This blog is essentially 'sleeping'.

I've deleted or returned to draft 80% of the blog, gone are most, if not all, of the videos I posted of Pattabhi Jois, gone are most of the posts regarding my own practice as well as most of my practice videos in YouTube, other than those linked to my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book).

Mostly I've just retained the 'Research' posts, those relating to Krishnamacharya in particular.

Blog Comments are turned off, there are no "members" of this blog .

Sharath Rangaswamy. Name since changed to R. Sharath Jois) Resource

It was pointed out to me that while I have resources for 

K. Pattabhi Jois
Manju Jois 
Srivatsa Ramaswami

I don't have one for Sharath Rangaswamy

I should also make one up for Saraswati (in progress)

That said, family....Parampara are not really my thing,
this is more of a service for those for who it is.

My defence for this is that I don't tend to buy into hereditary ideas of lineage. Why have a Sharath page and not say a Norman Allan Page or a David Williams page or one for Nancy Gilgoff. A Tim Miller Page say, Chuck Miller, Danny Paradise.... or pages for  Richard Freeman and David Swenson,  Lino Miele, John Scott..... Derek Ireland or so many other wonderful teachers and communicators of Ashtanga vinyasa. Ashtanga isn't just Mysore it's a network of teaching excellence around the globe and it's not a question of past or present, those early teachers continue to pass on the teaching to their students who are passing it on in turn, just it's being passed on by Sharath in Mysore and by Manju....well, everywhere else.

And come to think of it I do have a Page on Derek Ireland, and some big posts on Chuck Miller, John Scott, Norman Allan, so why NOT Sharath also. 

I have authority issues, clearly. I critique Sharath and Mysore more than others and elsewhere because it's so often taken as accepted by many students that Mysore is the Vatican and Sharath the new Pope (although even Popes are elected by their peers), it makes me uncomfortable, it should perhaps be questioned or at least another perspective offered.

As a home practitioner I've rarely considered, a day or two at most, visiting Mysore, likewise attending Sharath's Led classes on his world tours, a small workshop with Manju is one thing but a led class with anyone, not just Sharath, really doesn't interest me in the slightest, I probably wouldn't have gone to one of Pattabhi Jois' world tour Led's either.

And yet Sharath HAS had a big influence on my practice. It was Sharath's DVD, racing through Primary in 60 minutes, that switched me from one of David Swenson's Short forms to full practice. A few years later I went back to that DVD and noticed how energy efficient Sharath's practice was, how delicate his jump through and switched from all the fancy Ashtanga party tricks I'd been including in my practice, Kino's Half handstand jump through say to Sharath gentle, energy efficient hop. I may disagree with some of Sharath's views on practice but there is probably more I agree on and share, especially much that he has been saying of late.

And besides, I don't like to think of this as my blog but rather THE blog otherwise I would have deleted it long ago. I suspect this will end up being one of the most popular posts so I'll turn this it into a Resource page sitting at the top of the blog alongside Sharath's grandfather, Pattabhi Jois, and uncle, Manju Jois, and perhaps start thinking about a page for Saraswati, feel free to add any suggestions for content in comments and as with any of the pages above it's a work in progress.


Recent posts


1. Gallery - Posters, flyers and promotion
2. Video Selection
3. Interviews
4. Conference notes from JoisYoga
5. Selected blog posts


Sharath as a boy with David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff

The Bio on KPJAYI .org( Sharath's own website, now called
Sharath was born on September 29, 1971 in Mysore, India to Saraswathi Rangaswamy, daughter of ashtanga master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. Growing up in a house full of yoga practitioners, Sharath learned his first asanas at age seven and experimented with postures from the primary and intermediate series until he turned fourteen. Though he spent the next three years focused on his scholastic education, earning a diploma in electronics from JSS in Mysore, Sharath knew that he would one day follow the ashtanga path blazed by his mother and legendary grandfather.

Sharath embarked on his formal yoga study at the age of nineteen. He would wake every day at 3:30 a.m. and cross the town of Mysore to his grandfather’s Lakshmipuram yoga shala. There, he would first practice and then assist his guru, Pattabhi Jois, a routine of dedication he has followed for many years.

Today, Sharath’s sincere devotion and discipline to the study and practice of yoga compels him to rise six days a week at 1:00 a.m. to complete his practice before the first students arrive at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute, where he serves as Director.

Sharath is Pattabhi Jois’s only student who has studied and continues to practice the complete six series of the ashtanga yoga system. He presently resides in Mysore with his wife Shruthi, daughter Shraddha, and son Sambhav.

Posters and Promotion











Sharath's book
1st Edition
2nd Edition 





1999 Chile

2001 New York

from the primary Series DVD

2009 Copenhagen

See this post on my practicing along with Sharath's led stream from Moscow




See my post on the above video
Tuesday, 24 September 2013
UPDATED (New corrected Video) Sharath's Uttkatasana and Virabhadrasana video also Sharath's Pranayama tutorial.


Demo's 2013 Helsinki





Tutorial(?) 2015
There are a number of Led classes/tutorial's on this Live Sonima playlist

3. Interview

Below, with Peg Mulqueen, Sharath is perhaps saying the same things that many* who have never been to a shala or to Mysore or have had anything much to do with 'parampara' or even perhaps Ashtanga Vinyasa end up (eventually) saying (get past the asana/there's more to it/look to the yama/niyama), which suggests that a broader understanding of what yoga may be about comes merely from practicing a discipline with sincerity and commitment, the rest may be helpful or yet one more distraction. I'd love to hear him say "Don't bother coming (to Mysore), stay home and do your practice", but perhaps he is saying that without realising it in his mention of the Puja room in ones own home. Puja can take many forms, essentially a devotional act repeated over time, the devotion to truth whatever form that may take for you.

Interview with Peg Mulquween for Ashtanga Dispatch. Interview conducted in Mysore 
February 13 and February 20th

*including most of those I've come across who used to go the 'old shala' and have practiced for decades.


A translation I think from the Russian, perhaps conducted at Ashtanga Moscow. 
And an English translation of the site

Sharath interview (2011)

1. What can you say about Russian students? (of course smth good -_-)

They’re dedicated students. Ashtanga yoga is new, but they’re dedicated, you can see that, very focused in their practice and they listen exactly what to do. 

- You said that “Very good. All beginners.”

It’s first for me to come to Russia, so these many new faces. In that basis I just that said. But most of them know the practice, they’re very focused in their practice. They know what they’re doing

2. May be they differ from other foreign students? Finnish, american students...

Students’re all same. As I told you in the conference that yoga has been practicing for many years in the other parts of the world. So people there are little more advanced, that is because they’ve been practiced it for many years. Even in Russia after time passes people will also be very advanced, they’ll go higher levels in their practice.

3. Which qualities of character do people need to develop and which things to pay more attention to?

Yoga should be practiced as a spiritual practice. It’s not just like an exercise. If you do like that it has certain limitations. If you do it like spiritual practice, there’s no limit for that. You can go higher dimensions and higher levels in this practice. So it’s always good to practice thinking it’s a spiritual practice and we should bring spirituality in our practice. That is very important. Instead of just doing it like exercise, aerobics, gymnastics. If you bring more spirituality in your practice, then I think it’s more effective. This whole practice will be more effective. So students have to bring that.

4. I remembered one Guruji’s expression: “Primary series – very important, second series – for teachers, advanced – for demonstration”. May be you can comment smth?

I don’t know where he said that, what meaning he said this. Usually we say that Primary series is like Chikitsa Vibhaga, like I told, to cure deseases. So these asanas are made just to cure deseases. Many deseases can be cured with these asanas like broncheatis, astma, any physical body with suffering. And second series is like Nadi Shodhana, it purifies all the nervous system. Even in Primary series nadi shodhana will happen and in second series little more intense, little more advanced, that’s all. And advanced posture are Sthira Bhaga, to bring more flexibility and strenght in your body. That is why we practice Advanced series. He must have told that many people before doing advanced always try to show up, to show their self, so I thing in that context he said this “For demonstration, for show off, but not really. You should always enjoy your practice, that is very important. You do Primary series, Intermediate or Advanced, unless you are not enjoing your practice it doesn’t make any sense in practicing. It’s boring and no sense in that. As I told you first we should think why we are practicing. We’re practicing to get mind control, to bring control to our mind and body. That is why if you do Advance or any series this doesn’t matter. Unless you’re enjoing the asanas it should be fine.

5. People have their weaknesses. What are the ways to work with them?

Whole practice is done to get rid of all these like I told you kama (lust), krodha (anger), moha (attraction), lobha (greed), madhya (pride), matsarya (jealosy) – these 6 enemies should be removed by practicing yoga. Once you get read of them which each and everyone has the light inside you, the liberation will happen. You get liberated from all these and nothing will affect you. Whole practice is based on that. That’s the main reason why we do the yoga practice.

- Many people may think that these all is theory. But you mean it literally?

Literally you have to practice. This is not just from book, just for saying, it shouldn’t be only in the books, it should be done practically. Then only it’ll be more effective. Any series you do if you don’t try to get rid of these 6 emenies you wouldn’t achieve the goal, the spiritual goal that you have to achieve, that you can’t achieve.

- Is it possible to eliminate them totally?

Completely remove these is always difficult, always minimazing, minimazing day by day, day by day. And you’ll get to that situation where it becomes like a habit. Whenever you are doing, whenever this kind of things bothers you, totally your mind starts rejecting “I shouldn’t do this, because it’s against”. This kind of feeling should come. It come slowly, it doesn’t come at once. By true practice it’ll come. 

6. Can ashtanga completely cure chronic deceases?

It’s possible to cure, but you need to take some precautions and you need proper guidance from your teacher. There’re specific asanas which you should do, specific kriyas you should do, so by doing these you can get rid of all these deseases. Many things except only Primary – diet, suitable kriyas for particular desease. So the teacher will treat you as a patient, will try all these different things, which can help to cure.

7. What’s your opinion on practice and ability to conceive?

It’s mostly individual, not everyone’s body is the same – some are more sensetive, some are more stronger. So while conceiving you have to be very careful, that you should do just gentle practice, because it brings lots of heat in the body while doing asanas. So by doing too many asanas, you’ll bring more heat and it’ll be more difficult to conceive. When you planned like this you should be very careful and try to do a gentle practice.

8. What do you think about women’s dharma?

Women’s dharma is to have a family, to have children, to look after them. Husband’s dharma is to look after the wife and children and do his work.

- And how to combine dharma with practice and spirituality? Because sometimes women do practice very hard and this is bad for their family.

It’s not like that unless you can bring spirituality within you. It’s not that will come from your not being in a family, it doesn’t matter you inside or not inside your family, spirituality should happen within you. When it happens within you, if you married or not it doesn’t matter.

9. You making some innovations and changes in Shala, which you planned with Guruji. Can you tell us about it?

We are making not changes but we want to engage students in few other things. Not only doing asanas, now we have sanskrit class, we make chanting compulsory, so we keep students ocuppied. Instead of just doing practice, going out and just gossiping and wasting time. We tell them to come at 11 o’clock for chanting, so that it will help in their development of spiritual practice.

10. We heard that you are writing a book. Can you tell something.

It’s just 2-days baby in the stomach -_- (Only 2 years past… 0_o)

11. Desikachar writes in his book that Kundalini is not an energe but something that blocks our energy.

And we have to remove that block instead of rising Kundalini.

It’s not right. Kundalini means it’s energy which based below your muladhara chakra. Shankaracharya says: “sanskrit from Yoga Taravali”. When we do kumbhaka pranayama we awake Kundalini and it opens all the granthis – Rudra-g, Vishnu-g, Brahma-g – and travels in Sushumna nadi. So that is why then there will be no outside breathing, everything will be internal breathing. This is what the Shastra says. So it has nothing with blocking or anything. It is energy which needs to travel. It’s sleeping and coiled like a serpent. And by doing pranayama you awake that. Many people don’t have too much knowledge about this. You need to refer many books. Just saying one book it’s not possible, you should have practical experience. Once you had practical experience, you can feel and realize that within you. And it will be easier to understand what is says. So that is very important. And if you don’t have practical experience, you always speculate “It can be like this, it can be like that”. You are always guessing.

12. Which book do you recommend to read about yoga?

There’re many books about yoga, Upanishads about yoga – Katha, Kena, so many Upanishads talk about yoga. And Bhagavad Gita all 18 chapters are about yoga, Patanjali Yoga Sutra is there, and Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Gheranda Samhita, so many books. Most of the people are always saying: “Oh, Yoga Sutra says like this. Oh, HYP says like this.” But there’re many other books, which are ancient, before PYS, before HYP. Once you refer those books also, you’ll have better understanding in yoga. Cause many people always translating Yoga Sutra in a different way, and it’s a very confusing way. Yoga Sutra itself is very confusing many times. Unless you don’t refer other books, other ancient books, other Upanishads, it’s very difficult to understand PYS. There’s many translations, many interpretations, it develops more confusion, that’s all.

13. What’s the best way to practice in the big city? It’s almost impossible to go to bed at 9pm as you do, and to get up at 2 am for practice.

When you are going to bed at 1 o’clock and getting up late, you stop your breakfast, you stop eating. You don’t have time to do yoga, but you have time to eat, you have time to take bath, you have time to do many other things. Yoga also should come like that. It should come like part of your life. So then if it’s a part of your life, part of your routine, you will find time to do it. You can do it any time, not necessery particular time. It’s good if you do it in the morning, it’s more effective if you do in the morning. If you can’t do it, you can do it in the evening also. But you have to do it. If within you it becomes like habit like how you eat food, like you have breakfast. Can you survive without eating breakfast? You’re always running “I’m hungry! I’m hungry!” Like that it should come “Oh, I should do my practice, I didn’t do my practice today. I have to do it”. It should come like that.

Farewell words

Ashtanga yoga means (from one verse): “yoganga anushthana... from YS” This making a very big meaning, that by practicing all the limbs of ashtanga yoga all the impurities in our body and mind will be removed, you’ll become more pured and you’ll become more wiser. So it’s always you should keep in your mind that you should do your practice. Once you practice, your practice will heal your difficulty in life. That is the whole meaning of doing practice. It’s a life support for us. That’s why you shouldn’t stop practicing. Whatever time you have, whatever your body and mind allows you do, how much ever it’s possible you should do it. You shouldn’t stop practice it. If you keep practicing, you can build up your spiritual building very strong, your spiritual foundation within you.

Book Review

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Book(let) Review : Ashtanga yoga Anusthana - R. Sharath Jois

New Rug and Sharath's book(let) arrived
I mentioned in a previous post that I didn't yet have a copy of Sharath's recently released book on the Ashtanga Primary series and was waiting for it to turn up on Amazon UK. Within days I was kindly offered not one but two copies, that was really kind of you both thank you. My copy arrived yesterday along with my new/old rug (thank you Lizzie, it will be well loved and used I'm sure) and I believe the other copy is on it's way to Ireland.

new/old rug in the home shala

I make a point of featuring the rug/home shala because this book review is written from the home practitioner perspective, a nicely done shala going view can be found here

A Book Method in Review: Astanga Yoga Anusthana by R. Sharath Jois. by Peg Mulqueenon

I particularly liked this line

"So to anyone out there looking for a bit of hard core dogma to wave in judgment or in contrast, rattle and rally the rebels—sorry, you’re simply outta luck. Because all I discovered was a very pragmatic and compassionate approach to a practice that is often decried as just the opposite". Peg Mulqueenon

I'm calling my post a book review but actually this is more of a booklet than a book and there really isn't much to review.

Nothing wrong with a booklet of course

Given the slight variations in practice that have sprung up over the years it makes sense to produce a codification of the practice such that anyone coming to the Mysore Shala or indeed the world tours are all on the same page.... for while they're there at least before returning to their own shala and parampara. Many of the variations in practice are a result of the small changes in how the practice was taught over the years by Pattabhi Jois himself and that teachers have continued to teach, to pass on the practice, just as they were taught and in good faith.

And it needs to be small enough to fit in your backpacks for when you do go to Mysore or in your shala bag perhaps, it's a mat book, something you can hide under your mat to surreptitiously check the 'correct' vinyasa (kidding, don't try it) .

However, I'm a little disappointed I have to say. I'd heard there was going to be something along the lines of what we hear about from Sharath's conferences, a kind of Q and A section or the responses at least and rather than reports from the conferences by others, something that Sharath himself had decided to publish. 

That would have been interesting, in fact the handful of paragraphs we get on the Yamas and Niyamas are the most interesting section of the book, more of that would have been nice.

Also, once I'd heard there was a section on Yoga Therapy I was hoping for a few more pages than the two  we get. 

Still, even two pages on Yoga therapy is a bit of a bombshell. It shouldn't be a surprise of course Yoga Therapy has always been a part of  the Ashtanga method, it was there when Krishnamacharya taught Indra Devi in Mysore, Pattabhi Jois mentioned, in an interview ( must find the interview) that he was taught a therapeutic approach by Krishnamacharya who claims that's what he was taught by his own teacher in the Himalayas. Manju Jois mentions in his own interviews that his father Patabhi Jois would treat patients in the shala. Perhaps it's something that's been lost somewhat along the way although the practice, the sequence has it seems always been adjusted to meet the needs of the students in the more experienced Shalas. 

Perhaps including these two pages on Yoga Therapy will open the floodgates somewhat and more attention will be given to the myriad possibilities of adapting the Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama to the requirements of the students. 

Interesting times

The inclusion of the two pages on Yoga Therapy is along with the yam as/niyamas the most interesting aspect of Sharath's book. Otherwise it's just the 'correct' Vinyasa count and a few paragraphs each on aspects of practice, much of which can already be found word for word on the KPJYI website.

This sentence under Breathing I found a little disturbing however

"The inhalation and exhalation should be the same length and maintained throughout the practice. For example, if you inhale for two seconds, the exhale should be two seconds" p21

Two seconds!

Thankfully a couple of lines later we get...

"Long deep breathing activates the digestive fire that burns in the lower abdomen...." p21

Not sure how we balance the two lines from the same paragraph, does a two seconds inhalation suggest  to anyone long deep breathing or am I nitpicking on my favourite bugbear, he did say it was just an example..

Patabhi Jois would talk about ten second inhalations, fifteen seconds even twenty second inhalations (and was saying the same in Interviews even up until the 1990s) and the same for exhalation throughout the asana practice.  OK, maybe it's an ideal, I personally only manage to practice at eight seconds each for inhalation and exhalation, that drops to perhaps as little as five in the deep binds like marichiyasana D and Supta kurmasana, but two seconds, really?

If it's a book on the current Ashtanga methodology you want then you may well be better off spending the extra .71 cents and getting Petri Räisänen's 192 page Ashtanga Yoga, Definitive Primary Series Practice Manual' book. The Vinyasa count is up to date, 'official' and you're getting so much more besides ( see my earlier review) as well as a beautiful, professionally, produced addition to your bookshelf. I'd check the vinyasa count is indeed exactly the same in both books but I loaned Petri's book to Susan (Susananda) on Tuesday.

Personally, if you're only going to buy one Ashtanga book ( yeah right) then I'd say stick with Pattabhi Jois' own Yoga Mala which is a lovely, well produced, book and something I keep finding hidden treasures in to chew over.

Yoga Mala: The Original Teachings of Ashtanga Yoga Master Sri K. Pattabhi Jois [Paperback]

Friday, 28 March 2014

Sharath's revised Ashtanga Primary Series Book 5 second inhalation/ 5 second exhalation

Hannah Moss over at Ashtanga and Angels blog has put up an excellent post comparing the two editions of Sharath's Aṣṭāṅga Yoga Anuṣṭhāna book in a handy pdf. I'm not going to post it here, she's put so much work in to this that it deserves a trip over to her own blog to take a look.

“Aṣṭāṅga Yoga Anuṣṭhāna”: 1st vs. 2nd Edition

The one thing that jumped out for me of course was this

23 Tristhāna: 
1st edition: Breathing if you inhale for two seconds,
the exhale should be for two

2nd edition: if you inhale for five seconds,
the exhale should be for five

Five seconds inhale, five seconds exhale, that's much more like it, can live with that, Mysore here I come.... or at least I would if it wasn't for the crowds.

NB: The 'should' above is of course stressing that the inhalation and exhalation should be of equal duration, the 5 seconds is an example only, although it's interesting he changed it from the 2 second example in the first book.

Five second inhalation plus five second exhalation makes for a ten second breath, five of those gives us fifty seconds in the state of an asana. Actually there's that slight pause between the inhalation and exhaltion and the exhalation and inhalation. The slower the breath the longer the natural pause or mini kumbhaka as I like to think of it. At five seconds each I make it a one second pause between each so that's an extra two seconds a breath making it a full minute in the state of an asana.

I compared the breathing on teachers DVD's in a previous post. Their DVD presentations should be their ideal practice right.

Here are some comparisons to put it in perspective, all for when in Janu Sirsasana at astau/eight, the state of the asana ( this is hardly fair though as the time varies slightly in the different postures, especially in the led classes of Manju and his father ( it's guess work in Led), for example Manju left them in the preceding posture for 30 seconds), the demo's are a different case. gives an idea though of the general pace of the practice.

Update: I've added hyperlinks to reviews, click on the names

David Robson - 40 seconds!
David Garrigues - 30 seconds
Richard Freeman - 29 seconds
Manju Jois - 25 seconds
Lino - 24 seconds
Derek Ireland - 20 seconds
John Scott - 20 seconds
Mark Darby - 20 seconds
Kino - 20 seconds
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois - 20 seconds
David Swenson - 19 seconds
Sharath - 13 seconds 

( I've heard a recent recording of Sharaths' Led where it comes in at 25 seconds)

David Robson comes closest to a minute but that's perhaps because he has the 1 second beat of the drum to guide him on his Primary with Drums Video/CD/MP3 - Highly recommended. However, if I remember correctly the drumbeat is set at 4 second inhalation, 4 second exhalation. If you want to explore a slower pace download his mp3 or follow the link (click on his name above) and practice along to my Sury A video on that post with the drum beat in the background. There should be a link to a post where I explore the drum beat with second series.

Bit of a game changer?

Notice how many of the above are around 20 seconds, that actually works out at 2 second inhalation, 2 second exhalation, which is of course what Sharath included in the first edition of his book. That perhaps reflects the pace the practice is generally taken, how it's come down to us, how we tend to practice. What I find most interesting is that Sharath consciously, pointedly, changed it to 5 seconds. We might practice at 2 seconds but perhaps we should be aiming to take it a little slower, even perhaps twice as slowly. We can explore it at least.

I have a great deal of respect for Sharath, for all of the above and in fact for anyone who has maintained this practice for the number of years they have but for me the final authority is the practice, my practice, not Sharath', not his Grandfather or even Krishnamacharya. I'll happily explore how they present it, really spend time with their approach, their instruction but ultimately I'll go with what feels right for me. At one point I tried to slow my Ashtanga right down, ten seconds for inhalation, ten for exhalation, I really worked at that. I thought at the time it reflected 'original practice' or the original intention perhaps, didn't work, eight seconds may work fine in Vinyasa Krama but in Ashtanga six seconds is about as slow as I can comfortably take it and maintain the integrity of the practice as a whole, although I currently I  tend to add in kumbhakas. Once you do find an approach, a pace that works for you however, it seems good practice to stick with it for a significant period before exploring any slightly different approach. Ashtanga seems to be all about routine, it seems to work best when you know exactly where you are and what you are doing. Personal opinion of course. A shorter pre pranayama evening practice is good for exploring.

Sharath is using the conditional of course, IF we inhale for five seconds THEN we exhale for five seconds, he's stressing that the breath should be equal but using a five second example rather than one of  two second sends a message perhaps, slower, fuller breathing encouraged.

Of course breathing rates are always merely a guide, we can breathe at whatever pace we are most comfortable with and that will of course change as our practice develops and as we focus on and explore different aspects of the practice  but we should surely be aiming for a full, steady, stable breath at least at whatever pace we take it and Krishnamacharya does recommend, "slow like the pouring of oil". In interviews Pattabhi Jois talked of 10, 15 even 20 seconds each for inhalation and exhalations. My own preference is around eight in Vinyasa Krama, probably averaging six in my Ashtanga practice (1.5 in navasana). My workaround when practicing with DVDs or in Led is to take three longer breaths or sometimes just two if I'm including kumbhaka.

Take a look at my page at the top of the blog, 'Mysore rooms around the world' to get an idea of the pace others actually practice in their Mysore rooms.
Here'a link to my review of the original.
Book(let) Review : Ashtanga yoga Anusthana - R. Sharath Joi

Friday, 15 November 2013

Sharath discussion on Ishvara, Japa Mantra Religion, God at Sunday Conference in Mysore

image from
I thought this was an interesting discussion/exchange with Sharath on Ishvara, Japa Mantra Religion, God etc. the whole shebang   at Sunday Conference in Mysore, picking up on questions five and eight here as they seem to go together well.  

I'm particularly interested in this as japa mantra is something Ramaswami encourages at the the end of practice after pratyahara, pranayama and of course your asana ( perhaps a shorter asana practice in the evening with more time for pranayama and  japa. I've also been including manta in my actual asana practice recently, it started with a kind of loving kindness mantra 'May I (she,he,they, Ramaswami, all living beings etc,) be safe, may I be well, may I be peaceful, may I be happy (different line of the mantra on each inhalation and exhalation throughout the practice) now I'm constructing mantra's based on Lamrim meditation, a different, meditation for each day, the asana practice as a kind of carrier for the mantra, it's an interesting approach.

The transcript is from Suzy's Mysore blog

Question 5
With surrendering to Ishvara, who is Ishvara?

Sharath – Ishvara is the existence, the nature, the energy who is making this world work.

Student – but how do we surrender to that energy?

Sharath – in your practice, by following yama and niyama. If you follow that, that means you are surrendering. Humans gave the name god to god. Humans see god as human. Tigers see god as tiger. Birds see god as a big bird, bigger than him. God means some energy, which is running this, the whole show.

How do you feel that? through your yoga practice. You have to apply yama and niyama to get to proper meaning, to understand what yoga is. If you follow that your mind gets very calm. If you follow ahimsa your mind gets very calm, there is no conflict with anyone.

Why everyone talks about spirituality? They need something to stop themselves to do bad things. So they go to a teacher, a master, he will guide you. If teacher says go and do anything, smoke cigarettes, go to party… he is spoiling you. It’s all fake the joy you are getting from outside. You have to get inner joy. When you get there’s nothing like that. Everything looks different. Everything looks joyful for you.

Now you want to see the internet, Facebook, Twitter, what this guy is doing… But instead if you sit for 15 minutes and try to understand how to bring inner joy. Do japa (mantra repetition) for 15 minutes, take one mantra – any mantra you want, chant it at home. Then you will see how this thing will change. Don’t think anything, just do japa.


Question 8
If a person doesn’t have a religion, how do they go about seeking a mantra?

Sharath – you have to have something. What is your taste? You can’t say I don’t believe in that supreme energy, you have to believe in one.

Student – it’s not so much not believing in one, it’s just not having a preference.

Sharath – you should have one. How old are you?

Student – 24.

Sharath – [laughs] see this is the problem. Later, when you get wiser the things change. When I was practising 23 years back I was just bending my body. But when I got wiser then I realised that yoga is beyond asanas. Many things I had to discover. Maybe in ten years you will know.

Part of svadhyaya (self-study) is getting connected to one god. We have to believe in someone otherwise we won’t exist. Your mother, your father can be your god. Your teacher, your guru can be your god. You can feel that energy through your mother or your guru. Do you believe in this practice, what you’re doing?

Student – yes.

Sharath – so that belief can be god.
Someone asked me long back, in the old shala… my grandmother gave me a ring. I was wearing that ring. I was wearing here [indicates ring finger] so many people thought I was married. So one lady asked me, “are you married?”. I said, “yes”. “So where is your wife?”, I replied, “yoga is my wife” [laughs]. I was so involved in yoga. Your first wife is your practice.

Student – is your wife jealous?

Sharath – no, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.
But sometimes we can see something different in our teacher. Many people believed Guruji as their god. They felt some energy through him. Once I had back pain lifting too many students. My challenge from day one was practice and helping. When you lift students your body becomes stiff. I got this pain in my lower back. And everyday Guruji used to make me catch in back-bending here [indicates mid-thigh]. So I told my grandfather, “I can’t do today”. My grandfather he said, “just do it, just breathe”. He made me catch and after that all the pain was gone. That day it was a totally meditative practice.

That was the energy that he had within him.

That energy only comes from a proper sadhana (spiritual practice). Yogasadhana is not easy, it takes a lot of sacrifice. To master something you have to leave many things. If you are forced to do something it won’t be the same. When you like to do some work it is totally different. When you do something willingly the energy is totally different. And sometimes you need that push from your teacher.
We see many attitudes here also. When a student comes and thinks he knows everything, he wants to prove that. I say I have to learn so many things still. It doesn’t end. The person who knows everything he doesn’t say he knows everything.

You can only experience yoga through your practice. If I eat masala dosa that doesn’t mean you have relished masala dosa. You have to go and eat. Yoga is also like that. You have to do it.

Sharath's conferences are also being transcribed on Linda Mansion's Me and My Yoga Blog

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Sharath, Paramaguru? What is the meaning, significance of the Paramaguru title.

I'd actually put this post back into draft however Sharath's new title seems to be gaining traction, in blog posts Eg. "Sharath Jois is the living paramaguru of Ashtanga yoga", the advertising and promotion mentioned in the post below as well as increasing casual reference on the internet by Certified/Authorised teachers and students alike such that it's origin seems worthy of comment. 

I was asked why Sharath is suddenly being referred to as Paramaguru (highest guru/guru of the parampara?) in the advertising for the current US Tour ( my reply become too long for an fb comment thus the post). At first I thought it might just be marketing on behalf of Sonima, the organisers of the tour, that was a depressing thought. However on digging it turned out that no other than Eddie Stern referred to Sharath as Paramaguru on hisBrooklyn Yoga Club site earlier this year.

"Sharath was bestowed the title of Paramaguru, which indicates that he is the current lineage holder, or the Guru of the parampara, that has been passed down from Sri K. Pattabhi Jois". 
Eddie Stern's Brooklyn Yoga Club

 A little more digging and I found last months Namarupa with a special on it's 2015 'Yantra' (Himalayan retreat/tour). It turns out that although this was the first time Sharath visited Uttarkashi and only stayed a few days the elder Sannyasis and Sadhus decided or were asked (was there a donation involved or was bringing 150 tourists to the flood damaged area enough) see to give him an honorary title, Paramaguru (See extended quotes below from the namarupa article).

Sharath's relationship with his grandfather clearly had a powerful and influential effect on him, leading him to stress the concept of parampara in his teaching. Personally the concept doesn't interest me in the slightest, not in reference to Sharath (who I do happen to respect as a practitioner and teacher, as I do anyone who has practiced as long or significantly longer) or teachers I've spent a little time with like Manju (who jokingly calls out "Never fear guru's here" when he enters the shala at the beginning of a workshop) or Ramaswami or even Patabbhi Jois and Krishnamacharya for that matter. I find the concept of the guru and parampara, as presented, along with that of 'a lineage' or 'tradition' unnecessary, even a hinderance, and along with the growing adoration that seemingly goes with it perhaps the most off-putting aspect of recent Ashtanga. In this Krishnamacharya 'tradition' ( I actually prefer 'approach' or 'method' to tradition) it's enough perhaps to practice daily and for a long time some appropriate asana, a little pranayama but to focus more on working with Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (or another appropriate meditative practice along with ones own cultural yama and niyama ) and not worry too much about what you call it, who taught it or where it came from (I'm, very much aware of the irony here given the nature of this mostly retired blog).

I'm too cynical of origin narratives perhaps, and coming from the UK, of honorary titles. Such titles appear to elevate the holder and of course all those who claim association, in this case Sharath's students and those Authorised and/or Certified by the 'Paramaguru'. Surely, playing the game and not calling yourself a guru yet (even tacitly) accepting an honorary title like Paramaguru (The Guru of a parampara or specific tradition ) and allowing it to be used extensively in promotion suggests a worrying contradiction. Apart from anything, although he would probably throw something at me if I addressed him as guru, it's surely insulting to Pattabhi's Jois' still living and actively teaching son Manju Jois who has been passing along this approach to practice (as has his sister and Sharath's mother Saraswati) for over fifty years along with several other senior teachers and early students of Pattabhi Jois).

Perhaps it's best we just agree to disagree on this.

However, if parampara IS your thing, check out Lu's Ashtanga Parampara platform


Below, the relevant quotes from Namarupa on how a small group of 'disciples' decided to take it upon themselves to request a title to be bestowed upon Sharath which then became used in the advertising and promotion for this years world tour and seems to have caught on in recent general reference to Sharath in certain parts of the community

"But sometimes the disciples of such a teacher wish to call him or her by a special name, and not simply by their given name. It is for this reason that we sought out the counsel of the elder Sannyasis and Sadhus of Uttarkashi, who also agreed that it was time for Sharathji and Saraswathiji to be formally bestowed with titles, and who, after conferring among themselves, decided upon an honorific title for each of them..." Namarupa

Isn't it enough to respect your teacher without elevating them to such heady heights, to approach our practice with sincerity and commitment without resorting to terminology like devotion and dedication?

Read a full account in the new edition of Namarupa. Below are a few quotes from the relevant section. My favourite bit is Saraswati saying "With all credit going to Pattabhi Jois", a bit like the friend or slave who would stand in the chariot holding a laurel wreath above the head of a Roman general receiving a Triumph for a great victory whispering "Respice post te. Hominem te memento", remember thou art mortal (Look after you [to the time after your death] and remember you're [only] a man), this was to protect from hubris.

UPDATE: From a friend who was at Uttarkashi.

"Hi , may I offer my perspective on the "paramaguru" title bestowed on Sharath last Fall? It may offer some clarity... 
 I was actually in attendance at the ashram in Uttarkashi when Sharath and Saraswati were given these honorifics, along with some lovely pashmina wool shawls bought in the local market, too, to commemorate the occasion. It was after a week of experiencing Led Primary each morning with both of them. I admittedly had some trepidation about being in a big group of global Ashtanga folks as I have not been to Mysore and didn't know what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised: it was a great week, there was lots of laughter and love in the room, and a real feeling of global community, too. Sharath was funny, wise, kind, teasing, all week. Saraswati herself was gracious, kind, wise - and those who were there with me noted how Sharath was a dutiful, respectful son, attending to her needs/wishes during the week, too. But, most importantly, the people of Uttarkashi, who really suffered in 2013 because of horrific floods that devastated their town and the entire region of Uttarakhand (whereby, most of their vital pilgrim tourism trade was lost) were extremely grateful for our group of 150 people bringing a needed boost to the local economy. In fact, Namarupa was the first big group, and first Western group, mind you - to return to the region since the floods.
My sense of the honorifics given to both Sharath and Saraswati was that they were a way of saying thanks and capping the week off. Sharath in particular seemed bashful about the honor. It's my belief that Eddie Stern, who was also in attendance, who honors Sharath as his teacher now, and who is responsible for the marketing of his world tour, has taken this opportunity to "run with" the title - it's my sense that it does not arise from any desire of Sharath to be referred to that way. My experience of him during that week was one of humility, kindness and simplicity. Just my take"!

"The Guru tradition is one of the oldest foundations of the Hindu tradition. The Upanishads and Epics are filled with instructions, dialogues, and teachings of the great Gurus, Sages and Rishis. These teachings have been passed down to us over thousands of years. Holy places such as Banaras, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Uttarkashi, and beyond, have been the dwelling places of these revered teachers where in yoga's long past they performed tapas. To be able to perform sadhana in the same places where they did is considered to be a blessing. It is widely known that a Guru never calls himself a Guru—it is a title bestowed by his or her disciples. The Guru has no desire for fame, or for being revered; a Guru only has the desire to perform service to humanity, to teach the knowledge that is related to liberation, to be devoted to the removal of suffering, and nothing else. But sometimes the disciples of such a teacher wish to call him or her by a special name, and not simply by their given name. It is for this reason that we sought out the counsel of the elder Sannyasis and Sadhus of Uttarkashi, who also agreed that it was time for Sharathji and Saraswathiji to be formally bestowed with titles, and who, after conferring among themselves, decided upon an honorific title for each of them...

"After learning for a very long period of time—because it takes good time to learn from the teacher properly —then we are supposed to practice on our own, mananam. For mananam, the disciple who really wants to practice on his own now comes from Kasi to Haridwar and Rishikesh and stays there. He does a lot of contemplation on whatever he's been learning. He starts studying by himself and he becomes master over the teaching. Once he becomes master, he travels to Himalayas, to Uttarkashi. He stays here; he rests in his knowledge, nidhidhyasana. This is the place of nidhidhyasana. Whatever he has learnt in Banaras (Kashi), and contemplated in Rishikesh and Haridwar, when he comes here, he lives it, he becomes a yogi. Until then, he's a student. If you come here and stay amongst the sadhus, then you take upadhi of a real yogi...

"[To Sharath] Now we consider you as one of us. That you now can become a leader, and lead us. Because you have properly understood whatever has been taught by parampara. We are very happy to have Sharath here, who has taken part in the parampara itself. From today onwards, we call this upadhi, Amma, as Guru Ma. And Sharathji as Paramaguru R. Sharath Jois...

Now, from today onwards, there’s a bigger responsibility of leading the world onwards on the path of yoga...

RSJ: Thank you. 

Saraswathi Jois: With all credit going to Pattabhi Jois.

RSJ: [to students]: You have wealth, you have book knowledge. You have everything. If you don't put your mind towards adhyatama, your heart towards spirituality, towards jnana, it's no use having this life, having everything. Guru is very important. Guru is the one who teaches, who will take us towards that jnana which is the true knowledge. He removes all the obstacles in us and he removes all the pollution in us. He gives us the true knowledge, jnana. It has touched my heart deeply, all the love and affection everyone has given. Thank you so much. See you again. 


Earlier in the article devoted to Sharath's conference speeches he has this to say about the practice, parampara and the guru

"This practice that we are doing is an age-old practice; it has come from parampara, from the guru -shishya parampara—from Guru to his shishyas, Guru to his students. When a student becomes a master, then he becomes a Guru and passes his knowledge on to his students. Like this, the yoga knowledge has been passed on for generations. As we know it in this form of Ashtanga Yoga, it has come from maybe 300 years ago—I don’t know for how many generations this knowledge has been passed on".

And below Sharath talking about the idea of Guru with Sonia Jones of Sonima, the organisers of Sharath's current US tour.

The question of parampara came up at his years Ashtanga yoga Confluence, here's a recap from Tim Miller's blog.

Tuesday March 8th—The Ashtanga Yoga Confluence and the Parampara
This past Sunday during the final panel discussion of the 2016 Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, a question was asked about the concept of Parampara and how it is interpreted in the Ashtanga tradition. David Swenson reminded all of us that Guruji’s own eldest son, Manju, was present in the room, and if anyone could be considered the true lineage holder it would be him. Everyone in the room stood up and gave Manju an ovation. It was a very moving moment. I looked over at Dena and saw her eyes welling up with tears just like mine. Manju was very gracious and said that as far as he was concerned, all of us sharing the stage with him and countless other teachers throughout the world are all part of the Parampara.

New video uploaded today on Sharath's Youtube channel, sharath jois rangaswamy, titledParamaguru, Sharath Jois Yoga Class in New York.

UPADATE: This comment came in on a share of my post in FB, I hope the person who posted it wont mind me quoting it in full here

"All I can say is I just spent the last 6 days in one of his two daily guided primary series - he did 2 per day in Palo Alto, LA, NYC and Miami and he was super helpful, walking around adjusting over 200+ sweaty practitioner, making jokes and just generally being a super nice guy. So say what you will, but in my mind he knows the practice as well or better than any other living being, is an extremely hard working and dedicated guy, and a genuine nice guy. Not sure what else one can ask for. As he said to us after our practice today - "Keep Practicing!".

This is pretty much the impression I also have of Sharath, the same generous, good humoured work ethic I had of his grandfather and that I have of Manju and Saraswati too for that matter, it says a great deal, I would argue it says plenty and without needing to resort to names, terms and concepts like tradition, lineage, parampara, guru, guruji or paramparaguru

This post isn't intended as a critique of Sharath but rather of our pedestal building


Note: Namarupa is a beautifully produced magazine and worth getting, this edition follows the 2015 Ynamarupa Yatra (tour/pilgrimage). The Sharath section mostly consists of an intro, two or three conferences which are basically the same as those that have come out of Mysore over the last few years (although here the three conferences follow on from eachother) and a couple of extra paragraphs to the above section on Parampara plus a few glossy photos of Sharath as well as a couple from inside KPJAYI.



  1. Anthony, thanks very much for your thoughtful and informative blog! I just wanted to address what I consider to be a slight misconception about Sharath "changing" his name. In South India, names are typically some combination of given name, father's name, caste name, and name of your ancestral village. Which names are used and in which order is a bit more fluid and context-dependent than what we're used to in the Anglosphere.

    In Sharath's case, his given name is Sharath, his father's name is Rangaswamy, and his caste name is Jois. So he could reasonably go by R. Sharath, Sharath R., and decide to append a Jois to either one, or not. (Similarly, you typically see "Krishna Pattabhi," fathers name-given name, but "Manju Pattabhi," given name-fathers name).

    Though caste names are similar to surnames, in that they convey a membership in a large group ultimately related by blood, they also operate differently, in that they are optional in many circumstances and are not always used as formal methods of address, e.g. "Mr. Hall."

    So while it's possible that Sharath started referring to himself as "Sharath Jois" to emphasize that name, it's not exactly like changing your surname in the Anglosphere, which sounds drastic by comparison.

    1. Thank you for the clarification Siddharth.


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from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta


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