It is with great pleasure that I post this piece from student and teacher Suzanne Faulkner.
Guruji is my teacher’s teacher.
My teacher is certified to teach ashtanga by Guruji, and by Guruji I mean Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
The ashtangis that were/are certified by Guruji, are you teaching the way Guruji taught you?
What does that mean?
From what I gather, and I gather a great deal, Guruji taught each of you differently.
He carried Nancy Gilgoff through the poses.
He had David Williams practice hard twice a day.
He gave Tim Miller Third in just a few months.
He doted on some, he ignored others….
He taught each of these certified teachers a different way because his teaching incorporated the ability to teach to what each person needed.
To teach like Guruji does not mean to teach everyone who shows up the exact same things and way and stuff Guruji taught you, but rather to teach each person that shows up exactly what that person needs……
Guruji is like an elephant. Each certified teacher seems to have gotten a different part of that elephant.
They see Guruji through their aperture. That must be awesome, and intense and such a fantastic view.
What a blessing to have been among the people Guruji considered his students. There are so many Guruji stories. I do my best to gather these stories.
Some of Guruji’s students I have studied with:
David Williams is a native of North Carolina, and so when he comes home to visit his parents we try and get him to give us a class. We either get in our cars and drive to Greensboro or we get him to come to us, but the thing is we dig him and want to spend time with him. He loves the ashtanga yoga. Guruji loved ashtanga.
Annie (Grover) Pace was for many years my primary teacher. She was the first certified teacher I ever met. I remember the exact date because Hurricane Fran had just visited us, late summer 1996. I have learned so very much from Annie. She has taught many workshops here in our town. I have traveled to Denver Colorado to study with her before she had her Shala, I have been to her Crestone Shala. I have practiced next to her, I have eaten her ghee. She showed me a version of Guruji’s teaching that is very personal, very demanding. Guruji was a real person. Guruji was very loving and demanding too.
Nancy Gilgoff is considered by many yogis in my area to be a primary influence to them, so I wanted to meet her. My husband and I went to her week long primary series adjustment clinic in Vermont. I want to go to her studio in Hawaii too. She is rather drapey, I mean I can see back in time and see Guruji carrying her weight. She teaches how Guruj taught her. Guruji did not turn away the weak, as long as they were not lazy. Anyone can do ashtanga, except lazy people.
Tim Miller has been to Durham many times. I had the honor of driving him around in my 1987 Ford F150. I have also gone up to Charlotsville many times for his week long primary series intensives and weekend workshops in various cities too many times to count. Tim somehow unites us. There is a galvanizing force in Tim. We love Tim. Guruji brought many different kinds, types and styles of people together to speak the same language, the language of ashtanga. We love Guruji.
Chuck Miller and Maty Ezarty, back when they where Chuck and Maty, came to town many times and I took classes from them each and everytime. Maty was far more detail oriented. I learned so much from her about the yoga actual, the alignment, the positioning, the amount of effort needed to not sink. Guruji was clear.
From Chuck I got …. my mind blown! I somehow got Chuck to lunch or a tea, just him and me, and got him talking about life and ashtanga, and how the Santa Monica yoga scene first came into being. He introduced me to the concept of the Burnt Seed. To be a burnt seed is to be fully evolved, it is to not need another go round. there will be no more vritis…. Guruji was a Sanscrit scholar. Guruji was deep.
I have seriously slowed down on attending workshops from this teacher and that teacher because I have my teacher and I get to honker down with that one. I do acknolwedge that the many, many years of gathering of the unique perspectives, the unique manifestations of Guruji’s influence on the people that spent time directly under his influence is part of what it means to me to be a link in this lineage. I have come to know Guruji through these apertures.
Here are few more teachers I have studied with very briefly, a weekend, a mysore class, an intensive teacher training. Ashtanga. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
And of course David Garrigues, my teacher.
I have also taken classes and workshops from many students that are authorized by Guruji.
Each of these teachers shared a perspective of Guruji’s teachings.
I call the students of these teachers the Children of the Burnt Seeds because these teachers are the Burnt Seeds. They are not allowed to authorize or certify us to teach.** Only Guruji’s grandson can authorize or certify someone to teach, but Sharath is not my teacher. This burnt seed thing hurts my ashtanga feelings…. Feelings aside, I believe the Burnt Seedness of ashtanga’s senior teachers disrespects Guruji by warping the trajectory of the ashtanga yoga lineage.
Statements such as this one from a blog about mysore style ashtanga yoga, concerning the idea of being a direct part of the lineage….
” I clearly favor the traditional lineage and Sharath Jois but others have found great love for other teachers such as Richard Freeman or Tim Miller.”
the word BUT…. I would ask people studying with Sharath to use the word AND.
This statement somehow, or perhaps directly infers, with the BUT, that to study under Richard Freeman or Tim Miller is to study outside of the traditional lineage. My heart quickens, I feel threatened, undervalued. How could it be okay to have students of Richard and Tim, Nancy, David, David, Christine, David etc… be considered students that are choosing to be not in favor of the traditional lineage of Ashtanga! We are in favor of the traditional lineage of ashtanga yoga, in fact, we ARE the traditional lineage of ashtanga yoga. We are, at the very least, an aspect of the direct lineage!
What level of parampara would we be experiencing if when Guruji passed, we severed our connection from our teacher and switched over to Sharath because well… Why would that even be considered??
In a very real way he, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, IS my teacher. In a very real way I have an amazing bird’s eye view of Guruji and his teachings. I can see that his teaching style was BIG. I can even say that I do my best to teach how he taught his students. I am unable to claim any definitive “Guruji told me this way”, “The left hand holds the right”, “Hold the big toe”, “The dristi is the nose in this pose”. I have been spared the particulars and instead see the over arching teaching style. He taught them all differently. He taught them all what and how they needed to be taught. He taught them all ashtanga.
We, the Children of the Burnt Seeds are an important part of the ashtanga lineage. I am trying to write us back into the living tradition of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
Our perspective matters. Our perspective includes Guruji because Guruji taught our teachers. We are links in the chain of instruction that is alive and well in us. We have spent many years with our experienced teachers. We are fit to receive knowledge. We are direct lineaging right now!
I went up to meet Guruji at the Puck Building in NYC in 2000. I had been studying ashtanga for many years at this point, and I was way beyond excited to meet Guruji. He taught a large group of perhaps 200 people. He led us through the primary series, and a second group through the intermediate series!! I did not think for even one second that this meant that Guruji intended for me to think I should teach large groups by calling out the primary series. I knew, I thought we all knew it was a service he was doing for us, it was a way for us to meet him. We needed to meet him. We had been told by our teachers to meet him!
For over 20 years I have been studying, doing, thinking about, falling in and out of love with Ashtanga.
I teach a morning mysore ashtanga program, in obscurity, in a small studio in the attic of my home.
I aim to continue this for many more years. If you ever find your way to Durham, North Carolina you are welcome to come take class.
Guruji taught me this….
I am really hoping that the Burnt Seeds and the Children of the Burnt Seeds can hold onto the big picture, the full elephant.
It is with the desire to bring attention to awareness of our connection to Self and so of course, to each other, that I write and post this piece.