90-year-old yoga guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois will be completing what may be his final world tour, ending in New York two weeks from now in celebration of his recent birthday. The long-time devotee of ashtanga (eight-step) yoga comes from Mysore, India and has been circling the western world for the past twenty years enlightening the likes of Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow. Earlier this week, Jois was received gladly by yoga instructor Hamish Hendry of London, England where the amazingly spry senior citizen instructed two sold-out crowds of 150 each day, the first group starting at 6:00 a.m. and the second at 8:30 a.m. Despite his age, Jois is notably young in appearance and wholeheartedly devout in his belief that “if we practise yoga without fail, we will then attain physical, mental, and spiritual happiness and our minds will flood towards the self” (Gillan, 2006).
Jois says he first learned to practise yoga from his own guru, Krishnamacharya, in Mysore at the age of 12. The ritual and practise of the ancient technique of mediation and finely honed body movements gripped him. The dedicated student went on to study Sanskrit (the language of the yogis) and advaita philosophy at the local Sanskrit College. From there, Jois advanced to teaching both subjects. He currently runs the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore.
The renown yogi (commonly known as Guruji, meaning “little guru”) has taken this world tour as an opportunity to celebrate the publication of his unique brand of yoga in a book entitled Mysore Style. The book captures the work of the British fashion photographer Graeme Montgomery with more than 5,000 photographs taken of the yoga master and his many pupils. The book’s photos aim to exhibit the true effort behind yoga and dispel any untruths about its over-simplicity and physical beauty. The book’s creators want to exhibit the true essence of yoga as sweaty and authentic.
The photographs capture Jois and many others in poses that the Guruji himself refers to as “perfect,” or in other words, just as he was taught as a child by his own guru. According to Jois, the eight-step approach to yoga is a perfected style and need not be altered in any way. He says that he is the teacher of all who want “the perfect yoga method” (Anderson, 1994). Proceeds from the sale of Mysore Style will be distributed to several Mysore charities through the administration of the Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Charitable Trust.
Gillan, A. (2006, March 13). Yogis flock to ashtanga guru in Brick Lane. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1729516,00.html.
Anderson, S. (1994, January/February). Practise makes perfect: An interview with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Yoga International. Retrieved from http://www.eightlimbyoga.com/interview.htm.