Guruji, Sharath, Saraswati


Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, affectionately called Guruji, lived from 1915 to 2009. He was a master of yoga, Sanskrit and philosophy, and structured the practice of Ashtanga Yoga into the form we know of it today, based on the practices he learned from his Guru, Sri T. Krishnamacharya. Guruji was a demanding, but loving teacher, who insisted on one thing only: practice. It didn’t matter how you did it – if you were stiff, if you were flexible, if you were tired, if you were grumpy, if you didn’t feel like it – he didn’t care. Yoga, he said, was for your mind, and showing up was half the battle.

He started learning yoga from Krishnamacharya when he was 12 years old, and by the time he was 21, was appointed by the Maharaja of Mysore to begin the first ever Department of Yoga at the Maharaja’s Sanskrit University. It was during these formative years that Guruji created formats for the practice that have influenced the way the entire world now practices and thinks about yoga. For example, the term and idea behind vinyasa, which eventually gave rise to a hybrid practice that has come to be called Vinyasa Yoga in America, is largely built upon his influence – though many who practice and teach it have never heard the name Pattabhi Jois.

Guruji’s daughter, Saraswati Jois, was the first woman to ever attend yoga classes at the all-male Sanskrit college. Early photos of her demonstrating the most advanced of postures attest to her skill and devotion, and by her early 20’s she was running women only yoga classes out of a local temple. The fact that a young woman was running public yoga classes in the male dominated society did not go unnoticed, and she met with resistance and hardship that never deterred her from making the healing and confidence building practice of yoga available to all women.

Of her two children, Sharmila Mahesh and Sharath Jois, it was Sharath who she encouraged to become Guruji’s assistant, and learn from his tremendous body of knowledge in regards to yoga practice, theory and philosophy. From the age of 19, Sharath became Guruji’s full time assistant, and over the years mastered the full breadth of yoga practices that Guruji knew. Sharath became the director of Guruji’s 75 year old Institute in Mysore, South India, after Guruji passed away. 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. In the short span of time between his passing, and the present day, enrollment at the Institute has more than tripled, with the practice of Ashtanga Yoga spreading to more countries than ever before, showing that the value that yoga brings to the world is becoming more and more relevant as our planet enters deeper into the technological age.

Sharmila runs her institute in Bangalore, reaching many from the IT world who reside there, and Guruji’s eldest son, Manju Jois, who came to America with Guruji in 1975 and decided to remain, has his school in Carlsbad, California. Manju travels extensively, teaching international workshops.