|Pattabhi Jois teaching Pranayama in 1964 published by Andre van Lysebeth in his book Pranayama.|
NB. The the person practicing pranayama is thought to be one of Pattabhi Jois Indian students, not Andre himself (Thank you to Juan for the note on this)
We give a lot of weight to the fixed Ashtanga series (Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A and B - organised later as Primary, 2nd 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th series) that Pattabhi Jois developed from the three flexible groups of asana (primary, middle, proficient) of his teacher Krishnamacharya.
But did Pattabhi Jois practice those series himself and if not, does it matter.
We know Pattabhi Jois didn't practice the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th series that we have now, they were certainly reorganised long after Pattabhi Jois had ceased to practice but what of the original four series, Primary to Advanced B that Pattabhi Jois taught to Norman Allan, David Williams Nancy Gilgoff and other early visitors to Mysore and their students.
The original four series are certainly based on Krishnamacharya's table of asana that appeared in his Yogasanagalu (Mysore 1941) and on which pattabhi Jois's own studies with his teacher were no doubt based. Pattabhi Jois' first two series follow quite closely the order of asana in Krishnamacharya's table, Advanced A and B series seems to be a departure.
Supposedly Pattabhi Jois was required to develop a four year Syllabus when asked to teach at the Sanskrit college, Krishnamacharya's table had three groups so Pattabhi Jois turned the final proficient group into two series ,Advanced A and B, no doubt including other asana and their vinyasa count Krishnamacharya had taught to him and the other boys of the Mysore palace (NB: Pattabhi Jois didn't only teach the young boys, he also taught other members of the palace and it's environ, perhaps Vinyasa Krama on a one to one basis).
Pattabhi Jois is said to have taken his list of asana ordered into fours series to Krishnamacharya and received his teachers approval, the approval is not surprising as Pattabhi Jois' list was based on his teachers own table of asana, with the same vinyasa count. Pattabhi jois continued to take students and members of his family to Krishnamacharya for examination in the vinyasa count of individual asana up until the 1970s
There is little doubt that Pattabhi Jois studied and practiced most, if not all, of the asana with the same Vinyasa with his teacher krishnamacharya and for many years, Pattabhi Jois was one of Krishnamachaeya's senior and longest serving student and would accompany his teacher around the country giving advanced asana demonstrations.
There is some confusion regarding when Pattabhi Jois developed his series of asana for the Sanskrit college yoga course, 1939 is the most common date but this date may have been when Pattabhi Jois entered the Sanskrit college as a senior student. Pattabhi Jois' life long friend T. S. Krishnamurthy responds in an interview in the book Guruji that Pattabhi Jois began teaching his yoga course in 1947. Krihshnamaurthy was one of his students and studied Yoga with hm for four years, the four year syllabus perhaps. In 1948, he established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute at their new home in Lakshmipuram "...with a view to experimenting with the curative aspects of Yoga".
|Pattabhi Jois teaching|
|Pattabhi Jois demonstrating sarvangasana|
|`Pattabhi Jois teaching garbhapindasana|
But lets, for arguments sake, say Pattabhi Jois did change his practice and work through the different series each morning, how long did he practice them for? Ashtanga is characterised by years practicing the different series, David Willams and Nancy Gilgoff have been practicing them six days a week for over forty years. Pattabhi Jois may only have practiced them for ten.
|Manju Jois 1950s|
Manju Jois mentions that he was there in the room while his father was working on Yoga Mala in 1954. Manju's father would call him in from playing street cricket again and again to perform asana while his father wrote out the description. Manju must have been around seven, he clearly remembers this but the memories of his father practicing are not of full series but rather long stays in different asana. Krishnamacharya stressed long stays with slow breathing in Yoga Makaranda and Yogasanagalu , was Pattabhi Jois still practicing just as his teacher had taught him?
We should also note that the pictures Pattabhi Jois included in Yoga Mala were taken in the late 1930s or early 1940s, they are not a full set of the primary series asana, no more were taken the missing asana being performed by Sharath for the books publication in the 1990s. There are no videos of Pattabhi Jois performing any of the series,
Tim Miller is quoted as saying that Pattabhi Jois stopped practicing asana aged 42 (1957) for personal family reasons, it seems likely that the quote was a typo and that it should read "...aged 62" (1978). However, note the change in Pattabhi Jois' physique between the 1964 photo with André Van Lysebeth and the one below with the western Ashtangi's from 1975), there is no suggestion from any of the early visitors to Pattabhi Jois (1973/74) who lived in his house while studying with him that their teacher was practicing the different Ashtanga series. I seem to remember David Williams writing that one of his great regrets was never having seen Pattabhi Jois practice himself. Manju mentioned however that his father continued to practice some asana 'tll quite late in life.
|from David Willams interview in Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of His Students |
It may also be that Pattabhi Jois continued to practice Ashtanga series from 1947 until 1978 but that nobody has reported seeing him practice that way, not his family or the ever curious students who shared his house while studying with him in the mid 1970s.
See also the following post
What does Pattabhi Jois' Advanced A/Third series Visvamitrasana photo tell us about the development of his Ashtanga Vinyasa syllabus.
|Clockwise, starting from P.Jois: Pattabhi Jois, Nancy Gilgoff, Brad Ramsay, Paul Danaway, Sally Woker, David Swenson, David Williams. Encinitas, California, 1975|
|Roseanna Campbell learns Ashtanga Yoga from the founder himself at Shri K. Pattabhi Jois’ school in Mysore, India, She mentions that Pattabhi Jois' son Ramesh presided over her wedding in Mysore in 1976|
I posted the picture at the top of this post of Pattabhi Jois teaching André Van Lysebeth in 1964 when he taught him Primary and Second series as well as Pranayama. Pattabhi Jois' face looks very lean suggestive to me perhaps perhaps of an intense practice, whether that is of a Rishi approach or Ashtanga series is unclear.
|Pattabhi Jois (left) teaching André Van Lysebeth Pranayama in 1964|
Does it matter whether Pattabhi Jois himself practiced the Ashtanga series he developed or for how long? Manju Jois has practiced the series since the 1950s ( he mentioned that these days he practices some Primary, some 2nd series and some advanced asana, "...to keep his hand in"). Sharath has been practicing the series seriously,according to his mother Saraswati, since 1989 including the latter reorganised Advanced series into 5th and 6th series, many of the early visitors to Mysore have been practicing as well as teaching the series daily since the mid 1970s.
|Saraswati in Gandhaberundasana, circa1950s|
My own practice tends to be based on a flexible approach to the Ashtanga vinyasa framework, half Primary or half 2nd series with slow breathing, kumbhaka, some long stays and just the original two drishti followed by pranayama, pratyahara and a sit.
|Bottom centre, a copy of the 1973 Ashtanga syllabus given to Nancy Gilgoff and David Williams.|
The four year Sanskrit college syllabus?