Mysore for Guruji - and view photos of the altar - here.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Last night was the puja and prayer session for Pattabhi Jois at YogaNow.

It started at 9pm and concluded after midnight.

There was a beautiful altar of flowers, incense, candles, images of Guruji, and prasad.

The session began with us chanting Oms while the pujari (priest) did his slokas facing the altar.

Then Amy Beth played the harmonium, and led us in bhajans to Amma, Shiva and Ganesh.

Flowers and a turmeric-rice mixture were passed out to everyone in attendance.

Then we chanted the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra* 108 times. It is a prayer for healing and comfort (and is the one Nina Hagen is singing, above). As we began chanting each round, we took a small amount of the flowers/rice, and drew it up the center of the body and paused at the throat. Near the end we drew it towards the third eye and then tossed it at the altar as we finished. This was to help Guruji on to the next... segment.

Then we read things and gave recollections and offerings. I read something Suddha (who brought ashtanga to Chicago) had written, and some excerpts from this post. Amy Beth talked about how on her first trip to Mysore, she asked Guruji's advice for a personal problem. He told her to do headstand for 250 breaths. It worked.

Afterwords the pujari spoke a bit about death and how it's a transition, not an ending.

Next we sang another bhajan while he did something with fire and blessed the prasad (fruit and other sweet offerings, including wonderful home-made cookies and an amazing vegan chocolate cake from PH decorated with the words "Jai Guruji").

We all took the light, and some prasad.

Then we ate, and drank vegan chai sweetened with coconut milk.

It was very moving, very healing - and well worth staying up past my yogi bedtime.

I urge anyone else who can attend one of these to please do it.

If not for you, then for him.

* * *

Since I had to teach Mysore class at 6:30 the next morning (and there's no parking after 10pm in my far-flung neighborhood), I stayed the night at the yoga center. I slept on one of the massage tables, and experienced deep, dreamless sleep (this was a very welcome after Wednesday's sleepless night due to yet more late-night loud music from the neighbors. I must find a sattvic place to live if I want to reach the Goal).

* * *

This morning I awakened and saw that the flame for Guruji, which must last for 11 days, was still going strong. Part of the altar is still in the main yoga studio, which was a comforting sight to wake up to.

There was a lot of leftover prasad (blessed sweets), so after teaching I brought some home. I'd heard that giving prasad to an animal can help them get a human birth in the next life, so I gave some to Kirby.

He ate it greedily.

And then he promptly threw it up.

All over the house.

Maybe he likes being a cat after all.


Mahamrityunjaya Mantra (from this website):

Mahamrityunjaya Mantra is a great mantra dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is called Maha Mritunjaya Mantra because it is a great death-conquering mantra. Sometimes it is also known as Mrita-Sanjivani Mantra. The Maha Mrityunjaya mantra is hailed by the sages as the heart of the Veda. This mantra holds the highest place along with the Gayatri Mantra among the many mantras used for contemplation and meditation.

It is believed that to overcome the fear of death, Lord Shiva himself gave humanity the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra. This mantra restores health, happiness and brings calmness in the period of death. When courage is blocked, it rises up to overcome obstacles. The Maha Mritunjaya Mantra is as follows:

"Aum Trayambakam Yajaamahey
Sugandhim Pushti Vardhanam
Urvaarukamiva Bandhanaath
Mrutyor Muksheeya Maamritaat"

Meaning: Lord Shiva is the three eyed god. Shiva is always perfumed. He fosters all the creatures of the Universe. Lord Shiva releases from death for the sake of immortality, as cucumber detaches its bondage of the vine. We worship Lord Shiva to liberate us from death.

This mantra is really powerful and even regarded as a life saving prayer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Although his body is gone, Pattabhi Jois is still bringing people together.

This was the case yesterday, when some teachers and direct students got together for a 10am Memorial practice in his honor.

The practice was wonderful; excellent (slow) breathing and focus and very little talking, except for when the neighbors downstairs got tired of The Machine's third series jumps and turned the music up loud (this was after they'd had it up loud the night before, til 12:45am).

Then some of us met at the corner for a tender coconut.

The coconuts were of course wonderful, although they were Thai (nutty flavor) rather than Indian (more subtle).

Next we headed one block north to Mysore Woodlands for dosas and thali (South Indian meals) and storytelling.

People dropped by one by one.

All of us were together because of Guruji and his teaching. Some had gone to his workshops in NYC, some to Florida, some to Mysore, and some were simply teaching his practice. It was six (actually one or two) degrees of SKPJ.

JF brought photos from his 2005 (?) NYC workshop. We look like teenagers in them...

TR pointed out that when you told Guruji you were from Chicago, his eyes would light up and he'd say, "Yamy!" How he loved Amy Beth, who will hold a puja / prayer session for him Thursday night at 9 at YogaNow, 742 N. LaSalle.

We ended the meal by splitting a bar of chocolate - Guruji's favorite (thank you, PH).

After I got home though, it all began to sink in.

Pattabhi Jois really is gone.

Yes, the practice will stay with me.

But that part of my life - a decade of running to Mysore or New York or Florida to see him, or subbing and scrimping and saving and planning planning planning to go there - seems to be over.

The mind is very sad.

But it will get over it.

Monday, May 25, 2009


The BIG Cinemas Bollywood GolfGlen5 multiplex in Niles is slated to open next Saturday, May 30!

(Actually, it may have already opened).

It features:

-Five screens.

-Digital 2k projection.

-Stadium seating.

-Restaurant and bar.

-Bollywood*, Tollywood (Telugu) and other Indian-language fillum.

And it's just a short drive from the tenement.

More info here.


*Of course I didn't develop a taste for Indian-language films til I went to Mysore, and the only reason I went there was to see Pattabhi Jois.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Exactly one year ago today, KT, TS, I and a couple hundred others were in the middle of attending three led primary series classes with Pattabhi Jois in Islamorada, Florida.

This week, we are mourning his death (although at the moment the feeling of gratitude for being able to study with him and say goodbye last summer is far outweighing any despondency).

This week, after a dream about Dharma Mittra, I began re-re-re-re-reading the Bhagavad-Gita and came across the following favorite passage from "The Way of Ultimate Reality," when Arjuna was upset about having to slay his family members in a just war. It's from Swami Nikhilananda's translation:

"The Lord said: You have been mourning for those who Should not be mourned for, though you speak Words of wisdom. Neither for the living nor for the dead do the wise grieve.

"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor these kings of men. Never will there be a time hereafter when any of us shall cease to be.

"Even as the embodied Self passes, in this body, through the stages of childhood, youth and old age, so does It pass into another body. Calm souls are not bewildered by this.

"Notions of heat and cold, of pain and pleasure, arise, O son of Kunti, only from contact of the senses with their objects. They come and go; they are impermanent. Endure them, O Bharata.

"That calm man who remains unchanged in pain and pleasure, whom these cannot disturb, alone is able, O greatest of men, to attain immortality.

"The unreal never is. The Real never ceases to be. The conclusion about these two is truly perceived by the seers of Truth.

"That by which all this is pervaded know to be imperishable. None can cause the destruction of that which is immutable.

"Only the bodies, of which this eternal, imperishable, incomprehensible Self is the indweller, are said to have an end. Fight, therefore, O Bharata.

"He who looks on the Self as the slayer, and he who looks on the Self as the slain -- neither of these apprehends aright. The Self slays not nor is slain.

"It is never born, nor does It ever die, nor, having once been, does It again cease to be. Unborn, eternal, permament, and primeval, It is not slain when the body is slain.

"He who knows the Self to be indestructible, eternal, unborn, and immmutable -- how can that man, O son of Pritha, slay or cause another to slay?

"Even as a person casts off worn-out clothes and puts others on that are new,so the embodied Self casts off worn-out bodies and enters into others that are new.

"Weapons cut It not; fire burns It not; water wets It not; the wind does not wither It.

"This Self cannot be cut nor burnt nor wetted nor withered. Eternal, all-pervading, unchanging, immovable, the Self is the same for ever.

"The Self is said to be unmanifest, incomprehensible, and unchangeable. Therefore, knowing It to be so, you should not grieve.

"But if you think the Self repeatedly comes into being and dies, even then, O mighty one, you should not grieve for It.

"For to that which is born, death is certain, and to that which is dead, birth is certain. Therefore you should not grieve over the unavoidable.

"All beings are unmanifest in their beginning, O Bharata, manifest in their middle state, and unmanifest again in their end. Why, then, lament for them?

"Some look on the Self as a wonder; some speak of It as a wonder; some hear of It as a wonder; still others, though hearing, do not understand It at all.

"The Self, which dwells in all bodies, can never be slain, O Bharata. Wherefore you should not mourn for any creature."

Thursday, May 21, 2009



There are so many indelible Guruji-isms. Here are a few off the top of the head:

-Do your practice and all is coming

-Yoga is 99 percent practice, one percent theory.

-Do the pose 1,000 times and it becomes perfect.

-Ghee and honey is poison-making (this was said often at conference)

-Only one guru taking.

-Think God. Be God.

-Yes, yes, you come!

-Yes, one more!

-Bad lady! (I got this twice - once at the old shala, while losing balance during an Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana adjustment from Guruji (yes, he used to do that!), and once at the new shala in 2007, when I told him it was my last day: "Bad lady! Why leaving?" Big smile).

-When you come? When you come? (This was said to a baby that appeared on the shala stage in 2004, where it waited on a blanket while its parents practiced)

-Why? (this was often said when someone was doing something that was clearly incorrect)

-CHETURI!!!! (This was said during sun salutations or vinyasa in a led class, when someone would inevitably ignore the count and forge ahead into upward-facing dog. He'd have the rest of us hold Caturanga Dandasana - a torturous pushup pose - til they figured out their mistake and went back into Caturanga.)

-Head back! Head back! (in Upavista Konasana B)

-Nine times rounding! (Garbanpindasana)

-Take one feet back your hands! (Purvattonasana)

-Lose your hands! (meaning "close your hands," or put your fingers together) (trikonasana, parsvakonasana, navasana)

-Lift UP! (Utpluthith)

-Yes, yes, You do! (every pose)

-Thankyouverymuch (at the end of class, this was our signal to come out of savasana. Most of us would then queue up and pay our respects).


How well I remember conferences at the old shala, when we would arrive in the late afternoon and sit on the floor at Guruji's feet and watch him, in his chair, open the mail and read the Kannada-language newspaper. Children would ride by outside on their bicycles. A late student would come in, touch Guruji's feet ("Thank you, thank you!" he'd reply), and we'd all shift so they could find a spot on the floor. The electricity would inevitably go out ("load-shedding") and the fans would stop moving. We'd start to sweat. We'd fidget.

Sharath would ride up on his motorcycle, and walk in wearing sunglasses, jeans and t-shirt, looking just like a Bollywood heart-throb. He'd sit down and pick up the other afternoon newspaper. We'd sweat and fidget. Sharath would go into the back room, sell some t-shirts, change into yoga clothes, and come back to teach his local students. At some point, someone might ask Guruji a question. More often than not it was about yoga and pregnancy. As in, "Guruji, OK for ladies practice pregnant?" More often than not he would ask a senior student - usually Wendy or Chris - to clarify the question for him. Then he'd answer, and it was wonderful.

Here is an excerpt from my diary about the conference on March 2, 2002 - when the city was literally closed down due to a nationwide bandh (strike) protesting the Godhra train burning and Hindu-Muslim riots up north.

I paid Guruji for another month. "Cara." He says it so nicely. I asked him about coming up from backbends and he said one more week of primary and he would help me with intermediate. We'll see. One woman told me that he's been telling her "next week" for years.

No busses today, either, and no petrol. One loud guy who seems to know Guruji told him, "Rickshaw drivers charging double today." And then, "You're the only one making money today." Big laughter. Then someone asked (it's a conference, and when he's done w/ the mail we can ask questions about yoga, which is a rare opportunity, and he is a great scholar), "Why strike today, Guruji?"

After awhile Sharath notices Mike D. [of the Beastie Boys] sitting on the floor (like the rest of us) and greets him. Then he points to his pants and says something to Guruji in Kannada, ending with with "own company" and inclining his head towards Mike D.

Guruji nods, smiles, looks at Mike D. and says, "You working there?" Big laughter (from me only)*

Mike D: "No time for working there. I just give ideas and pay bills."

Guruji: "Prana?" [this is the hip new company for overpriced yoga togs] "Prana is my friend."

Mike D: "Yes. Encinitas."

The conference wears on. Bob pokes his head in and asks what they think of passive stretching and sitting in supta baddhakonasana for 15 minutes at a stretch. "Does it help?" After much discussion and clarification - Bob has mispronounced the name of the asana, which even when pronounced correctly does not exist in astanga vinyasa yoga, where poses are held for 25 breaths max, but rather is from a different style - Sharath says, "We don't know about this stretch. We've never done."

Guruji fields questions about teacher qualifications (they must have his blessing and adhere to his methods or it becomes "very dangerous on both spiritual and physical level") and we learn that pregnant women should not practice during the first trimester and the minimum age to start primary series is 15.

Someone asked why he decided to start teaching westerners back in 1973. "They came."

Near the end of course he reminded us that astanga is "99 percent practice and one percent theory."


Photos (c) 2002 by Caca.
Click here to see Alan Little's amazing photos of the old shala, taken around the same time.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


YogaNow Gold Coast
will hold a prayer and puja for Guruji on Thursday, May 28 at 9PM. Details below, from longtime student Amy Beth Treciokas (aka Miss Y in my Mysore Diaries):

"It is with great sadness that I wish to inform you of the passing of Guruji, Sri K Pattabhi Jois. Following a battle with ailing health, he passed Monday afternoon India time. He was 93.

"'Guruji,' as he was fondly know all over the world, was one of Sri T Krishnamacharya's earlier students in Mysore. He has been instrumental in spreading one of Krishnamcharya's methods, which is now popularly known as Astanga Vinyasa Yoga. He has been one of the most influential teachers of our time. It is our great privilege to have shared this earth with a master of his caliber.

"Yoga Now is organizing prayer and a puja in his honor on May 28th, at 9:00 pm at Yoga Now Gold Coast. We invite everyone to come and participate. Please bring any photos you have of Guruji, fruits for prasadam, flowers for offering, and any poems and writings you would wish to send to Guruji’s soul.

"At this difficult moment, it is the best gift we can offer his family.

"Please feel free to pass this message to your friends and students."


Photos above from the opening of Pattabhi Jois's Florida shala last Memorial Day weekend, taken by Katy Schaffer (c) 2008. It was Guruji's wish to open the shala before he passed; as far as I know that was the last time he taught. You can read all about it (and see more photos) here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


From Eddie Stern's studio:

Dearest Friends and Students,

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who was a crown jewel among teachers. Unsurpassable in knowledge, kindness, humor and compassion, we will miss him dearly.

A prayer service will be held at 8 am on Tuesday morning, and also on Saturday, June 14th at 6 pm.

All are welcome.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Pattabhi Jois has passed away.

But his teaching will live on, through us.

I will always be grateful to him for sharing this practice....

and for his equanimity, love of teaching and tireless service.

I remember how strange it felt to bow to his feet for the first time, after my first practice with him at his NYC intensive in 2000. The mind and body didn't know what they were doing.

But the heart certainly did.

Pattabhi Jois clearly lived his yoga, and loved to teach. He was the real thing. He was meant to share this yoga, and he did it with all of his heart.

Even at the end - like when I saw him last summer in Mysore - he lit up in the love he received from his students, and shined it back at us a hundred-fold.

As Swami Sivananda said, "It is probably not the verbal instruction from the guru that is the most important gift from him - rather it is his own life and shining example."

Om shanti Om.


Photos from the old shala (c) 2002.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Dharma turned 70 on Thursday; the big party takes place tonight.

On Wednesday Little E and I took three classes with Dharma; the noon Master class, the evening multi-level class and the 7:30 Psychic Development.

After the final class, half the people migrated to the health food store up the street for green juice and other raw treats (Dharma says if you eat cooked food, you feel cooked. If you eat live food, you feel alive).

It's been wonderful seeing "siblings" from the 200 and 500 hour teacher trainings, the center, and last December's Mexico retreat.

After class Wednesday night a Dharma regular looked at me and said, "How's it goin,', Chicago?"

And when I told another sadhaka I was feeling drawn to NYC, she said, "I know at least one person who'd be happy if you move here - me!"

The community here is so welcoming.

* * *

Dharma was in fine form for his noon master class on Thursday, his birthday.

Many old students were there, from around the world.

Once the mats were set up, Dharma had us move them to a vertical position.

We did the usual intense sequence of poses, ending with various leg-behind-head variations and two minutes of "Do whatever you like."

After savasana, we gathered in a circle and chanted "Sri Ram."

And then spontaneously began singing "Happy birthday."

It's hard to believe he's 70.

* * *

Yesterday I took Dharma's day-long intensive at the Yoga Journal conference.

Fewer people were there than at the March YJ conference in Wisco.

It was utterly amazing.

Afterwords I visited friends in the marketplace.

I also saw the beautiful program for tonight's birthday party, with its rare photos and testimonials from students. It alone is worth the price of admission.

Then I went to Krishna Das, whose show was sold out.

He did all the jokes he did in Chicago in April.

I laughed at all of them.

And I'll laugh when he does them again tonight at Dharma's party.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I see the Puck Building every time I travel from P-Slope to Dharma's, and get off the F train to switch to the 6 at Bleecker Street.

And every time I see it I think of Pattabhi Jois's 2000 workshop there, and feel a little bit sad.

* * *


On Friday night we went to our friend Michael's 40th birthday party in Cobble Hill (Brooklyn).

On the way there we stopped by the opening for Kai's new restaurant, Watty & Meg. The place is charming, and the turnout was excellent. And, it turns out, our friend Michael sells them their wine.

On Saturday I met the family in Chelsea for a wonderful lunch and a visit to the flea market-in-a-garage.

And on Sunday night Catesy and I went to see Paul Goodman's latest off-Broadway hit, Rooms: the Musical. Sadly it was closing night. But the cast (all two of them) was spot-on. The female lead, Leslie Kritzer, is supposed to be the next big star on Broadway; they recorded the soundtrack today, by the way.

* * *


Today Dharma was in fine form.

Among other things he showed the noon class how to do his famous hands-free headstand, step-by-step (if you want to know, come to class).

This was followed, later, by partner yoga.

My mind and body were not in fine form (the back hurt, and the mind was not calm), so I begged off.

Maybe next time....

Sunday, May 10, 2009


is partner yoga.

Dharma's three-hour Maha Sadhana class yesterday was unusually small (only thirty or so people).

There were a handful of newbies, and he took it easy on us.

Little E and a man from Columbia and I were quite glad about this, as we were utterly exhausted. The man and I had taken the two-hour noon master class all week and were feeling it.

Everything was fine until it came time "to have some fun."

Dharma asked Little E and the man from Columbia to demonstrate a partner sequence that began with Navasana (boat pose) and ended in variations of Upavista Konasana (wide angle pose).

This is the point at which I run out to use the bathroom, or collapse into child's pose - as if to say, I'm not here / leave me alone.

Things like "This isn't yoga" and "Yoga isn't fun" and "I suck at this" usually run through my head.

But this time, Dharma was nearby.

This time, I decided to be receptive.

This time, I turned to the woman on my right.

We did the sequence together.

I lived through it.

And it was rather wonderful.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


1. Teach a children's yoga class at the DMYC*

2. Cold-call studios and ask them to buy ads in the DM newsletter

3. Flip over in handstand during Andrei Ram's moon day class.


*After the kids' class, one of the children asked, "Are you a yoga teacher?"
Out of the mouths of babes....

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Dharma Mittra will turn 70 next Thursday.

The party next Saturday (5/16) includes a class, dinner *and* kirtan with Krishna Das.

Plus it's been moved to the ultra-posh Prince George Ballroom.

More info here.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


"It is probably not the verbal instruction from the guru that is the most important gift from him-rather it is his own life and shining example."

-Swami Sivananda

At this time last year, I was preparing for the opening of Pattabhi Jois's new yoga shala in Florida. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience to be in his presence. It was also the last time I saw him in full teaching mode (read all about it here).

Today, there's news from Mysore that Guruji is in intensive care.


May 5, 2009: We are sad to announce that Guruji has been admitted to the ICU. Sharath must return to Mysore immediately to be with his family at this critical time. He has asked certified teacher John Smith to finish the rest of week one in San Francisco in his absence. We invite registered and drop-in students to finish the week of led primary in support of Guruji, Sharath and family. If you prefer a three-day refund, please let us know:

The second week in San Francisco and the Toronto workshop will unfortunately be canceled. Full refunds will be given. For information about San Francisco, please email: For information about Toronto, email

Thank you for your understanding during this difficult time. Please do not contact the family directly and check this website for updates on Guruji's health.

I miss Guruji.

But his presence and practice will always be with me.

* * *

Pattabhi Jois always said, says, "Only one guru taking."

Guru is a loaded word, and implies a guru-disciple relationship that can transcend time and space and span lifetimes (NOTE: the Guru does not hand out Self-realization but assists in removing obstacles to enlightenment).

At the moment I prefer to use the word teacher.

Today, I arrived in NYC to take classes with Dharma Mittra and celebrate his 70th birthday. I went straight to his shala from La Guardia. After a short time in his presence, I felt like a brand-new person.

For me, his teachings in many ways pick up where Pattabhi Jois's leave off.

Pattabhi would say, "Think God. Be God."

Some people can do that.

And others, like me, need more details.

Dharma provides them.


Sunday, May 03, 2009


Today it was so warm I was able to ride the bike to the 10am class.

Afterwards, I needed to bring the key to SportMarty so he can do cat-duty.

I ran into him on the street after teaching.

I also needed to call Blet today, to find out if Sunday night would be canceled again.

I ran into him on the street a few minutes later, near Trader Joe's.

(So far, no one in his house is sick - so we're on for tonight).

To top it off, the weather is splendid. Flowers are blooming, too-green leaves are appearing, warblers are in season and the whole world has crawled out of their collective hole to enjoy the spectacle.

Sure, we're all a little pale and puffy after such a long winter.

But we're still here.

Even the miserable people have a spring in their step.

And one of the worst weeks in weeks seems like distant memory.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


I asked no fewer than 25 female friends to see this afternoon's screening of Sita Sings the Blues at the Gene Sikel Film Center.

Seven actually responded.

One of them had already seen it online.

Two said they definitely couldn't make it.

Four said they'd come.

Only one actually made it - and even brought along two of her sons.

We had tea afterwords (she = mate latte; me = white coconut soy bubble tea. boys = flabread pizza) and talked for a long, long time.

* * * .

The beautifully animated feature weaves together the story of Sita and Ram (from the Ramayana*) with the breakup of filmmaker Nina Paley's marriage. You can learn more about it here.

The music is wonderful; much of it is by forgotten jazz great Annette Hanshaw, and the rest is original.

The artwork is also stunning.

And lucky you, there are several more screenings at the Gene Shalit, as we like to call it.

Or you can watch it online here. Right now. For free.

That's all.


*Paley's favorite version of The Ramayana is by Aubrey Menen. It's banned in India. There's a wonderful Q&A with Paley - who is from Champaign, Illinois - here.

Friday, May 01, 2009


Sri Dharma Mittra
will turn 70 on May 14.

There's a big party for him on Saturday, May 16. Details here.

See you there!