Sri K Pattabhi Jois
Today I went to the New York memorial tribute for Pathabi Jois, a Yoga teacher who died May 18th, age 93. I was fortunate to have studied with Guruji in India on two occasions. They were formative trips, marking the moment in my life when I shifted my focus to art. Guruji was inspiring in many ways. For a leader, he was a man of unusually few words. At the school there was no memorization of texts, rote chanting, led classes, ritual music or services... the kinds of things many people assume take place in a Yoga school. There was daily physical practice, and "conference", a time when people could sit together, often in silence, though Guruji might answer a question or tell a story. Guruji had no interest in trying to convince people to blindly follow a dogma. He was a householder, he didn't run an ashram or demand that students conduct their lives in a fixed way. For Guruji, actions counted. In the physical actions of the asanas he was extremely demanding. He would sometimes shout at me when I made a mistake in a pose. But just as often he would laugh. One time, trying to get my body into a pose, he said "perhaps not this lifetime!" and chuckled loudly, "but no problem, next lifetime." He believed that what mattered was to to keep the focus on what is just in front of you, and then try and try again. Rather than teaching from the pulpit he led by example - giving instruction in physical yoga practice six days a week, getting up before dawn, and rarely missing a day for 70 years. He led an extraordinary life.