In 1992 while traveling, working and studying in Nepal and India, I tripped on one of Shri K. Pittabhi Jois' long-time students and Ashtanga teacher, John Scott. I watched his practice every the morning at the hotel I was staying at on the southern tip of Kerala, and said to myself, never having done yoga, that I would never be doing yoga. The grace, strength and flow I most certainly saw in John, I most certainly did not see in myself.
However, the charmed (likely thanks to Guru-ji) city of Mysore kept drawing me back from the coast. The third time there, I surrendered myself to go and meet John's Guru...just meet. The next thing I knew, as a brand new beginner, I embarked on what would be a sixty day intensive study with the living father of the Ashtanga lineage. In those days there were no more than 10 or 12 students in the room at a time, a small studio in his house. He told me to go to the local jail, a right of passage in itself I felt, to purchase myself a woven yoga mat.
My first practice was about five minutes of Sun Salute A - that was all my out-of-shape body could take after a decade of adolescent self-abuse. He spoke very little english so all his instructions were hands on. My body never forgot the poses into which he would contort my body, and that was long before my body was ready to do it on its own. In fact, I cried every day for the first month, as I watched the cells let go of memories I had no idea were there, present and past lives contained. He would prepare to put me in Marychyaasan, for example, and took to saying in his limited english, "now don't cry." Projecting on to him the emotional difficulties I was having, I felt like he was beating me up every day, squished into that sweaty little room.
Something like the infinite love of the Guru I could not yet identify kept me showing up day after day. And I woke up one morning after the first month with a new realization - that perhaps it was me being rough with myself, beating my own self up in the form of Guru. That day, and from then on, the practice was very different - even, focussed and so much more gentle! I added a daily meditation practice to my second month in Pittabhi's care, and started to feel like a million dollars. Thanks to this Light Being, and many other teachers to come as well, my life has unfolded as a yoga teacher, kirtan singer and devotee of Life itself, who can be kind and loving with the practice of yoga. Thank you Guru-ji for your life so brightly lived.