I remember the first time I read the book Guruji. A collection of accounts on the life of Pattahbi Jois from his students. It gave me a glimpse into what kind of person he was and stoked the fire in me to dig deeper into Ashtanga Yoga. A lot of us never got the chance to meet Guruji but his memory lives on in the stories like these ones passed down from Petri Raisanen. I had the great pleasure of talking with Petri this March. In only an hour I learned so much from him. I'm not going to tell you anymore just do yourself a favour and turn off all distractions and enjoy Part 1 of this Interview.
I came first time in '96 and met Pattabhi Jois first time in Lakshmipuram in the old Yoga Shala. It always feels good. The Asana practice feels always good. It makes the body light and clean. Sometimes it was nice to do all this fancy, you know, jump throughs and handstands and get quickly into the pose and these things. Now it's more this kind of... well I'm also a... I have a 1-year-old son, so my practice is a daddy practice. So it's not always two hours, sometimes it's one hour or sometimes half an hour. You know you have a yoga bhakti and you have also this baby bhakti, so the baby is number one. But still it's... even the baby is still... it still feels like it's yoga, even taking care of this little boy.
The Energy Of Mysore
The nice thing in the Shala is that there is a very strong energy and it makes you to work a little bit harder. Because mostly I practice early in the morning before teaching or sometimes after teaching and always alone, there's usually no other people. It's really different here with 60 people in the Shala. I started in '89, then I met Derek Ireland who became my teacher and when we came here I didn't really know what to expect. I see Pattabhi Jois he was just okay, this guy who has this knowledge, I didn't feel so much anything special. But, in a small Yoga Shala there was a very strong energy there.
"Petri. Drop Back. But I Can't My Wrist is Broken"
Like, in '96 we used to do lots of handstands, like 40 or 50 handstands in a primary series. There was one interesting story, maybe partly because of these handstands, I broke my wrist because it was too much pressure on the wrist everyday, every morning just staying on the hands. I had to do this way, the sun salutations and all the lifts. So after maybe one week practice in the Shala, Guruji said, "Okay Petri, drop back." And I was like "I cannot do drop back because my wrist is broken." And he just said, "You do it, you do it." I was so worried because I really I know that it was so painful. And he was just pushing me and I couldn't persist. Like okay I have to go down and maybe it hurts a lot, and I went down and it didn't hurt at all. And I went second time it didn't hurt and it was, the pain was gone, completely. And this was one thing where Pattabhi Jois had a very strongly, was this intuition for what was in the people's mind and what was in the body. Sometimes he could see that somebody had a weak mind or there was a memory or the pain was not real, it was not there anymore.
Back in the Days of the Old Shala
Already at that time, there was about 130 people and only 12 people could fit to the Shala. So the line from the Shala on the steps went all the way. Sometimes it went to the third floor, to the roof and people were just sitting on the steps and every time somebody got in you got one step down, and step down and step down and step down. Then you went to the Shala. And there was this little window in the middle of the stairs and you could watch the practice. And very early in the morning Sharath was still in the Shala and practicing, doing his own practice. We could see he is doing 5th Series, one hand stand in the Shala. It's a special time. Guruji shouting and laughing and sleeping. I have only good memories from Pattabhi Jois.
Teaching to the End - Guruji's Passion to Teach Yoga
Last time I saw him, just two months before he passed, three months before in the end of February and I could go to his room and still talk with him. And he just, we just talked about yoga, at that stage he just wanted to know how many people practice and how they coming to the Shala and what time they start.
There was in 2007, or 2008, I think it was still 2008, the family didn't want that Pattabhi Jois was teaching and they hide the key to the old Shala because he wanted to go to teach people. But, somehow he found the key and he was teaching secretly and, I wasn't there, but there were some of my friends. I think there were nine people. So he told people to come to the Shala and I will be there this certain time. So I think this was 2008. He had such a big strong will, just to keep teaching and it was not about money, it was not about fame or, you know, having lots of students or something. It was all about yoga. What I saw him from '96 to 2009, he didn't change. Even all this fame and famous people around, he was always the same. I think he really had a passion to teach yoga for people. See that kind of Bhakti you know, it's really teaching all the way until the end. And just talking about it.
Petri Räisänen (born August 13, 1967) is internationally known and respected Ashtanga Yoga teacher. Petri started practicing Ashtanga Yoga in 1988 and teaching in 1990. He is a devoted student of his Guru, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and was authorized to teach Astanga Yoga in 2001 by Guruji. Petri is careful to pass on his Guru's exact teachings. Learn more about Petri including his upcoming workshops retreats, and books on Ashtanga Yoga by visiting his website www.petriraisanen.com
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