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.


  1. Absolutely wonderful post! Thank you ever so much for sharing :)

  2. just simply priceless....

  3. Really Nice post, thanks for this.

  4. Thank you, Cara! This is wonderful.

  5. You're very welcome.

    If anyone else has any memories they'd like to share, please do!

  6. rebecca11:36 PM

    hah - i have the same (or similar) memory of Guruji asking the baby why she was there. the shala dissolved into laughter.

    my first trip to mysore i struggled with supta k forever. Guruji would pass by, sometimes help, but never say anything. after weeks he finally spoke, it was to say "mmmph, no improvement". frank but humourous, gentle but firm. so lovely.

    thanks for this post Cara :)

  7. I think the best thing of all was the hug you'd get after backbending.....

  8. "mind your own mula bandha" is a good one

  9. and the "thank you, thank you, thank you" when he plops on top of you like you are a human couch after bbs