It seems strange to say it, but I didn’t realize how profound of an impact Pattabhi Jois had on my life. Our personal connection was not that strong; I don’t think he ever knew my name. But for the past 17 years, his presence on this earth has impacted almost every aspect of my life.
Obviously, the daily practice. The friends I have made through yoga: almost all my dear friends have come into my life through yoga. My extended family has learned about yoga now, through early morning family holiday practices in unlikely places: the terrace of my grandmother’s Florida apartment, the dock on the St. Lawrence river in Thousand Island Park, New York, the weight room in Steamboat Springs Health Club, living room floors, back yards, beaches throughout the world. I’ve changed through Ashtanga, matured if I dare say.
My livelihood is thanks to Guruji. Paris, Sri Lanka, Amsterdam, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong, now Bhutan…I have been so lucky to be able to see the world, sharing what I love and surviving on it. Thriving even. What would I have done with my life, if not for his Ashtanga yoga? Some of my family might have initially been more comfortable if I had chosen a more conservative career path, but surely I would be a less happy person.
In Boulder, before I met Guruji, I knew only his photo on the wall of the Yoga Workshop. Stern-faced samastithi. Richard and Mary would share stories about the various ways that Guruji had lovingly tortured them. I decided that I, too, needed torturing. So I went to Mysore to meet him, 1997.
But Guruji never tortured me; he only showed me the loving part. My second day in Laxmipuram (there were 12 of us) he said to me during backbending: now You Take your knees. You take. Having never considered whether this was possible or not, I just did. I took. And when I came up, dizzy and exhilarated, he held me for a long time. And this is how I mostly remember his adjustments: just being held, like grandpa. Lovingly. Grandpasana.
In those days, conference meant going to his house at 5 to sit on the steps and see if he would come out to join us. Amaji would come too and I remember mostly laughter. It was like the neighborhood kids getting together.
Years later, in Boulder while he was on tour, I got my first “bad lady!” and I cried. He chastised me, “Why you crying?” and then held me an extra long time until I stopped.
Once again in Mysore, an older, softer and less agile Guruji in Calvin Klein shorts lay on me in paschimottasana. To both of our surprise, he could not then get off. We both laughed so hard he finally rolled off.
Evolving through the years
I’ve done my practice
And all has come.
But now you’re gone.
I will miss you Great Guru Grandpaji. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.