Regardless of tradition, style, or commitment, yogis all over the world are mourning the loss of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the father of Ashtanga Yoga. “Guruji,” as he was affectionately known by his students, was a force in popularizing yoga in the West through the strenuous system of practice that is the keystone to modern Vinyasa Yoga. In its traditional forms, Ashtanga Yoga remains one of the most popular yoga styles today. Ashtanga (or “eight limbed path”) has become synonymous with the vigorous style of Hatha yoga that follows a prescribed sequence of movement and breath, advancing students only after commitment and work from series to series.
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Jois was a student of T. Krishnamacharya, the father of modern yoga , and studied alongside B.K.S. Iyengar and others. He was well known for his joyous attitude and his rigorous teaching. In Mysore, India, Jois opened his small Yoga Shala everyday to students from across the globe with the commitment that no one was ever turned away. And students from the West flocked to there to study with a living example of the ancient tradition of yoga. Through the efforts of a handful of dedicated American students, Jois traveled to the US in 1975 and continued to return to teach often.
The passing of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is an intense and significant experience for all modern yogis. As we strive to maintain the integrity of a practice rooted in ancient spirituality, we have looked to these forefathers of the practice to guide us. As they begin to leave this physical incarnation, it will be the yogis of today that are called to carry on the legacy that our traditional teachers have gifted to us. Each class we attend, each group we teach will be reflecting the changing face of ancient yoga. It will be our responsibility to reveal it with respect and accuracy, and not to get swept away in the tide of Western commercialism and hype. When we step onto our mats, we step into a practice steeped in ancient philosophy and spiritual discovery. As the traditional teachers pass through this world, we will be left holding the light of authenticity in our practice and in our commitment to sharing it with others.
The students and teachers of today represent the evolution of a practice of millennia, and through this evolution, we will define the practice of yoga for the future. May we all take the time to reflect and honor the passing of this great and inspiring teacher who stood in the light of the teachings, who shared them with everyone, and who even in the face of fame was able to stand poised in grace and dignity as a model for all students. Guruji was a teacher who modeled deep respect, great love, beautiful joy, and unyielding commitment. "Yoga is 99% practice, 1% knowledge," said Pattabhi Jois. May we all remember and keep practicing.
Memorials and remembrances have been and continue to be held across the world. The Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India had an open memorial on May 31st, and on June 14th, Ashtanga New York will hold a memorial service in New York City. Across the country, studios, shalas and communities are remembering this yogic legend.
Do you have a special story or remembrance about Pattabhi Jois? We would be honored if you shared it with us.