NORMAN ALLEN VIDEO
Like Dharma Says - Fancy Postures Are Not a Requirement for Enlightenment
The clip above is from the 2007 documentary Enlighten Up! Maybelline recently told me about the Norman Allen outtakes, and loaned me her copy. They're amazing.
Allen was the first American to study ashtanga with Pattabhi Jois - although SKPJ initially didn't want him there. It was his wife, Amma, who convinced him to give Allen a chance. He ended up staying with Pattabhi Jois and his family for years, living in his house, running errands for the family, going to concerts with them and generally being part of the family. He used to do the demonstrations when Pattabhi Jois went on tour, and even taught at his shala.
Now, he lives in relative seclusion in Hawaii and teaches the way he was taught - each student individually. He also teaches for free (actually, if you come to class four times a week it's free; if you come once a week it's $75; twice a week it's $50, etc; students are fined $25 for each of the four weekly classes they miss).
To me, he's the most intriguing of SKPJ's early students - probably because he embodies his teachings the most. (He also learned Sanskrit and Pattabhi Jois's language, Kannada, plus he knows (as in, has internalized) yoga philosophy inside in out).
My favorite moment in the movie is when he tells the young seeker to "Go f--- yourself."
In the outtakes, he's told about other teachers who make piles of money, and seems surprised. Then he asks, laughing, "What are they gonna do what all that money? What do they want to buy?" (beat) "Let me know - if it's something good, I'll go do it, too."
When asked if he's a Hindu or Buddhist or something else, he says, "Farmer."
You can read Guy Donahaye's 2007 amazing interview with him here.
In it, Allen explains that the asanas, when performed in a vacuum, can inflate the ego.
"Without the right intentions, without the right diet, without Yama/Niyama it ain’t happenin.' It's just not happening...You gotta make sure that you dissolve the ego, get rid of the ego. If practice becomes sensational and competitive it is completely anterior, it becomes tamasic. You gotta’ become sattvic in potential, in means and in intent, or you don’t have a chance."
He says that the west took the gems or asanas from the jewelry box of yoga and ignored the rest. What's needed is the whole nine yards - gunas, sutras, understanding of prana, discipline, etc. etc. etc.
And not just the postures, practiced in a void.