foreign astanga students: INDIAN VISA ALERT

Over the years I’ve known more than a few people who have gone to Mysore, India to study at Pattabhi Jois’ Ashtanga Yoga Institute, many more than once.

For those of you who want to study yoga in Mysore, be advised that foreign yoga students must now obtain a “yoga” visa instead of a tourist visa:

“From March 2010, all students coming to study at KPJAYI must enter India on a yoga visa, as required by Indian law. You may email for admission letters from our Institute to include with your visa application form to the Indian Embassy in your country. Upon arrival, students should follow the relevant registration formalities with the Foreigners Registration Office (FRO) in Mysore.”

Apparently it’s not India’s immigration department, but the Mysore cops who are the source of this change….


“The booming yoga tourism in Mysore city may take a beating, thanks to a police circular to yoga schools ordering them not to teach foreigners visiting on travel visas.

The schools have been asked to teach only foreigners who arrive on ‘student visa’ or ‘yoga visa’ and to obtain permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs. Besides, police further cautioned the managements of yoga schools in the city that they would face legal action if they violated the order. They have also been asked to furnish to the nearest police station details of foreigners learning yoga on ‘student’ or ‘yoga’ visa with permission obtained from Ministry of Home Affairs.”


“The police, who recently sent out a circular instructing the yoga schools in the city to teach only those who arrive on yoga visa or student visa, claim there is more than what meets the eye. Speaking to Deccan Herald, a top source said, at any given point of time, there are 3,000 to 5,000 foreigners living in Mysore on tourist visa, mostly enrolled with different Yoga schools….

While they appear before the police when they arrive in the city, it becomes difficult to trace them afterwards. As a result, the police instructed the hotels to provide them with details of their foreign visitors.”

Or you can stay home and study astanga with Madonna.

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Sri Ramaswami on P. Jois and birth and death

(AUM written in Tamil)

I am an ongoing student of Srivatsa Ramaswami and this is what Ramaswamiji had to say in an email about the passing of Pattabhi Jois and birth and death.

Sri Ramaswami was Krishnamacharya’s longest standing student outside of Krishnamacharya’s family. He studied with Krishnamacharya for some 30 years, longer than P. Jois, Iyengar, and Desikachar.


Three of the disciples of my Guru, Sri Pattabhi Jois, Sri B K S Iyengar and Sri T K V Desikachar, propagated Yoga in the modern times and their influences have been phenomenal. The oldest of them, Sri Pattabhi Jois, taught the unique adaptation of my Acharya’s asana teaching, christened Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. It has caught the imagination of hundreds of thousands of Yogis all over the world and is practiced with tremendous enthusiasm. His passing away at the ripe old age of 94 leaves a void in the Yoga World. A tremendous teacher, Guruji was dearly loved and highly respected in the Yoga world. I had not met him but am aware that he was an ideal student of my Guru. The debt to a father is repaid by the offspring by exemplary conduct. “What good karmas the father should have done to get such a wonderful offspring”, people should say of the son/daughter. Likewise it is said that a student should bring out the glory of the teacher by his teachings — “Acharyam praksayeth.” People should wonder, “Who was his teacher?”

Sri Jois by his relentless and pioneering work on Yoga brought name, fame and respect to the legacy of his teacher Sri Krishnamacharya.

Om Shanti.


All the orthodox philosophies which accept the authority of the Vedas subscribe to the Theory of Karma, even as they have significant differences in the interpretation of the Vedas.

According to the Vedas, the individual soul surrounded by the vasanas or impressions of the past lives and also the remainder of the accumulated subtle karma bundle, gets attached to the subtle body of the individual. The subtle body itself, according to Sankhyas, is made of 18 aspects, the three internal organs of the chitta, viz., mind, ego and intellect, the ten indriyas and five tanmatras. When a person dies, the non-changing pure consciousness — the soul or self also known as purusha or jiva along with the subtle body undergoes the first transformation when it goes through ‘fire’, as the physical body is consigned to the fire after death. Then the subtle body goes up the sky space and approaches the heaven, but due to the avidya and the power of the accumulated karmas, stagnates and then is absorbed by the rain clouds, which is the second transformation due to the ‘fire’ of water. The subtle body then descends to earth with the drops of rain and is absorbed by a plant which is the third transformation through fire of earth. Then when the plant or the plant product is eaten by a being, it is absorbed and becomes the generative fluid of that person. This is the fourth transformation through the fire of the being, or gastric fire. Then when it is transferred to the female being, it undergoes another transformation through fire of the womb and becomes an embryo. Then according to Samkhyas the embryo has the subtle body and the genes/genetic body. The subtle body which went through five changes now gets the second body or the body given by the parents (mata pitruja sarira). This embryo then gets nourishment through the mother and develops another body known as bhuta sarira (the physical body) or a body made of the five elements — earth, water, fire, air, and space. And then one is born again. These five fire transformations is in the panchagni vidya of the Upanishads, and the Samkhyas talk about the subtle body, the genetic body, and the physical body to complete the story of the journey from death to birth. But those yogis who have attained Kaivalya or Moksha or Nirvana have their souls liberated and are able to shed the subtle body when they attain liberation and are able to break this cycle of samsara or transmigration. One who is able to clearly understand the process of transmigration through meditation and understanding of the panchagni vidya briefly narrated above are able to attain liberation (for better understanding, read the panchagni vidya from Chandogya Upanishad.) Such a person is able to see the distinction between the changing body going through all the transformation between birth and death and then between death and birth and the non-changing pure consciousness or the Self. Such a person is able to identify with the non-changing consciousness as ‘oneself’, the immortal self and becomes immortal. The rest, considering themselves to be mortal go through the cycle of samsara repeatedly and endlessly say the Upanishads.

In Memoriam: Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois died this morning in Mysore after a year of declining health. He was 93 years old.

While I am not an astangi and the only time I did astanga was 6 years ago when Guruji’s son Manju did a workshop at the Chicago Yoga Center, I know many people who have gone to Mysore to study at his shala. My own teacher, Suddha Weixler, studied in Mysore three times.

It is a great loss for the entire yoga world, not just for the astanga community.

Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. What is never born can never die.

Those of you who knew Pattahbi Jois or studied in Mysore, feel free to leave your remembrances in the comment section.


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body consciousness: a discussion

There were so many comments posted to Body Consciousness that I thought I would turn them into an entirely new post. my readers’ comments are too insightful to be ignored.

talk amongst yourselves!

Maybe it’s just wording, but I disagree with “Yoga was meditation and meditation was yoga, no duality.” If they were the same thing, there would be no need for two words. Also, from what I’ve learned, yoga has been a preparation for meditation, and thus separate. Obviously very interrelated, but separate nontheless. Your point remains, though, that the asana practice has become very separated from the meditation practice in the West, but still, even if some people never find or care about the non-physical part, many will, and that’s good. It sure would help if yoga instructors would stop yammering quasi-spiritual stuff through savasana and allow more than 1 minute of silence to clear the mind!

asana + pranayama are prerequisites to meditation according to the lineage that I follow. not just asana. and is not asana practice a moving meditation? I suppose it depends on what your definition of meditation is.

come to one of my classes. I don’t yak during savasana. but even if I did, would you be able to observe the external sounds and not react to them, engaging in pratyhara with equanimity?

thinking more about your comment, steven….

have you ever done walking meditation? is the meditation separate from the action of walking? and if you are walking, are you JUST walking? or is your mind “in here” instead of “out there”?

This is so insightful (and yeah, we’re thinking along the same lines!). I know that we Westerners—me included—are way too head-oriented. It’s why yoga and meditation are so important for us.

I think that yoga and meditation are different, but that yoga (asana, that is) can be a meditation.

I am not a teacher like you, but as I practice longer, I see how asana, breath, the bandhas, the driste, all lead one into a meditation. Presence is so, so important—inhabiting each pose, as Pattabhi Jois says (Iyengar says this, too, and I’m sure the other great teachers); otherwise, like you said, it’s just acrobatics.

Yoga is such a gift. I am so grateful for teachers, like you, who bring it to us here in the West—we so, so need it!

the thing is, gartenfische, each time I come back from my studies in India, the more I feel like an outsider here, in the western yoga world.

Kate Holcombe, a teacher in San Francisco and who has studied extensively at the same school I do, has said that for a long time she hesitated calling what she does yoga because it was so different from what is practiced in the west.

I now know what she meant.

So is there a way to bring more of the true yoga into the West, or is it hopeless?

Most of my teachers are, at least, trying to be very true to the Indian teaching (Annie Pace, especially).

Even if it is not yoga as it is supposed to be, I have known a lot of growth and healing as a result of my practice, and I am grateful for it. I don’t know—I may never get to India.

gartenfische, I am in no way saying that the yoga I study is the way it’s “supposed to be”! that would be so autocratic! and no way am I saying that all yogins/yoga teachers have to go to India to study! HA! India is definitely not for everyone! however for me, the first time I put my foot on indian soil, I felt like I had come home.

I just know that what I study there resonates with me and it is a traditional style. for example, when I’m there I study chanting, pranayama, meditation, asana theory, etc. and from my teachings I’ve come to realize that (for example) pranayama is taught indiscriminately here in many classes I’ve been to, like an afterthought, or with no purpose. A teacher will announce “ok, let’s do kapalabhati” in the middle of the class. I can tell you after my first training, I immediately stopped teaching that pranayama in group classes. that’s just an example.

my classes are always asana/pranayama/meditation. of course, YOUR yoga is what resonates with YOU!

I have the same hesitations about pranayama, but I think they came from reading something several years ago that warned that it should not be taken lightly and that beginning yoga students shouldn’t do it at all. I have heard of teachers teaching it indiscriminately (it seems) and I’ve wondered if they know what they are doing.

Earlier, I was reading about pranayama in Light on Yoga. He recommends Nadi Sodhana Pranayama for headaches, but elsewhere, he talks about supervision by a guru or teacher being necessary to practice pranayama. So I don’t know if it would be okay to try it as a remedy when I have a headache. Probably not. I have noticed that even ujjayi breathing helps, though

yes, I agree about having a qualified teacher to teach pranayama. another thing that is never taken into consideration regarding pranayama in group classes is the dosha, or the body type, so to speak, of each student.

a certain pranayama might be appropriate for one student while it may completely agitate another student, in a group class. how does a teacher know the dosha of each student in a group class? just like yoga, pranayama is not one size fits all, so that is why I believe pranayama is indiscriminately taught in western yoga classes.

also, regarding the bandhas: Krishnamacharya believed that bandhas should not even begun to be taught unless the student can comfortably inhale 10 or 12 counts, and exhale 10 or 12 counts. now tell me how often a teacher in a group class will announce “engage mula bandha!” or whatever bandha as if every student knows what she/he is talking about!

this is why I have said time and again what I have been taught: personal transformation can begin in a group class but is accomplished in a one on one relationship with a teacher.

and THAT is the difference between east and west as I see it.

Mula bandha is a common teaching in Ashtanga, including with the teachers who study in India. I am NOT saying you are wrong! There just seem to be different “rules” coming from different teachers.

But it is confusing for people, because we don’t know! All these teachers are teaching pranayama and then other teachers say they shouldn’t be. Then everybody’s teaching the bandhas and others say no.

I know that mulabandha is common in astanga — altho I’m not an astangi, I did a workshop once with Manju Jois, Guruji’s son. what I am saying that things like pranayama and the bandhas sometimes are taught indiscriminately or not deeply enough. and Krishnamacharya was Iyengar’s teacher AND Patabhi Jois’ teacher, so how THEY interpreted his teachings was up to them!

I for one, totally agree with your post (as I would!)
I am so tired of that other yoga, that is in fact not-yoga.
And the hotpants/ flashy yoga gear that goes with it. Why are people so very very afraid to face themselves, unarmed, undressed (as it were)?

yah, what’s up with the hot pants?