On seeking, practice, & Manju Jois

I am a seeker never satisfied with answers. I have a mind programmed to probe, question, and analyze. My least favorite word is “no” and I despise simple answers to complex questions. Yet the greatest growth I have experienced as a human being and the greatest healing I have received as a yoga practitioner is in the forgoing of the territory of the intellect and stepping into the domain of experience.

A month ago I attended an intensive with the foremost authority of the lineage from which I began my studies, Manju Jois. Manju is the son of Guruji, the deceased “father” of ashtanga yoga, a very ancient system of yoga. I had not seen Manju in two years and was eager for my roots to re-grasp the soil from which my practice began.

Manju’s teaching style is very straightforward, hands-on, clear, and simple, with a touch of playful humor. His genius is not in the details, but in the world of experience. He has over sixty-five years of experience teaching, more than anyone else living today, and being in his presence effortlessly invites trust and surrender into the hearts of his students.

I am always tickled by other practitioners’ questions for Manju:

“Manju, how many Surya A’s and B’s?”

“How far away are the feet in Trikonasana?”

“What is Mula Bandha?”

Manju tells us that in no traditional yoga texts do they discuss physical minutiae so often emphasized by Western yoga teachers, but only the philosophy and sacred geometry of the asana.

“Yoga is a flow,” he reminds us when another practitioners asks about correcting hyper-extended elbows in Prasarita Padottanasana. “We don’t want to disrupt their flow. It is natural problem.” And without blinking an eye, he moves on to the next practitioner working on an adjustment with another student.

His words are both reminder and invitation: to not get lost in the details, to surrender to the greater cosmic current of divine knowledge by simply showing up, unrolling the mat, and making a beginning. Through steady, patient practice I provide the groundwork for these unseen forces to infiltrate my heart and my life. For me, yoga is not acquiring, attaining, or accomplishing. As Manju says: “ ‘Yug’ means unite, and yoga is to unite within.”

Yoga is the practice of uniting within, of shedding layers of who I think I am and what I think I know to effect a contact with the eternal self and coax her out of subtlety and into full expression. It is my intention to continue to practice with full measures, learn with an open mind, and cultivate reverence in my heart for the teachers that inspire such a process.

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