This is one of my favourite yoga-inspiring quotes ever, by the great Sri Krisha Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga Yoga's main teacher.
As I was practicing at home on monday, the phone rang, and as the machine kicked in, I learned from one of my teachers/yoga studio owners that guruji (what we call Pattabhi Jois at our studio), had just passed away at the old age of 93. He has been sick for sometime, and this time was just too much for him.
I was deeply saddened when I heard this news, as even though I never got to meet guruji, as my teacher has, I feel his presence everytime I practice. His teachings come through in my focus during every posture, and everytime I teach (as I recall his wise words). I am so grateful that our world could experience him, as he has made this yoga system accessible for everyone. He is widely credited for spreading yoga in India, as well as to North America. He began studying yoga at the age of 12, from Sri T. Krishnamacharya, the great yogi, who taught some of most influential yoga teachers we know today, such as Iyengar, Patthabi Jois, Indra Devi, and Desikachar. In 1975, Patthabi Jois came to California, and his teachings just took off.
Here is a great website about Ashtanga yoga, and Pattabhi Jois.
My yoga teacher is a direct student of Pattabhi Jois. He was fortunate enough to practice with him for several years in total, and was one of the first people in Canada to be certified to teach by Guruji. I feel so lucky to have this indirect contact with Pattahbi Jois, as his teachings come through in my teacher's teachings, and I hope one day will shine through in mine as well.
My teacher has left to go to India to be with the family, and so I am super busy, teaching a LOT this week and next week (hence the lack of posting).
As I left to teach my class on monday, I thought about what I could say, that would honour the life of this man, this teacher. And the answer can clearly to me. There is no need for special words. All you need to do is practice. He strongly believed that the practice will teach you what you need to know, and will provide you with everything you need. He is most famous for saying, "Practice, and all is coming".
This was his answer to every question:
"Guruji, what do I do in Uphavistha Konasana, to help keep my back straight?" He would respond, "You take practice. All is coming"
"Guruji, how can I make my lungs handle pranayama better?" "You take practice".
"Guruji, what should I eat for breakfast?" "You take practice, all is coming."
It may seem silly, but those simple words ring so true. On my way to the studio, I began thinking about what I have learned from yoga. I have come to realize that yoga is about learning to listen to the body, and once you have heard the voice of your body, it WILL guide you to the right answer. My practice has taught me this. Your body knows what postures you should practice, what to eat, and the answer to every question. Everyone knows you should listen to that voice that warns you about danger, and not brush it off. When you practice, you create that link between body and consciousness, between the physical and mental. The word Yoga itself, means union, or to yoke. All of these thoughts were buzzing around inside me, as I got ready to teach.
I began class with a simple meditation, and let the students know about what had happened. As we sat there, I told them that by being there, and practicing, they were honouring his spirit in the best way they could. We dedicated the class to him, and our opening mantra was so beautiful. The energy in the room was phenomenal. So serene and warm, yet entirely focused. As they lay in savasana, I left them with another of his teachings, one that I love so much:
If we practice the science of yoga, which is useful to the entire human community and which yields happiness both here and hereafter – if we practice it without fail, we will then attain physical, mental and spiritual happiness, and our minds will flood towards the Self.
~Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois