Thursday, August 05, 2010


I’m working on the book review for Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students. I cannot put it down. It has gotten me excited about the practice again, and about all of the possibilities of yoga. And it makes me even more grateful for my time with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. I cannot possibly give it a higher recommendation.

That said, I did find a couple of small factual errors. They are not the fault of the editors, but are contained within the context of the interviews. Here they are, with corrections:

One interviewee (DW) says that one of Guruji’s first foreign students was Indra Devi in the 1930s. If I’m not mistaken, she was Sri Krishnamacharya’s student.

Someone else mentions that Sri Ramakrishna was a drunk. That is not correct. From what I understand, Sri Ramakrishna was a saint who often went into a state of Samadhi. One of his favorite disciples, the great Bengali dramatist Girish Ghosh, would often visit him while drunk, and/or drink in his presence. This would often put Sri Ramakrishna into an ecstatic state, and he would begin to dance and mimic Girish's actions. Read more about the fascinating story of Sri Ramakrishna and Girish Ghosh here.

One of my favorite interviewees is French student Brigitte Deroses – one of a handful in the book who seems to believe that Samadhi or self-realization is possible for us, in this very lifetime (I was actually chided at a workshop with a famous American Ashtanga teacher for suggesting that concentration leads to meditation, which leads to Samadhi – the ultimate goal. [The way I learned it, concentration equals 12 seconds of focusing on a single object; 12 concentrations equal one meditation; and 12 meditations equal Samadhi]. Apparently I got it wrong, and was corrected: concentration makes it possible to direct our single-pointed attention wherever we need it in our lives. Period).

Anyway, here is the quote from Brigitte, who seems to have a wonderfully devotional nature:

“I would like to say that Guruji has completely changed my life. He brought peace into my life when, at the time I met him, It was total chaos because I had a sick child and I thought life was just not possible. Now nothing has changed, my daughter is still sick and there are many difficulties and I bear it not without difficulty, but not as a burden. He took away the burden from me, he took away something that was heavy, that was weighing on me, and he made me light again. I thank him every day.”

I agree wholeheartedly; since starting ashtanga in 1997, I have not put my fist through a wall or window or windshield or kicked down a door. Not once.

And I used to do it all the time.

And then, once I learned about the rules of karma and reincarnation from Sri Dharma Mittra and really started to believe them, I stopped feeling like I had been singled out for abuse my whole life. I felt like there was a reason for everything that had happened to me - and I stopped taking it personally. A huge weight was lifted, and the anger really began to go. The amount of relief I felt is indescribable (although I have to keep reminding myself about these rules over and over again; as Dharma says, "The secret to success in yoga is constant practice." Or, as Pattabhi Jois says, "Do your practice and all is coming." In other words, you can't just stop and slack off - or it all goes to hell again. You have to keep at it, every day).

So.....How has yoga changed *your* life?


  1. I really enjoyed the book and it rekindled my flagging enthusiasm for ashtanga. I have been AWOL from the mat for way too long. I wonder what you think about adamant all of the interviewees are that the connection to the guru is crucial -- what do you think? Can self-practice be transformative as well?

    Kristi (formerly known as Yogamum)

  2. That's a great question.
    I think that self-practice can make for a healthy body and calmer mind. But to reach the goal of Self-realization (I too believe that it is possible in this very lifetime), one needs a Guru. Very few can do it without one (even Jesus had Gurus). There's more here.

  3. holy shit.
    but i kind of don't understand all of the gurus you have now. guruji always said to never take more than one guru cause it makes you crazy, like having 2 wives.

    just wondering how you have so many gurus-chandra om, dhama m., guruji... isn't that kind of difficult?

    i only can follow guruji. even if he is dead.

  4. Well, I don't know that self-realization is something I can aspire to, but serenity and health -- that would be enough. I believe in the ashtanga system, have true respect for Guruji although I was only in his presence briefly on a U.S. tour, and my main teacher is an "old" student of his. So I consider Guruji my guru, but sort of mourn the fact that I won't be able to have that direct contact that seems so crucial.

  5. Haven't bought this yet. I was wondering, it says it has interviews with his Indian students as well as the western, is this true or is it pretty much just Manju and Sharath. Would love to read interviews with some of his early students. Reading Mohan's Krishnamacharya book at the moment, interesting after being with Ramaswami and hearing many of the same stories and similar recollections. Mohan, like Ramaswami have Krishnamacharya stressing the importance of pranayama and meditation, still don't understand why Jois didn't include that, does that get talked about in the book I wonder.
    No surprise perhaps, that Samadhi isn't expected if one stops at asana. Oh and I figure your just as likely to attain it without a guru as with. A guru is just a spiritual guide no, you still have to do all the hard work yourself.

  6. Guruji's exact words were, "Only one guru taking," as I heard many times during the five times I studied with him in India.

    None of what my main teachers has said has been in conflict. Pattabhi Jois often said, "Think God. Be God." My Guru explains how to do this.

    Guru-disciple relationship is special. To learn more about this relationship - and there appears to be a lot of confusion about this, if these comments are any indication of general opinion out there - please look at the book list, here.

    Grimmly, the book has only a few Indian students but is still worth reading. My 2009 article has an interview with one of his Indian students from the 60's, Dr. R. Chandrasekhara, here. It also has my own story.

  7. PS
    Guruji taught pranayama to the early students. Read the book to learn more.

  8. I cannot wait till the book will arrive here. I am sooooooo curious.

    The picture made me laugh. OMG. Hahahaha. Yes, this practice makes the impossible possible.....:)

    It liberates the body and the mind.....Amen.

  9. Dear C.K. I will order the book for Xmas. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Yoga has made me calmer - I rarely get nervous as I used to earlier in life. And it has helped me stay balanced in my diet and nutrition, when I always suffered from roller coaster weight problems.

    In Florida, where I started my yoga path in earnest, I had the chance to attend workshops with some of the early senior teachers. It's always interesting to hear their perspective.

  10. OK I definitely have to get that book at some point.

  11. I have heard a useful saying about gurus:

    “If we have many gurus, we have no guru. If we have one guru, we have many gurus.”

    The genuine guru (sad-guru) helps us see something of the guru principle in everyone, and in everything. Under the guidance of such a person, we’ll recognize even the trees as gurus of tolerance (for they provide shade even as we chop them down) and the grass as gurus of humility (for it prostrates beneath our feet, even as we trample upon it).

    The guru is one, and the guru is many. How sweet is that?

  12. g.d. hits it on the head again. Thank you!

    (I can't even begin to recount how much I've learned from the cat who lives with me [and whose spiritual name is Hari Om])

  13. Thanks for the link CK, just had a quick look (nice job) but will read it again Sunday, like your Indian guy who practiced in the 60's. I'm fascinated by that period from after Krishnamacharya left Mysore to before the American's came. Yes, remember reading he taught some Pramayama in the early days, such a shame that's left out now, Ashtangi's would be so good at it sticking with it.
    I will of course be getting the book, just a case of how long I can make myself wait.

  14. yoga has not changed my life. it has saved my life.

  15. Yoga *is* my life.

  16. Hi Cara, I just quoted you, I hope this is OK. Let me know if not. Thank you.

    Is the address on your blog still valid?


  17. So much inspiration here. Thank you and those who comment.

  18. I firmly believe yoga is the reason I am still on this planet. It has led me to meet some wonderful teachers and students, people I would never have come across otherwise, DK talked to us about how the Sangha is as if not more important than the physical practice.
    Looking forward to reading the book now, though not sure if its out here yet.

  19. You are so blessed to be able to practice with Dena. And you will love the book.