Sri K Pattabhi Jois demanded that his students follow his method with clear and strict accuracy, but he achieved this partly by tolerance, understanding, smiles, hugs and overall benevolence.
He could be stern and uncompromising but also understanding and respectful of individual difference. When you bent or broke the rules he jestingly or punitively called you “Bad Man” or “Bad Lady” depending on whether you acted out of negligence or in service of expressing your individuality within the confines of the system.
By calling you “Bad Man” Guruji was perhaps chastising you for not respecting the rules of the system thus reminding you of the importance of those rules. And he was also perhaps showing you with humor that he understood that learning yoga requires individuality, for you to be yourself in a basic, fundamental way. One time a student became offended when he called her bad lady. He smiled and chuckled and said, “bad means good.”
His teaching reflected that following each rule every time is not always in the best overall service of gaining yoga knowledge. But also neither is disregarding the rules too liberally or too often. Guruji understood that two contradictory conditions need to co-exist for a yoga lineage to be effective in continuing to pass down knowledge between generations.
1) A lineage needs to be respected and valued and thus to be carefully upheld by each student.
2) And yet each student also needs to have the freedom to bend or even break the rules at certain times.
In either case a student needs a high degree of inner trust, to have the self confidence and receptivity to explore yoga’s possibilities for and by himself.
Guruji himself walked a different and individual path throughout his life. He left his family and village by his own decision to learn yoga from his Guru. He and his wife chose each other in a ‘love’ marriage. And he fearlessly pioneered his fiery, different and new yoga method. He thoroughly understood the necessity of being a “bad man,” of stepping off the prescribed path, taking control of his own life and making the choices that he felt would give him the best chance for success.
The development of yoga through the generations depends on the person who has the daring and confidence to go into the unknown and find the unique, though universal, knowledge within himself. Each authentic yogi has to be a “bad man” or “bad lady.” He or she has to walk the edge between respect for what came before and curiosity for the new, the unknown, the unique and the solitary. Ultimately following a lineage and attaining success in yoga requires attaining Self knowledge through consulting the heart, refining and clarifying intention, lastly appreciating the teachings that have been received, and finding kindred spirits along the path.
-An excerpt from David Garrigues book Vayu Siddhi
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons
Photo: Courtesy of the author