hint of the ego. Quite surrealistically hum-
ble. Jois didn’t speak English beyond the
customary ‘Hello’ and ‘ Thank you.’
Yet there was an unbelievable commun-
ion happening all the time between him
and his tens of hundreds of Western stu-
dents. They called him Guruji. And in
return they got a soulful of benediction. Or
so it seemed going by the way they fawned
over his presence.
Pattabhi Jois walked the long cavernous
halls of airports in the West amidst the
gloss, the glitter, the lights and the shrill
crescendo of revved up jet engines taxiing
for take-off. But he was always his own
self. In his white dhoti and shirt and
He neither understood the thousand
reasons his co-passengers had to be on the
same plane nor did he want to know why
else the world moves. To him he was on
his way to Los Angeles or Encinitas or
Hawaii because a student had invited him
to be there.
Iyengar, on the other hand, had honed
the English language to such perfection
that he could lecture on yoga and give
demonstrations to his students using the
power of the language. This gave him a
kind of head start over his equally accomplished contemporary, Pattabhi Jois.
Iyengar became the first yoga guru to take the largely mysterious and esoteric power of yoga to the West. And make a
telling impact. On an audience that was
mesmerized and stupefied by the various
possibilities it offered, not only in its intrinsic worth as a remedy for various physical
ailments, but also equally as a panacea for
the tumultuousness of the mind.
While Pattabhi Jois, steeped as he was in
the ancient traditions of yogic philosophy,
continued to teach yoga in its most origi-
nal form, Iyengar improvised on it.
Improvisations did not mean that he took
the sheen off the original method except
that he made the practice of yoga far more
The use of props like ropes, belts and
blocks came into being in his class. The
bending, the stretching, the twisting and
the turning became far easier to a whole lot
of students who either had issues with flexi-
bility or were plain scared to try body con-
torting postures they were not used to.
Pattabhi Jois, on the other hand, who
was a master of Sanskrit, knew the philosophy of yoga like none other. The scriptural references to the concept of yoga, the
metaphysical avenues it opened up to its
practitioners and the connection between
the body and soul was all encompassing in
Jois was the quintessential guru while
Iyengar was a guru who gave it a tiny rock
and roll tweak, as it were! Both the methods had their followers from the West, but
the Iyengar method naturally found a far
greater audience due to its comparative
simplicity of practice. So much so that a
medical prescription in the United States
once simply said ‘practice Iyengar yoga’
written on it by a doctor as a remedy for
some ailment that a patient had complained about!
Undoubtedly, it was Iyengar who made
yoga popular in the midst of the hubbub,
the noise, the clatter, the rush and rhapsody
of the West. New York City for example,
began to host the ‘Om!’ Soothing, soulful,
calm and clear. A balm to the mind, a song
to the soul, a pursuit of the infinite.
The New Yorker began waking up at 5 in
the morning. It didn’t matter that the tem-
perature outside was 27ºF! Marichasana on
Madison Avenue! Trikonasana on 34th
Street! There aren’t many New York streets,
by the way, where you don’t find a sign that
An eclectic bunch of men and women
who lead lives so different from the rest of
New York. No Dunkin’ Donuts for them.
So what if the ad says America runs on it.
Not them for sure. Only the traditional
nuts and fruits, not to forget lentils and
cilantro will do. Coconut water instead of
The pursuit of Adhyatma (the self)
through many accents!
A display of amazing self-control in
their lives for sure. Otherwise, they
wouldn’t be able to do the same when
they practiced the many asanas definitely.
A love of a concept, a method of living, a
manner of being. Yoga that is practiced
much more sincerely and studiously for
sure, than in any part of the country of its
birth itself — India.
Frequent visits to India to learn from the
great masters themselves. To Pune and
All because two young boys began to
wake up at 4 in the morning in a little
town called Mysore in India, 12,000 miles
across the Atlantic some 80 years ago. To
learn yoga! n
Sunaad Raghuram is a Mysore-based writer.
All because two young boys began
to wake up at 4 am to learn yoga
Sharath Jois, Pattabhi Jois’s grandson. The Mysore yoga legacy continues.
T Krishnamacharya teaches Yoga at Mysore Palace in 1934, the year BKS Iyengar joined him as a disciple. Pattabhi Jois often accompanied the guru for demonstrations here.
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