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Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students Hardcover – July 20, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"Guruji offers us an unprecedented portrait of a great yoga master.

Sri K. Pattabhi  Jois  (1915-2009) was a rare and remarkable soul who became legendary during the course of his life by virtue of great service to others. Known affectionately as Guruji, Jois founded and ran a yoga school in Mysore, India for more than sixty years. In Guruji, we follow his journey from a simple teacher of yoga in a Sanskrit college to a world-recognized authority and an inspiration to tens of thousands. We see how he trained students,  many of whom have helped spread the daily practice of traditional Ashtanga yoga around the world, and we discover how Jois's method of vinyasa, which he learned from the great yogi Sri T. Krishnamacharya, has deeply influenced other forms of yoga widely practiced today. One of Jois's favorite expressions was, "Practice, practice and all is coming," and in Guruji we come to understand how the intensely physical and elaborate asana-based Ashtanga system he handed down is, in fact, a deeply spiritual discipline. And, although the commonly held idea about yogis is that they live solitary lives, Jois was a committed householder whose existence was as centered around family and home as on school and teaching. In Guruji, we learn by example about the challenges and rewards of integrating practice into lived lives.

The guru's transmission of energy and knowledge is a precept central to classical yoga.   How Jois handed down teachings and values and what they were,  the aspects of his personality and quality of his presence, and above all how he guided and changed so many lives through yoga--these are the subjects of Guruji. Through the words and recollections of students and close relations who knew Jois for over half a century, we are given remarkable insight into the life and mind of a dedicated yogi, an astonishing wealth of knowledge about the path of yoga, and a documentary account of how one traditional school of yoga has spread around the world. Among the thirty men and women interviewed here are Indian students from Jois's early teaching days; intrepid Americans and Europeans who traveled to Mysore to learn yoga in the 1970s; and important family members who studied as well as lived with Jois and continue to practice and teach abroad or run the Ashtanga Yoga Institute today. Many of the contributors (as well as the authors) have become influential teachers who convey their experience of Jois on a daily basis to students in many different parts of the globe. Anyone interested in the living tradition of yoga will find Guruji richly rewarding in its authenticity, in its indelible portrait of a great teacher, and in the depth of the wisdom it conveys."

--Inside Flap

About the Author

GUY DONAHAYE and EDDIE STERN became students of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in 1991. Donahaye is director of the Ashtanga Yoga Shala New York City. Stern is director of the Ashtanga Yoga New York and Sri Ganesh Temple, and copublisher and editor of Namarupa.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; 1 edition (July 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865477493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865477490
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,121,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Scott Meredith on July 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've practiced Ashtanga yoga for 5 years, and along the way tried to read every relevant history on Krishnamacharya and his lineage. Pattabhi Jois ('Guruji') and Iyengar were Krishnamacharya's two most famous and productive students. This book is not a standard biography in any sense, but still an invaluable source of anecdotes and impressions by the people who had their hands nearest to the fire.

In addition to the light shed on Guruji himself (and his family) a number of the student interviewees walked very interesting paths themselves to becoming noted yoga teachers in their own right. The interview with David Swenson, to cite just one such case, leaves you intrigued and impressed with his own circuitous development, not just his account of Guruji per se. Many of the other interviews have that quality too.

There are so many methods out on the shelves of the spiritual supermarket. The teachers interviewed in this collection all make the case, in their gentle harmonious yogic way, that Ashtanga yoga is unique in both its physical rigor and the spiritual signature - enlightenment through sweat, 99% practice, 1% theory. You don't need to be an Ashtanga practitioner to get into this book (though a market consisting of Ashtanga people alone would constitute a large public now by 2010!), because the point is to approach an answer to the universal conundrum of yoga: how practice of (what appears to be) physical contortionism possibly relate to spiritual enlightenment? Many good insights on the deeper linkages are offered.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Tim Feldmann on August 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
this book is a celebration of guruji. a book for everybody who wants to know what ashtanga yoga is, who pattabhi jois was and what is to be expected for the years to come. a book for all of us who studied with guruji, yet came in to it all later than the first years. simple prose becoming magical poetry through the experiences of devoted yogis. thank you guy and eddie for compiling this book, the witnessing. I simple cannot put the book down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sat Inder S. Khalsa on November 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I began practicing Ashtanga Yoga back in 2000 and had never had any level of activity comparable to it before. I really enjoyed the sweating, on purpose even, the movement, the increased strength and flexibility it gave me and I studied with Guruji in Boulder, CO and on the island of Maui. Recently I've gotten into kundalini yoga more and have even become a Sikh following the teachings from that path, but have kept up a moderate hatha yoga practice as well.

I got this book thinking to reminesce a bit and remember the old times, since I haven't been practicing Ashtanga as much, but working more with the energy of the body through the other practice. This book inspired me to practice Ashtanga one day and then I began to crave it again. Many of the teachers talked about the energy movement happening in the practice and now that I'm more attuned to that I notice it and appreciate it much more than I did before, and am enjoying the strength and openness its giving me again. And it is the perfect compliment to my kundalini yoga practice, so both are working well for me.

I enjoyed hearing everyones experience of Pattabhi and was able to correlate mine with theirs in my mind. I highly recommend it for anyone who ever had an attachment to an Ashtanga practice, even if they've given it up. Its very inspiring and interesting!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jamie on August 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is an absolute gem & will be enjoyed by all yoga ethusiast - whether that be the Asthtanga system or other.
The interview format takes you into a deeper knowledge of the life of Sri K Pattabhi Jois, his family, his students, & the practice.
Practioners of the Asthanga system may find they get a little more out the book with an inner knowledge of the system & perhaps the man.
This book is highly engaging, motivating & inspirational, & had me wishing that I had been in Mysore during the early days - but then again, I may not have survived!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book consists of interviews with former students of Pattabhi Jois. It was interesting to read what it was like to practice in the studio in the early days and to see the development of the program. There were also some interviews with neighbors and others who were friends. The book could have been better edited to remove much of the redundancy among the responses. One criticism is that the same questions were asked of each of the interviewees. The responses were fairly uniform and some of the philosophical comments and other interesting comments were not pursued with follow-up questions. Presumably, this was because the agenda was to record responses to each of the preset questions.

Though a lot of former students are included among the interviewees, I feel that the authors should have attempted to include at least all of Pattabhi Jois' certified teachers. It also would have been interesting to have included reflections by advanced teachers of some of the other schools of yoga - an interview with Iyengar or students who practiced in both "camps" would have been very interesting.

It would have been nice to have included some material about the worldwide ashtanga community would have been useful - for example, contact information for the worldwide ashtanga shalas run by certified or authorized students, how large is the community, etc.

Some of the interviews were charming and it was interesting to read about the experiences of these students, who studied with Sri Pattabhi Jois for many years. It was also interesting to read the different perspectives and the common recognition of the importance of breath (and listening to the breath), the bandhas, and the disciplined practice.
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