Monday, August 02, 2010


My new article about senior astanga vinyasa teacher Lino Miele is up at the Yoga Chicago website.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

In the old days, there was one book that explained the Ashtanga vinyasa yoga system as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois at his Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (AYRI) in Mysore, India. There was no Internet, DVDs, or other books (Pattabhi Jois's book, Yoga Mala, was not translated into English until 1999). There was just direct experience, word of mouth, and the sole book, Lino Miele's Astanga Yoga (1994 ), which covered the primary and intermediate series. I remember sitting around in 1997, drinking juice at the Whole Foods after Suddha Weixler's Saturday Mysore class, when a student brought it out and showed it to us. We were transfixed, and passed it around and wrote down the address where we could order it.

“When you start to understand this book, you understand the yoga system, the state of the asana, and how to move in and out of the asana; the movement leads you into the pose,” said Lino at a week-long workshop he gave with partner Désirée Trankaer at Yogaview and Moksha Yoga in April. While writing the book, Lino spent many long afternoons with Pattabhi Jois in Mysore learning the correct number of vinyasas (movements linked with breath) for each of the poses in Ashtanga's primary and intermediate series. He would ask Guruji about each pose again and again until he got the same answer three times. Then, he would write it down.

“Before the book, no one knew the vinyasa system,” Lino said. “Pattabhi Jois only gave led classes outside of Mysore.” [“Led classes” are those taught by the teacher as opposed to self-practice where each student practices on his/her own and the teacher adjusts them.]

Chicago's splintered local Ashtanga community came together for Lino's first local visit since Pattabhi Jois passed, and he regaled us with stories about his guru.

The moment I stood on my mat and brought my palms into prayer for self-practice at YogaView, I felt the energy and presence of the late Pattabhi Jois filling the room, and tears started streaming down my cheeks....

....The body felt like new at Saturday's final self-practice at Moksha. Lino knew this better than I did, and adjusted me for the first time in bhekasana (frog pose), which includes an intense foot stretch. He also gave me my first foot-on-foot adjustment in supta vajrasana (fixed firm pose), which didn't hurt at all. A few poses later, I pulled off the ankle brace and threw it away.

Later, when I asked Lino why my body gets healed when he teaches, he replied, “That is the experience of the teacher.”

When I asked what makes a good teacher, he said. “Gray hair. Experience makes a good teacher. Guruji was always repeating that yoga is 99 percent practice, one percent theory. You can read hundreds and hundreds of books, but it does not make you a good teacher. You have knowledge from your life and your body, and then you can teach.

“Instead of wanting to be students, people want to be teachers right away. I am against it. This is not a job. This is a passion. Tradition is important. Whatever my guru taught me, I am teaching you.

“He taught me how to act, how to be with people. How many people had the chance to speak with our guru, eat with our teacher, live with our teacher? Otherwise it becomes ‘Bla bla bla.'

“Everything I know, my guru taught me.”

Read the rest here.

*Did you know....
-There's no mula bandha in Kukkutasana?
-Yoga Mala does indeed say to do nauli in the pose?


  1. Great article.

    I had to forward it on facebook.
    Greetings to you.

  2. great article as usual

  3. Thank you and thank you!

    Kerala keeps coming up (last week on Anthony Bourdain, and this weekend in a documentary about Ayurveda). Perhaps those are signs I should go to Kovalam this winter...

    perhaps not.

  4. [Later, when I asked Lino why my body gets healed when he teaches, he replied, “That is the experience of the teacher.”]

    Wow... I wonder if the reverse might also be true. Food for thought.

  5. You mean... the student heals the teacher? Or the teacher injures the student? Something else....?

  6. I was wondering if a teacher's apathy & indifference might be transferred.

    I'm not saying this is what's happening in my case, but I'm wondering.

  7. It's TOTALLY true; Chandra Om (one of the greatest living yogis in America) says the teacher transmits their internal environment. You're spot-on.

    One month w/ Lino = 2-12 mos. w/ another ashtanga teacher. Plus you won't lose your job.

  8. Aiii... dying on the vine over here. The plus side of all this is that it's forced me to really tear my head out of the sand & examine things.

    I am still thinking!

  9. Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence.

    Or, a SKPJ said, "You do!"

  10. I'm going to sit tonight! I'd already decided. Need to.

  11. go to kerala. and tell me all about it (especially how much they are charging for the hotels now)
    and please say hi to my friends! (nagraj & mahin) if you know them. also, my fave boys from lonely planet are gone :-(
    something happend there, i'm not sure what. maybe it was sold?

    i would make more of an effort if gwen & tina were going to be there.

  12. Anonymous7:43 AM

    "Chandra Om (one of the greatest living yogis in America) says the teacher transmits their internal environment." ALL of the genuine yogis in America and elsewhere say that. Most people don't want to hear it. Goswami Kriyananda right here in Chicago has taught that for decades. This is how it usually goes with yoga now: Week 1: I take my first yoga class. Week 2: I take a yoga "teacher training". Week 3: I'm a yoga teacher. There's no depth, no wisdom based on the experience of being a student for years, being a student of a genuine teacher for years. That shallowness and not-knowingness is transfered energetically to the student.

  13. Right on.

    Here is the complete quote from Chandra (from 2007):

    “If you are going to be a yoga teacher, you have to be a yogi,” said Chandra Om, Dharma’s senior disciple. “Teaching yoga is not part-time, it’s not a profession, it’s not a business and it’s not logos.

    “You cannot teach what you have not personally experienced. You cannot teach spiritual knowledge unless you have some yourself. You cannot straighten out another until you have straightened yourself, so you really have something to say. Teaching is information passing through you--that’s why it’s not about you, or your personality. You’re transmitting your personal environment. Once you’ve cleaned up your own self, you give up your personality and ego and who you think you are, so God can pass through you and use you, so your lower self does not get in the way.”