Sri Tirumala Krishnamacharya (1888–1989) was born on November 18 in Muchukundapuram, in Chitradurga district of Karnataka state in India and lived to be over a hundred years old. His parents were Sri Tirumala Srivinasa Tattacharya, a well-known teacher of the Vedas, and Shrimati Ranganayakamma and he was the eldest with two brothers and three sisters.
Krishnamacharya spent much of his youth traveling through India studying the six darshanas or Indian philosophies: Vaisheshika, Nyaya, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta. His students include many of today's most influential teachers: Sri BKS Iyengar, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, the late Indra Devi and Krishnamacharya's own sons T.K.V. Desikachar and T.K. Sribhashyam.
Although his knowledge and teaching has influenced yoga throughout the world he never left his native India over the course of his life. It is important to note that Jois and Iyengar teach based on their own experiences with Krishnamacharya in the 1930s in Mysore, when they were both young men; their styles are reflective of yoga that is appropriate to younger students and thus heavily emphasize asana practice. However, teachers such as T.K.V. Desikachar, A.G. Mohan and Srivatsa Ramaswami teach a broader part of Krishanamacharya's teachings, noting that yoga is more than just asana and must be tuned to the student, taking account of health, energy, physique, gender, place and age.
Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois (1915–2009), was born on the full moon day of July 1915, Guru Purnima day. His ancestral village, Kowshika, near Hassan in Karnataka State, is inhabited by maybe 500 people and has one main street. At one end of the street is a Vishnu temple, just next to Pattabhi Jois' home. At the far end of the street, just 100 yards away, lies a small Ganapati temple, and just opposite, a Siva temple. Both are several hundreds years old, and are the focus of the village.
Pattabhi Jois's father was an astrologer and a priest, who acted as the pujari for many of the families in the village. From an early age, as most brahmin boys, Pattabhi Jois was taught the Vedas and Hindu rituals.
When Guruji was 12 years old, he attended a yoga demonstration at his middle school in Hassan. The next day he went to meet the great yogi who had given the demonstration, a man by the name of Sri T. Krishnamacharya, who had learned yoga for nearly eight years from his Guru, Rama Mohan Brahmachari in a cave in Tibet. For the next two years, Guruji learned from his Guru every day. When Guruji turned 14, he had his brahmin thread ceremony. Krishnamacharya left Hassan to travel and teach, and Guruji left his village to go to Mysore.
Guruji wished to attend the Sanskrit University of Mysore. With two rupees in his pocket, he left with two friends. They traveled the 100 plus kilometers by bike, over dirt roads. For the first year or two, life was very difficult. With very little money, he begged for his food from some of the brahmin houses. Guruji attended classes and did his studies. Then, around 1930, he went to a yoga demonstration and saw that it was his Guru. He came forward and prostrated, and they recommenced their relationship, and Guruji his yoga studies.
The Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar, had fallen ill. He learned that there was a great yogi who had come to Mysore. Krishnamacharya was called to him, and duly cured him. The Maharaja became a great patron of his and built him a yogashala (school of yoga) on the grounds of the Palace Art Gallery. Guruji was also beckoned to teach the Maharaja on occasion, and was called upon several times to give yoga demonstrations. The Maharaja, who had taken a liking for Guruji, told him, "I want you to teach yoga at the Sanskrit College. You teach. I will give you a scholarship to go to school, free food in my mess hall and a salary." Guruji, very happy, asked permission from his Guru. Krishnamacharya approved, and the Yoga Department of the Sanskrit College began on March 1, 1937. He continued as the head until his retirement in 1973.
From 1937 until 1973, Guruji earned his professorship at the University, granting him the title of Vidvan. He married, in a love marriage, Savitramma, who came from a long line of Sanskrit scholars. Her grandfather was the Sanskrit and philosophy teacher to the last Shankaracharya of Kanchi, Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati. They had three children, Manju, Ramesh, and Saraswati. Saraswati is the mother of Sharath, born in 1971, who is now Guruji's co-director of their school in Mysore.
In 1964, Andre Van Lysbeth bacame the first Westener to study with Guruji. Soon after that, more Europeans came. Around 1972, the first Americans came, after meeting Manju at Swami Gitananda's ashram in Pondicherri. It was at that point that ashtanga yoga began spreading in America, starting in California, and then later emerging in Hawaii. In 1975, Guruji and Manju made their first trip to America. Over the next 25 years, the practice spread through the United States, France, Germany, Russia, Japan, Israel, Chile, England, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Guruji has, for 63 years, been teaching uninterruptedly this same method that he learned from Krishnamacharya in 1927.
R. Sharath was born on September 29, 1971 in Mysore, South India to Saraswathi Rangaswamy, daughter of Ashtanga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Growing up in a house full of yogis, Sharath learned his first asanas at age 7 and experimented with postures from the primary and intermediate series until he turned 14. Although he spent the next three years focused on his scholastic education, earning a diploma in electronics, Sharath knew deep down that he would one day follow the asthanga path carved by his legendary grandfather.
Encouraged by his mother, Sharath embarked on this inevitable yoga journey at age 19. He would wake every day at 3:30 a.m. and drive to the Lakshmipuram shala to first practice and then assist Guruji, a routine he followed for many years. An example of sincere dedication and discipline, Sharath still rises early six days a week (now at 2:00 a.m.) to practice before the first students arrive at the new Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (AYRI) now located in Gokulam, where he serves as Assistant Director and continues to assist his grandfather.
Sharath is Pattabhi Jois's only student who has mastered all five series of the Ashtanga yoga system, and is currently studying several asanas in the sixth and final series. He resides in Mysore with his wife Shruthi, daughter Shraddha, and baby son Sambhav.
Saraswathi Rangaswamy was born in 1941 and practiced steadily under the guidance of her father Sri K. Pattabhi Jois from the age of 10-22. She was the first girl ever to be permitted admission to the Sanskrit College in Mysore where she studied the basic Sanskrit works and learnt yoga from her father. For many years she assisted her father, but since 1975 she has been teaching her own classes. In 1986 she created a little Yoga revolution here in Mysore by being the first woman ever to teach men and women together. Saraswathi welcomes all yoga students who come to Mysore. She is the steady link in the Jois family that looks after her father as well as her son, keeps them in line and makes sure they behave properly.
For Saraswathi Yoga has always been the major influence of her life. Playfully she begun exploring various Yoga postures from an early age, but took up a consistent practice from the age of ten. At the age of twenty-two her mother fell really sick and got admitted to hospital. Saraswati naturally took on all household responsibilities and cared for her mother as well as her younger brothers. Her asana practice suffered a little, but she grew strong in other areas of Yoga.
At the age of twenty-six she got married and then moved to Jamshedpur, close to Calcutta to be with her husband. Her husband was busy working and traveling around India, but she looked after his family as well and gave birth to hear daughter Shammi in 1969 and Sharath in 1971.
Sharath was a real weakling in his early years, he did not like going to school and would be home for months or lying sick in his bed.
Saraswathi recalls how he attracted every disease from rheumatic fever, bouts of diarrhea, inflammation of the lungs, loss of hemoglobin in his blood, to a serious hernia infection ending with an operation and months in hospital. But Saraswati was always there to support him and helped him get his strength back in his early teens by teaching him Yoga. At first he was very reluctant, but due to the strong influence of his mother, he took up a consistent practice, was even urged to help his grandfather and the rest is history.
After moving back to Mysore in 1971 she started teaching yoga on a regular basis. In 1975 she started teaching at the back portion of the Venkateshwara temple in Vantikopal. She was paid twenty fives rupees a month and a Yoga teacher in those days was treated no different than the cleaners and sweepers of the temple grounds. But Saraswathi persisted due to her love of Yoga and her experiences born out of the practice. For eleven years she would only teach ladies, but then in 1986 she allowed men and women to mix. Many people were criticizing her for making such a radical change to the common norm in India of always keeping the two genders separate. But Saraswathi did not care and decided to teach Yoga in the best way she found proper.
In 1984 she constructed her own house in Gokulam and started teaching out of her own home to the locals. When Guruji moved his Yoga Shala from Laxmipuram to Gokulam in 2002 Saraswati once again started teaching together with her father. Now every morning she is the steady presence in the shala from 5am. After helping her father for two and a half hours she teaches her own class from 8 – 9:30 am every day.
Manju Jois, Ashtanga Yoga guru of Mysore, South India, is the oldest son of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, recognized worldwide as the foremost authority on Ashtanga Yoga. Manju was born on November 16th, 1944. At the young age of 7, Manju was awakened early each day by his father to begin lessons that would forever change the course of his life and the lives of those who would study with him in the years to come. He began his teaching career at the age of 15 with his father and has taught ever since.
Manju considers it a great honor to be the son of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. “He is my father and my teacher. I am grateful for both my mother and my father.” Manju’s mother, Savatri Jois, (Sathu to her family) was a beloved wife, loving mother and an expert in Indian cuisine. Sadly, she passed away in 1997. Manju is devoted to his wife Nancy and their young daughter Sathu, named after her paternal Grandmother, who was born in 2002. Sathu is a multi-talented, beautiful girl, who continues to bless the Jois family beyond measure.
Manju has taught the true Mysore Ashtanga method for over 47 years. Spanning 22 countries and 21 states in the US, Manju’s world Ashtanga teaching tour is ever expanding. Manju is grateful to Gary Herlich and all of the other people who helped Manju to stay in US when he first started teaching in America.
He offers Ashtanga weekend workshops, teacher trainings and intensive week-long classes. He incorporates pranayama and vedic chantings in his classes, which go very well with Ashtanga yoga practice. Manju’s intention is to teach in the way of the Ancient tradition and bring the many benefits of Ashtanga yoga to his students.
He hopes to bring “better concentration and understanding” of Astanga Yoga to his students in a world full of distractions. Manju’s dedication to his life of teaching and practicing yoga has brought the benefits of the ancient tradition of Ashtanga Yoga Manju to many students throughout the world, as he guides each to “Unite with Yourself.”
Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.
— Sri T. Krishnamacharya
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