Sri K Pattabhi Jois was born on the full moon of July 1915 in Kowshika, 150 kilometers from Mysore in India. Today is the hundredth anniversary of his birth. I never met Pattabhi Jois, but his teachings have changed my life.
Pattabhi Jois had already been teaching in Mysore for many years by the time the first westerners visited in the mid-1960s. In 1973 he was invited to teach in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and then the following year to Encinitas, California USA. His teaching of the Ashtanga Yoga method continues to resonate with people around the world.
In our July ‘Monthly Primary Series’ class at Whitespace Yoga & Wellbeing Studio, we got a flavour of what it would have been like to practice with Pattabhi Jois, by practicing to a recording of his ‘count’.
Students of Ashtanga Yoga learn sequences of breath-linked movements, taking the body through a memorised pattern. To help remember these sequences, each one has a ‘count’, a way of enumerating the movements, remembering each breath, giving the mind an anchor as the body and breath flow. In a traditional group guided ‘led’ class, the teacher counts these movements out loud and everyone follows the rhythm.
There is beauty in this method, in just moving, breathing, counting. It’s so simple but infinitely complex.
I never met Pattabhi Jois, but his teachings have changed my life. And I am eternally grateful to him and to everyone who has passed these teachings on.
(Photograph of Sri K Pattabhi Jois © Graeme Montgomery/Guardian 2009)