On May 18th, one of the three biggest influences on yoga in the West, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915 – 2009), passed away in his home of Mysore in South India just short of his 94th birthday. This is no longer news.
However, the outpouring of memorials and testimonials from every corner of the yoga world continues to be news. (Update, June 8: Pattabhi Jois remembered in New York Mag‘s Intelligencer section this week, too.)
From BKS Iyengar and his most senior teachers in the US, to yoga bloggers and more Americanized yogis (like Madonna? that link was to a blog called, “Absolute Madonna”), many have been paying homage to this larger-than-life man who not only exerted enormous influence on what has become Western yoga, but liked to shop on Canal Street and wear Calvin Kline breifs.
As New Yorker writer, Rebecca Mead, said in her 2000 article, The Yoga Bums, Jois “is perhaps the last person you would expect to own a framed photograph of Gwyneth Paltrow.”
Tidbits from Guruji’s biography: The first Westerner (not an American) studied with Pattabhi Jois in 1964; the first American in 1972. In 1975, Jois and his son Manju made their first trip to America. His web site says that, “Guruji has, for 63 years, been teaching uninterruptedly this same method that he learned from Krishnamacharya in 1927.”
Tias Little, founder of Prajna Yoga, writes, from a workshop in Antwerp, Belgium:
“His passing is indeed a considerable loss to the yoga world, for not only did he have mastery of the yoga asanas and have the shakti to transmit this extremely formidable and rigorous practice to all those who walked into his shala, but he was a master of the language underlying the yogic teachings. … With Pattabhi Jois’ passing not only do we lose a great hatha yoga master, we lose a solid link in the chain of direct transmission of scripture learned by heart.”
Eddie Stern, founder of Ashtanga Yoga New York, who invites us all to join next weekend to remember his teacher, writes:
“Among the great joys of the last years of his life was that he became reacquainted with his contemporaries, including Mr. Iyengar, Mr. Desikachar, A.G. Mohan, and Swami Dayananda. In the spirit of the renewed friendships of these great yoga masters, we would like to extend and invitation to you, and to every yoga school in the NYC area, to come join us on June 14th, at 6 p.m., in remembering and celebrating the very great flash of lightening that was Pattabhi Jois. In doing so, we honor the spirit of yoga which, in the scriptures, is compared to a great tree that provides shelter and shade to all who stand under it.”
So here it is. Deets for the Big Memorial in New York: June 14, 6pm at 711 Greenwich Street in the West Village. Please contact Alexandra Seidenshaw (201-259-9933, firstname.lastname@example.org) to RSVP. Everyone will be there. Be there, too! Witness a piece of yoga passing into history.
Tasmai Shri Gurave Namah
Salutations to that GuruPranamah