Monday, July 20, 2009


The article I did about Pattabhi Jois for Yoga Chicago mag is now online. Here's an excerpt:

"I first met Pattabhi Jois during his 2000 workshop in New York City. I wanted to meet the guru of the practice that had changed my life, whom all of the senior teachers I’d studied with spoke so highly about. I’d started practicing yoga after my mother died, and she had always said to go to the source. So there I was in the front row, waiting to meet the source.

"The first time Pattabhi Jois adjusted me was in janu sirsasana C--the so-called toe-crusher pose--that I’d been struggling with since I first started Ashtanga three years earlier. I worried about my knees as Guruji firmly pressed my knee to the floor and my chin to the shin, but the adjustments were spot-on. “Both hands!” he said, when I put out an arm to steady myself. “He knows where your weaknesses are,” my teacher Eric Powell said after class. He also knew limits. On the fourth day Guruji he looked at my rendition of janu sirsasana C and rewarded me with a satisfied “Mmmmm.”

"After class, I felt a little strange lining up with the others and touching his feet. The mind and body didn’t know what they were doing, but the heart certainly did.

"I went again to Guruji’s New York City workshop the following year. After signing “Happy Birthday” to his daughter, Saraswati, on September 11, I got in line to touch his feet as usual. After a big hug, Guruji looked me in the eye and asked, “When coming Mysore?” “Next year,” I said, not knowing how I would pull it off. Later, I walked out and saw the black smoke of the World Trade Center. Three months later, Pakistan and India were lining up troops at their border, preparing for war. But I had to make good on my word to Guruji. So I went to Mysore anyway--even though I was scared out of my wits (I purchased an open-ended ticket so that I could come home early).

"I ended up extending my trip and spending four months with Guruji and Sharath at the old shala, which held only 12 people. And I received regular adjustments from both of them."

The piece includes recollections from other local students, including Dr. R. Chandrasekhara, who studied with SKPJ in the 1960s and later moved to Illinois. Another excerpt:

“I started learning yoga in 1960 after a friend of mine introduced me to my guru, Shree Pattabhi Jois. I started on a Vijaya Dashami [Dasara Festival] day and spent seven years before I had to come to USA. “I started studying with him at the Sanskrit College (1960) then continued from ‘63 to ‘67 at his house in Lakshmipuram. He treated me as his son, and I became extended family.

“We had to practice on a bare floor because the Sanskrit College did not provide any carpet. We used one towel. Later, we all contributed for the prison inmates to weave a coconut coir carpet.

“His hands-on teaching was exemplary. He taught from 5 a.m. till 9 a.m. and again from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. tirelessly. He shaped the student’s body to perfection. He taught me well, and I mastered in three years. We gave one demonstration first of a kind in my home town (Holenarasipur) during Ganesha festival. We did not have any camera to take pictures. After he retired, he moved to Lakshmipuram location.

“Steadily the number of students increased, both local and from abroad. He taught me free because I was a student without any income, and I was one of the family. Adjectives fail to describe his magnanimity--always smiling and had profound knowledge of Patanjali’s system. His wife had the same name as my mother (Savitramma) and always made very good coffee for me. It was a devastating blow for him when she suddenly passed away....I happened to visit him to invite him my son’s wedding around the time his wife passed away. I attended his wife’s death ceremony, and he was very gracious to attend my son’s wedding."

The article also includes recollections from YogaNow owner Amy Beth Treciokas and others (that's Amy in the B&W photo, above). Read the rest here (and scroll past the bio to "Remembering Pattabhi Jois" to get to the good stuff).

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