K. Pattabhi Jois (Krishna Pattabhi Jois) 1915-2009

(title: Yogasana Visharada Vedanta Vidvan)


We’re aware of KPJ’s sexually abusive adjustments towards some of his male and female students. We have been openly talking about this subject on our workshops and retreats for many years. However, Karen Rain’s interview gave us a new view about how systematic and abhorrent the sexual abuse was in the Mysore shala and elsewhere.

For now on we will have a discussion about power relations and abuse with new students at the start of every course.

We acknowledge our complicity by remaining silent in a scene which caused trauma and harm to the survivors and victims of the sexual assault and spiritual abuse. We wish to extend our deepest condolences to Karen Rain, Anneke Lucas, Jubilee Cooke, Marissa Sullivan and Catherine Tisseront, as well as to the unheard survivors who have not yet found their voice to speak up about their lived experiences. We will continue to use our platforms to have discussions regarding abusive, oppressive behaviour in yoga. 

We follow the system and knowledge of Ashtanga Yoga as taught by T. Krishnamacharya (mainly in the 193o’s in Mysore) and K. Pattabhi Jois. This being said, at no point have we condoned nor tolerated their abusive and violent teaching style and behaviour. Our focus is on healing, yoga therapy and civilised yogic views, grounded in justice and compassion, through the Ashtanga Yoga system.

It’s important to distinguish that even if our leaders have had their dark personal issues, violent and/or sexually abusive and delusional views, compounded by systemic, cultural, institutional sanction and protection, these are not part of the Ashtanga Yoga system. 

Ashtanga Yoga itself is a pure system, and it is to this which we aspire towards.

We are happy to receive feedback in an effort to understand more deeply, keep (un)learning, and make concrete action steps.

The following text is edited from Petri’s primary series book “Ashtanga Yoga – in the tradition of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois”. In the end you will find one of Petri’s last interviews (about God) with KPJ from February 6 2007.

K. Pattabhi Jois was born under a full moon in July of 1915, in Kowshiki, near Hassan, Mysore. His father was an astrologer, priest and landowner and his mother cared for the home and their nine children. K. Pattabhi Jois was the fifth child, and when he was five years old his father began to teach him Sanskrit (their language is Kannada), astrology, mantras (religious texts from the Vedas), slokas (verses), and the rituals of the Brahmins. He began school in that same year in Hassan.

K. Pattabhi Jois began to practice astanga yoga at age 12. He had seen a demonstration and heard a speech by T. Krishnamacharya in Hassan’s community hall in March of 1927, and this impacted him greatly. After intense questioning by T. Krishnamacharya, two days later K. Pattabhi Jois stood on a mat as a student (sasthaka) of Krishnamacharya and received his first Astanga Vinyasa Yoga class under his soon-to-be Guru. He came and practiced daily with him for two years.

The path of yoga is not necessarily ideal for a child living in a regular Brahmin family. Yoga used to prepare the aspirant for the life of a monk (sannyasis), living outside of society and was not of particular benefit to being part of a family. This ended up causing some conflict with his parents, and for a time he chose to hide his intense interest in the path of yoga. The 12-year-old Pattabhi Jois woke up two hours before his school-classmates, walked five kilometers along a path to Hassan, where T. Krishnamacharya’s school was, did his practice while Krishnamacharya counted the vinyasas… and then went to regular school.

After his Brahmin initiation in 1930 by his father (he was ritually brought into the Brahmins, and was given the characteristic thread {upavita} around their body), he moved to Mysore and enrolled himself in the Sanskrit university, Parkala Math.

In Mysore, he met his guru, T. Krishnamacharya, anew, as he had come to demonstrate astanga yoga. Krishnamacharya opened a yoga shala in 1932 in a wing of Jaganmohan Palace, upon invitation of his student and friend Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV (1894 – 1940), the Maharaja of Mysore. T. Krishnamacharya and K. Pattabhi Jois’s guru/student relationship began again and continued until 1953, at which point T. Krishnamacharya moved with his family to Madras (now Chennai).

T. Krishnamacharya’s teachings followed the teachings of Rishi Vamana in the Yoga Koruna. K. Pattabhi Jois and about a hundred other students performed the asanas according to the exact technique described therein. They learned all the asana’s numbers, the breathing, the movements from one asana to another, and deep concentration. Their guru did not accept even the least bit of fatigue or forgetfulness (when T. Krishnamacharya moved to Madras, he changed his teaching style and became much softer). K. Pattabhi Jois developed quickly under his guru’s burning eyes, and so their guru/student relationship deepened, and T. Krishnamacharya began to teach K. Pattabhi Jois daily in yogic theory according to ancient texts, philosophy and practice, as well as the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to heal various illnesses.

The Maharaja of Mysore, who was a famous student of T. Krishnamacharya’s, became convinced of K. Pattabhi Jois’s capabilities and invited him to teach yoga at the Sanskrit University in 1937. This year was very memorable in his life, as he both began his long teaching career and married Savitri (1923 – 1997).

K. Pattabhi Jois continued to study Sanskrit, teach astanga yoga, and began to study Advaita Vedanta (a school of philosophy based on Adi Shankaracharya’s 15th century non-dualistic, or egalitarian viewpoint… the main idea of Vedanta being “everything is Brahman”). This led him to being a professor of Vedanta (Vidvan) in 1956, and he was given the title Yogasana Visharada Vedanta Vidvan (he actually was given the title Yogasana Visharada in 1945 by Jagadguru Shankaracharya from Puri, professor in Vedanta Vidvan (Vedanta professor), and his students began to call him Guruji.)

In 1948, K. Pattabhi Jois’s students helped him to buy a house in Lakshmipuram, Mysore, to where he moved with his wife Savitri and their three children Saraswati, Manju and Ramesh. He founded a research center for astanga yoga, Astanga Yoga Research Institute (Astanga Yoga Nilayam), with the purpose of researching the method of astanga yoga according to the Yoga Koruna, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Upanishads, his own guru’s teachings and other holy texts.

Pattabhi Jois wrote the Yoga Mala between 1958 and 1961, and it was published in Kannada (his language) in Karnataka in 1962. The model for his book came from the Yoga Koruna. In the Yoga Mala he describes the Primary Series of Astanga Yoga (Yoga Chikitsa), yoga’s age-old philosophy, and methods of combining yoga with modern life. The book is testimony to Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’s immense knowledge from 25 years of study, his complete dedication to the yogic path, and his belief in yoga’s healing and spiritual powers.

His other book, Astanga Yoga, contains both the Primary Series’ and Intermediate Series’ (Nāḍī Śodhana) vinyasa technique, as well as short descriptions of some pranayama practices and basic information on the philosophy of yoga. This book was co-written by his Italian student, Lino Miele, and was published in 1994.

The first Western student who was interested in studying with Pattabhi Jois was a Belgian man, Andre van Lysebeth, who came to Mysore as Guruji’s student in 1964. He wrote about the teachings he received, especially the breathing practices, in his book Pranayama. The book was only published in French, and triggered an interest in Europeans to seek out practice with Guruji and make the pilgrimage to Mysore. The first Americans who traveled to Mysore (in 1973) were, among others, Norman Allen, David Williams, and Nancy Gilgoff. Deeply moved by their studies with him, David and Nancy invited Guruji and his son Manju to Encinitas, California in 1975. After this first journey abroad, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois has held many workshops for thousands of students around the world and contributed to this current blossoming of yoga’s popularity in the Western world.

Until 2002, the Astanga Yoga Research Institute was located in Lakshmipuram district. In this shala, there was space for about twelve yoga mats, right beside one another. At most, there were 150 students at one time practicing in the shala, from 4:30 AM through the morning. There was a long line on the stairs to the practice room, and through a small window those waiting could listen to KPJ’s teachings and at times catch a glimpse of people practicing. These students remember KPJ’s wife, Savitri Jois, whom the family called Sathu and students called either Savitramma or Ammaji. She happily spoke with the students after practice, and gave consolation after Guruji’s often difficult (though heart-felt) teachings.

In May of 2002 the Jois family opened a new shala on the other side of Mysore, in Gokulam. In the new shala he teaches (this is between 2002-2009) with his daughter Saraswathi Rangaswamy (later Saraswathi Jois) and his grandson R. Sharath Rangaswamy (later R. Sharath Jois, who began to assist in 1990 when he was only 19 years old). In Gokulam, Sharath is in fact KPJ’s “right-hand-man”.

KPJ about God

KPJ in Mysore in February 6th 2007 

(from Petri’s interview, original form)

You self take inside God 

ordinary knowledge (vidya) is not about God

Brahma-vidya is teaching you are God

you take God inside

that Guru is teaching and you follow

it is possible for everybody

you take your sense organs in control

and you think God every day

think, think, think

you are not man 

you are God

you think

think God

that is telling Guru

you everyday follow

every man is God

thinking God, thinking

that make you God

you also is God

every man is possible

everything is God, all the people are God, man also is God

you don’t understand

but when understand

all is God

water, fire..all is God

all is making

God is making

you dont understand

if you are looking at the wall

no God no thinking

but if you think about God

the wall is also God

everything is God

you are thinking man

think with a power

that makes a God

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