Guruji and the Practice


"You learn that there is a wisdom contained within the practice, if you are
paying attention. Learning to listen is key. The form of the practice and
the method of the practice contain a teaching. I believe that if you are
paying attention, if you can look below the surface and ask: Why do we
start where we start? What do we do first? What do we do next? How do
things link one-to-one through the sequence? There is something informative
that teaches you something. You learn how one pose will teach
you about another. You work from the outside to the inside. You are basically
working on clearing the way and clearing the physical blocks in the
body, which are related to clearing mental blocks in the mind.
Yoga philosophy teaches that what we are doing is uncovering, cleaning,
and Guruji said over and over again, if you listen, “This is not physical
practice, this is mental cleaning.” He talks about cleaning the nadis,
clearing the tubes that energy flows through. I really do feel—maybe this
is not unique to ashtanga yoga, maybe any yoga practice has the ability to
clear the way—but Guruji’s method does it so methodically, so systematically,
with the sequence set for us, and not relying on just doing postures
as you choose. This, I think, is really difficult. It’s hard not to fall into biases,
taking a practice where you just do whatever it is you want to do, or
what the teacher wants to do at that point in time. It’s hard not to fall
into tendencies for what your preferences might be, or for staying away
from things that you don’t like. You have a sequence that is set, and
whether you like it or not, you are going to do navasana and marichyasana
D, janu shirshasana C and supta kurmasana. There is something
about putting yourself up against that which challenges you in a way that
I don’t think you would challenge yourself normally.
I remember seeing poses in the first class I watched like janu shirshasana
C—I swore in this lifetime that I would never do that pose.
It just looked impossible to me. Kukkutasana I was convinced, literally,
never in this lifetime would I do that posture, and within a couple of
weeks I was doing it. It is a tremendous thing for a person to get, to realize,
that the things that we set as extreme limits for ourselves are just in
our mind, and we have to be careful of the limits that we impose on ourselves.
As human beings it’s amazing how prevalent this is in our society."

(Chuck Miller)

(Extracted from, Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students, by Guy Donahaye, Eddie Stern)

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