Monday, May 18, 2009

Godspeed Guruji

The news comes from Mysore, India, that the revered master of Ashtanga yoga, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, died this morning at 2:30 PM India Standard Time. Guruji, as he is known to students and followers, was 94 years old.

The world is poorer for his loss as it was enriched immeasurably by his life. I am one of the many thousands of students and students of students who have benefited spiritually, mentally, and physically from his teachings.

I had the great fortune of taking classes from Guruji on three different occasions, first in New York City for a week just prior to 9/11, then again for a week when he came to Seattle a year later; and finally, just for a couple of days in San Francisco in 2005 or so.

And while all of these were great big “led” classes, in which Pattabhi Jois stood before a group of some two or three hundred sweaty yogis and yoginis, calling out the poses and breaths for the assembled to follow, I did get to feel something of the magic that flowed from him as he taught.

And I’m glad to recall that he personally pushed me into a couple of poses, most memorably, Prasarita Padottanasa B, where his advice, as I struggled to bend my head to the floor was simply to “do the pose.”

I have a copy of his book, Yoga Mala, which he inscribed for me on August 27, 2002. It’s in Sanskrit, so I don’t know what it says, but I’m not sure that matters; he is famously quoted as saying, “Yoga is 1% theory, 99% practice,” so no doubt whatever words he penned are not nearly as important as the spirit in which he penned them.

In my own practice this morning, I started out especially slowly and painfully; maybe that was my minor mirror of Guruji’s ongoing transition to beyond the physical; now his spirit, unleashed, is all and entirely flow.


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