The heirs of Ashtanga-yoga guru Krishna Pattabhi Jois have partnered with the wife of a billionaire hedge-funder to market the master’s teachings—throwing many Jois disciples off balance.
Jois To The World
Most people who practice Ashtanga think they’re doing something ancient and Eastern. But the provenance of the sequences is murky. The official story is that Krishnamacharya developed the physical postures after finding the remains of a 2,000-year-old manuscript in Calcutta’s library. He believed it to contain postures referenced by the sage Patanjali in a centuries-old text called the Yoga Sutras. Part of the appeal of Ashtanga is its authenticity; to uphold that, there isn’t supposed to be any modifying of the series.
But the remains of the Calcutta manuscript no longer exist, and recent work by a scholar named Mark Singleton has cast some doubt on how important physical postures were in ancient yoga. The Yoga Sutras are more about achieving detachment from your measly existence than about contorting your body into impossible positions, and Singleton posits that the postures we know as Ashtanga may have grown out of a “synthesis” during Krishnamacharya’s time in Mysore of Western and Indian “gymnastic forms.” In his view, authenticity is the wrong way to think about yoga, because yoga is an ongoing evolution, not something static.