It was a mid-July morning in 2007 and I was late for the first day of 4 Mysore mornings, organised by my friend Paul Whelan, with Guruji’s son, Manju Pattabhi Jois. Paula and I had been to Mysore in 2005 but I had never met Manju before. I hoped there was a way for me to slip in at the back and put my mat down unobtrusively. I hate being late for anything. Naturally, when I finally made it to the venue, there was no way in without being seen and, of course, the door creaked. I tried to avoid eye contact with the practitioners I had to walk past to get to the changing area. http://ceoec.ru/
A hearty ‘Good morning!’ came from across the room and Manju’s beaming smile eased my embarrassment somewhat. I was still a bit in awe and, unsure of the appropriate etiquette, offered a tentative, silent, joined hands ‘namaste’ in response. I hurried in to change.
I was almost ready to emerge when I heard the opening Mantra begin. I was disappointed to have missed being in the room but was immediately struck by how Manju sounded exactly the same as Guruji. Paula and I had found ourselves deeply moved when we had heard Guruji chant in Mysore, and I was touched by the fact that I was now experiencing a similar goose-bumpy moment.
Throughout the practice Manju was a silent but significant presence and his touch when adjusting was incredible. It was not forceful or pushy, but firm in a way that engendered trust. I felt no resistance and the sense of surrender was so easy and peaceful. ‘This is what we should always feel.’ I thought afterwards.
Paul very kindly invited us to lunch with Manju and his family after the last practice on the Sunday. Grace was just a few months old and Manju and Nancy’s daughter, Sathu, was celebrating her 5th birthday. What struck me was that this was just an ordinary family, and a beautiful, warm and open one at that. We laughed a lot and promised we would see them the following year when they were due to return again.
In Mysore that October, I called into the Shala one afternoon to get something in the shop, and Guruji was sitting is his office. I checked with Saraswathi if it was ok to go in to offer him pranam, and after I had touched his feet in the traditional way, Guruji invited me to sit and chat. We spent about 10 minutes together, and I still consider these to have been more significant to my Yoga life than all the minutes I spent out there on the mat. We talked about family, about practice, about ‘all is coming’. I mentioned I had been to Manju’s workshop in the summer.
‘You bring Manju your place,’ Guruji said. I am not sure if it was a question or an instruction. It sounded more like the latter. I smiled, ‘Yes, Guruji.’
I walked home in a torrential downpour feeling all was right with my world, except that I was far from Paula and Grace, so I decided to go home a few days early! That was my last trip to Mysore. As things would work out, from then on, Mysore would come to me. Guruji had spoken!!
I was delighted to get the call from Paul Whelan in late May the following year. We had recently moved into the new Shala in Blackrock and Paul wondered if we could host Manju’s workshop there. I said yes, naturally, and told Paula ‘We bring Manju our place!’ That summer I had one of the most surreal moments of my life, as we drove away from my mother’s house, with Manju Pattabhi Jois, standing at the gates waving us off. He, Nancy and Sathu stayed there while my mum was on holidays. I turned to Paula, ‘How the heck did Guruji’s son end up staying in my mother’s house?’ That year was to prove ‘the beginning of a beautiful friendship’, to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart’s Rick in Casablanca!
For eight years now we have been blessed to have Manju (and Nancy and Sathu) as our friend and teacher. We are thrilled that he will be with us again soon, sharing his deep knowledge and experience in his own inimitable, gentle and unintrusive way. From Manju we have learned to balance yoga in life and life in yoga; to understand the importance of pranayama and chanting to make a whole practice; to teach the person and not the practice; to appreciate that it all only becomes meaningful if it makes our relationships clearer and more compassionate. It is impossible to fully express all he teaches, simply by being who and how he is.
Each year he comes to us for a week. In the mornings I watch him teach, and see how he observes everyone with great tenderness. At lunch time everyday he cooks for us. We shop, we cook, we eat and chat. Manju loves people to come. He, like his father, invites us all in to sit and talk. He is very funny, and very humble. He has enhanced our lives greatly, yet would dispute that. He will be 70 soon and yet still travels extensively to spread the teaching of this Yoga as he learned it from his father. He did us the immense honour in 2012 of blessing us with his authorisation (click here) to teach Ashtanga Yoga. We sincerely hope we can live up to the trust he has placed in us, and we will be happy if we can make even a fraction of the impression on our students that he has made on us.
Now, of course, we can relax in this regard, as he will be here himself to take this on. We hope as many of you as possible will take the opportunity to come and experience him first hand click for source. Whether you are a beginner or a more experienced practitioner, come and practice with him, to share time in the Shala with him, to go for breakfast and chat to him. It is worth it in ways that cannot be expressed in terms of techniques, or adjustments, or postures. It is to share time with someone who has lived Yoga with every breath since he was born. Someone who is a direct connection to the source of this great practice, but who also lives in the West and understands our problems and our needs. It is a rare chance and we should grasp it every time we can, for as long as Manju keeps gracing us with his visits. All info about Manju’s Workshop can be found by clicking here. Hari Om Tat Sat. David