A life sketch of Pattabhi Jois (Ashtanga Yoga founder): Born in 1915. He first met Krishnamacharya in 1927 at the age of 12 when he attended a demonstration of yoga and was swept off his feet. The very next day he approached Krishnamacharya and began his studies with him. His motivation was so great that he was prepared to get up early in the morning and walk five kilometers to get to Krishnamacharya’s home, do his practice, and then rush back to school to get there in time before school started.
After two years this came to a halt when he ran away from home to begin his studies in Sanskrit and Yoga in Sanskrit University. Krishnamacharya and Pattabhi Jois were subsequently reunited after 3 years in 1932 in Mysore. This time their association continued till about 1945. In 1948 he established the “Ashtanga Yoga Institute” in his home. Pattabhi Jois lived in extreme poverty till 1956 yet his commitment to yoga never wavered. In 1956 his economic status improved when he got a substantial pay rise because he got the position of professor of yoga in the local college. In 1964 the first westerner, named Andre Van Lysebeth, visited him and stayed with him for 2 months. He subsequently published a book on yoga and provided the name and address of Pattabhi Jois in the book. This put Pattabhi Jois and Ashtanga Yoga on the map and started the steady flow of westerners to his home in Mysore. His first trip to the west was in 1974 to South America. He died in 2009 at the age of 93.
Pattabhi Jois was an extremely strong man. Krishnamacharya accordingly, gave him a vigorous and muscular practice to do. Pattabhi Jois has preserved this form of yoga in the form of Ashtanga Yoga. This is also the inspiration for “power yoga” and different versions of it that are now popular in the west.
Pattabhi Jois had mastery over Sanskrit but his English was limited. He was a simple but a very learned man. He had studied all the important texts related to yoga. But he emphasized the importance of practicing yoga over reading texts. He asked his students not to focus on the theory but more on the practice. His most famous words: “Practice, practice, practice, and all is coming!” Let us say that your eyesight is weak. Would it make sense to try and read a lot or first fix the weak eyesight? Trying to study a lot of theory before practicing yoga is equivalent to that. Our intellect is clouded by stress and misconceptions caused by a distracted mind. Yoga cleans this up. Only after the intellectual cobwebs are cleared out, does it make sense to delve into the deeper theory. Pattabhi Jois has shown us the way to approach our scriptures, be it the Koran, the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, or any other. If we approach these without our “monkey mind” quiet, we will misconstrue and misrepresent them and fight with each other, while the deeper message passes us by.
An overview of his philosophy: http://www.doashtanga.com/pdf/Pattabhi-Jois-Obituary.pdf
Homage by one of his students to Pattabhi Jois, known as Guruji to his students:
“After Guruji’s death, Mysore appeared to be much the same on the surface: the perfect blend of grime and nectar; the stench of cow dung and pollution mixed with fragrant incense; the haunting sounds of the flower and coconut wallahs’ endless mantras as they peddled their wares; the cacophony of traffic flooding the streets. But somehow, the heartbeat of Mysore was gone for me. And yet, still, the deep echo of his being continues to resound in the presence of his surviving family and students, perpetuating the teachings he devoted himself to so utterly and completely, welling up in the bittersweet tears and joyful recollections treasured in our hearts, where he affected our lives most deeply. Guruji, you have touched so many, both seen and unseen, known and unknown, and even the countless that are yet to come. The loss of you is indeed a sweet, sweet pain. And so I wish to you, Guruji, in your own words, a “Happy Journey!” and take as my mantra your advice, “Don’t waste your life!” Your legacy lives on.” – Bhavani Maki
For more of these: http://www.yogajournal.com/jois_tribute
A more complete version of his life sketch:http://ayny.org/sri-k-pattabhi-jois
You may also like: Is Yoga Popular?