2012-03-16

Vanity Fair on Jois Yoga: Another Story



Q: So what does Vanity Fair, Yoga, Business and Money have to do with each other?

A: Well, quite a lot actually.

In the April 2012 issue of Vanity Fair there is an interesting article on what is known today as Jois Yoga. It speaks about the grand opening in California. Yet most of the hoopla rests with WHO is behind it and HOW long-standing Ashtanga teachers were treated in the shuffle. If you haven't read the article you should. Read: Whose Yoga Is it, Anyway?

Having studied in Mysore for many, many years...and under Shri Pattabhi Jois directly (or called Guruji), there are many who are not perhaps aware of the full story that lead up to this one. That is, the opening of Jois Yoga; a legacy extending beyond Sharath and his successors (aka family members).

What I am referring to is Guruji’s right-hand man Mr. Joseph Dunham (go to Interview, August 08 issue). As Sharath grew up Joseph was increasingly becoming less and less prominent. Prior to this, however, Joseph had been responsible for all of the US Yoga tours that pretty much put Ashtanga-yoga on the world map. It is said (and written somewhere as well but I can’t find it right now) that Guruji was about to cancel the trip until he was reassured that Joseph was going too.

Joseph was without a doubt a part of the wood-work in Mysore. Every yoga student going to Mysore understood this. If you didn’t know Joseph, well, you were pretty much living under a rock. He offered a bed and breakfast home-stay and was a part of the fabric of the 'old' shala (school) in Laksmipuram.

As I understood it and from bumping into Joseph in Mysore from 2000 to 2009, he was the one who had actually planted the seed of opening a yogashala; i.e., a stream of schools to spread into America, which would enable the Jois name and Ashtanga-yoga to live on. However, at the time they did not like that idea very much.....! Or, maybe it was they did not like with whom the idea was coming from. It could also have been the way it was presented. Perhaps they misunderstood what Joseph was proposing and felt he was trying to take over whereas they wanted the name to stay in the family. Having known Joseph as a friend, it had nothing to do with Joseph. He would just be the 'man' behind the scenes...as he always was....

There may have been other factors at play as to why Joseph lost his standing as the right-hand man and faded out of the scene. But none of these details are relevant to the 'business' idea that was planted.

When I read the Vanity Fair article I was not surprised or shocked in respect to what went on with the senior teachers of Ashtanga. I was sadden and reminded of the the simple facts of life. Plus, I had already seen how they treated a long-time assistance who had dedicated 15 years of his life to his Guru. And although Joseph was still hanging around Mysore he felt that when Guruji passed away his work would be done. Ironic or not, a year after Guruji’s death Joseph passed away having a sudden heart attack in Cambodia. Prior to this, I must admit I kinda wondered why he was still hanging around Mysore. When I learned he had gone to study under my teacher Yogacharya V. Venkatesha that said it all. He didn’t have to explain there had been a riff or why.

Perhaps those who are not involved in the subtle politics of Mysore Yoga won’t understand that studying with another teacher is a complete taboo. In spite of breif period in which Joseph studied with Yogacharya the mere fact he would try something ‘new’ indicated he was swaying. Still, in Joseph’s heart was his Guru because he quickly stopped the classes when the news became public.

Lots of issues here. And we all can lay claim that 'real' Masters of Yoga are not learning much from 'their' yoga....but business is business....and those are just the facts. People are people. (Let's not even get into what's been happening in the Anusura community
).

There is an old saying edged onto a statue of Sivananda at the Sivananda ashram in Val Morin, Quebec. It is quite fitting and goes something like, "We stand together but perish alone."

And that’s how it goes for everyone...Master or no master.

The Journey So Far

Life is an adventure and yoga is the greatest one of all. Here I share my love of Yoga, travel, practice and becoming a part-time cook. My life adventures have taken me from growing up in Toronto to living and working in South Korea to studying in India, marriage and finally closing my Yoga school of 15 years.

What I can say so far is that I truly believe that it is necessary in life to let go of one dream in order for another to be born. This might be painful to do so but it is the only way to move forward. We often believe that if our original plan does not succeed it is the recipe for failure. But what if it is the door to something new and great? The horizon is wide and life is not a straight line. This is the way I see it and my journey so far. Having also recently given birth to my first child and at 43, it is another new beginning.


ME

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Heather Morton
is a perennial teacher and devoted student of yoga. Having made 18 extended trips to India she studies with her teachers annually. In 1997 she founded and directed The Yoga Way (TYW), Toronto's only school for 6-week yoga programs and not drop-in classes. For 15 years, TYW was a part of the growing Toronto yoga community and supported many charities by offering karma classes. As a teacher she holds many academic degrees including a BFA (Fine Arts in Theatre) and a Masters of Education. With a published thesis on Yoga for Children in School, her post-graduate work was a 2-year ethnographic project in the Indian school system. Heather has produced 2 dvds, meditation cds, a backbending manual and podcasts. Freedom of the Body DVD is the first of its kind as an instructional practice to the backbends of yoga. Heather has been featured in the Toronto Life magazine, The Globe & Mail, Yoga4Everybody and other on-line sources. She contributes to MindBodyGreen, Hello Yoga in Japan and Elephant Journal. She writes to inspire and share her experiences with others on yoga as a life's practice.
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