K. Pattabhi Jois

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Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
File:Guruji white.jpg
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois 2006 in entrance of KPJAYI in Mysore, India
Born (1915-07-26)26 July 1915
Kowshika, Hassan, Karnataka, India
Died Script error: No such module "age".
Mysore, Karnataka, India
Occupation Yoga teacher
Known for Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
Spouse(s) Savitramma (Amma)
Children Saraswathi Rangaswamy
Relatives R. Sharath Jois (Rangaswamy) (grandson)

K. Pattabhi Jois (Kannada: ಶ್ರೀ ಕೃಷ್ಣ ಪಟ್ಟಾಭಿ ಜೋಯೀಸರು) (26 July 1915[1] – 18 May 2009[2]) was an Indian yoga teacher and Sanskrit scholar who developed and popularized the vinyāsa style of yoga referred to as Ashtanga Yoga.[3] In 1948, Jois established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (now known as the K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute [archive])[4] in Mysore, India.[5] Pattabhi Jois is one of a short list of Indians who were instrumental in transmitting yoga from India to the West in the 20th century.[6]


Jois was born on 26 July 1915 (Guru Pūrṇimā, full moon day) in the village of Kowshika,[7] near Hassan, Karnataka, South India.

Early life[edit]

Jois's father was an astrologer, priest, and landholder. His mother took care of the house and the nine children - five girls and four boys - of whom Pattabhi Jois was the fifth. From the age of 5, he was instructed in Sanskrit and rituals by his father, which is standard training for Brahmin boys. No one else in his family had learned yoga or even expressed interest in it.[8]

Encounter with T. Krishnamacharya and education[edit]

In 1927, at the age of 12, Jois attended a lecture and demonstration at the Jubilee Hall[9] in Hassan by T. Krishnamacharya[10] and became his student the very next day. For two years Jois remained in Kowshika and practiced with Krishnamacharya every day.[8] Jois never told his family he was practicing yoga. He would rise early, go to practice, and then attend school.

In 1930, Jois ran away from home to Mysore to study Sanskrit, with 2 rupees.[1][11] Around the same time Krishnamacharya departed Hassan to teach elsewhere. Two years later, Jois was reunited with Krishnamacharya, who had also made his way to Mysore. During this time, the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar, had become seriously ill and it is said that Krishnamacharya had healed him, through yoga, where others had failed. The Maharaja became Krishnamacharya's patron and established a Yoga shala for him at the Jaganmohan Palace.[12] Jois often accompanied Krishnamacharya in demonstrations.[13] and would occasionally assist Krishnamacharya in class and teach in his absence.[14]

Jois studied with Krishnamacharya from 1927 to 1929 in his own village, and then in Mysore from 1932 to 1953.[15][16] He studied texts such as Patañjali's Yoga Sūtra, Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā, Yoga Yajñavalkya and the Upaniṣads.[17]

Family life[edit]

On the full moon of June 1933, when Jois was 18 years old, he married Savitramma,[11] who affectionately came to be known as Amma by Pattabhi Jois's family and students alike. They had three children: Saraswathi, Mañju and Ramesh.[18][19]

In 1948, with the help of Jois' students, he purchased a home in the section of town called Lakshmipuram. According to Tim Miller, Pattabhi Jois continued to practice asanas until his son Ramesh committed suicide when Jois was 42.[20]

Saraswathi Jois had two children who continue to teach yoga today, R. Sharath Jois and Sharmila Mahesh. They both trained in yoga under Pattabhi Jois from childhood. Pattabhi Jois took an active role in raising his grandchildren. Sharath began assisting Pattabhi Jois in his teaching in 1990, and continued to do so until Jois passed away in 2009. At that time, Sharath took over as the main teacher and director of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, which he renamed as the K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI) in honor of his grandfather.

Manju Jois left India in the late 1970s to settle in the United States. He continues to teach yoga internationally, and is married with one child.


The Maharaja of Mysore would at times attend classes when Jois was assisting and offered Jois a teaching position at the Sanskrit College in Mysore offering him a salary, scholarship to the college and room and board.[14]

Pattabhi Jois held a yoga teaching position at the Sanskrit College[13] of Maharaja from 1937 to 1973,[21] becoming vidwan (professor) in 1956,[21] as well as being Honorary Professor of Yoga at the Government College of Indian Medicine from 1976 to 1978.[17] He taught there until 1973, when he left to devote himself fully to teach yoga at his yoga shala.[citation needed]

He wrote the book Yoga Mālā, in Kannada in 1958, and it was published in 1962, but was not published in English until 1999.[22] The film Guru was made about him by Robert Wilkins.[23]

Yoga Korunta[edit]

In 1924 Krishnamacharya spent time in the Calcutta University Library researching an ancient text called the Yoga Korunta which was badly damaged and had many missing portions.[14]

Jois began his studies with Krishnamacharya in 1927 and was taught the method from the Yoga Korunta.[14] Krishnamacharya learned it from his teacher Rama Mohan Brahmachari in the Himalayas.[24] An entire system of complete practices like Pranayama, Bandhas, (core muscular and energetic locks) and Dristi (points where the eyes should focus) were included along with asanas and vinyasa [24] Pattabhi Jois then went on to teach it to others as he was taught by Krishnamacharya.[25]

Jois indicated that he had never seen this text[26][14] Even though the authenticity of this text is difficult, if not impossible to validate,[27] it's generally accepted as the source of Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Pattabhi Jois.[14] It's important to characterize the Yoga Korunta as having been transmitted and passed on from teacher to student. Perhaps each student received the teachings but not in physical form.[28]

One major component of Ashtanga Yoga that was not in the Yoga Korunta nor was it part of the early teachings of Krishnamacharya was Surya Namaskara A & B.[24] Surya Namaskara A & B, which establish the asana practice, were devised by Pattabhi Jois based on references to ancient texts.[24] A detailed explanation of Surya Namaskara A & B are in Jois's book Yoga Mala.[29]


In 1948, Jois established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute at their home in Lakshmipuram.[30] In 1964 he built an extension in the back of the house for a yoga hall.[8]

In 1964, a Belgian named André Van Lysebeth spent two months with Jois learning the primary and intermediate series of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga system. Not long afterward, van Lysebeth wrote a book called J'apprends le Yoga (1967, English title: Yoga Self-Taught) which mentioned Jois and included his address. This marked the beginning of westerners coming to Mysore to study yoga.[11][25] The first Americans came, after Jois's son Manju demonstrated yoga at Swami Gitananda's ashram in Pondicherry.[8]

He also gained attention from celebrity students including Madonna, Sting, and Gwyneth Paltrow[31] To accommodate the increasing number of students coming to study, he opened a new school in Gokulam in 2002.[32]

Pattabhi Jois spent more than 70 years of his life dedicated to practicing and teaching Ashtanga yoga.[32] Jois continued to teach at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, now located in the neighbourhood of Gokulam,[7] with his only daughter Saraswathi Rangaswamy (b. 1941) and his grandson Sharath.[33] until 18 May 2009 when he died aged 93 of natural causes.


Parampara is the passing of knowledge from teacher to student and the importance of the ongoing relationship between the two. "This lies at the heart of Jois's Ashtanga Yoga."[34]

Jois's Ashtanga Yoga is passed on in a traditional manner and the teacher certification process is extensive, by which a student, through many years of daily practice and extended trips to Mysore, India, becomes a 'lineage holder' also known as 'Authorized' or 'Certified'.[34] Jois studied with his teacher Krishnamacharya for many years and in turn, expected the same from his students in order to be able to teach correctly and appropriately.[34] "Professional development requirements such as these are arguably some of the most stringent found in Modern Postural Yoga lineages, and they derive directly from the emphasis that both Pattabhi Jois and [his grandson] R. Sharath Jois have placed on Parampara."[34]

As of 2017, there are three levels of teacher recognition 'Authorized Level 1', 'Authorized Level 2', and 'Certified'. In brief, 'Authorized Level 1' teachers are able to teach the primary series.[35] 'Authorized Level 2' teachers are able to teach up to where they learned in intermediate series. Certified teachers have learned the third series and beyond and are able to teach accordingly.[36]

International travels[edit]

His first trip to the West was in 1974 to South America, to deliver a lecture in Sanskrit at an international yoga conference.[21] In 1975 he stayed for four months in Encinitas, California, marking the beginning of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in the US.[22] He had said on many occasions that only twenty or thirty students practiced Ashtanga Yoga in America then, but, 'gradually, gradually, in twenty years, it will be fully spreading'[8] He would return to the US several times over the next 20 years, to teach yoga at Encinitas and beyond.[22] He also regularly travelled to Sydney, Australia, where some of his advanced students were based.[citation needed]


A range of obituaries for Jois were published in many newspapers and journals, including the New York Times,[37] the Financial Times,[38] the BBC,[39] the Guardian,[40] the Huffington Post,[41] the Economist,[42] the LA Times[43] and the Times of London.[44]

A student David Life, co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga school in Manhattan, has said of him, "He was not a monk or a renunciate; he was fearless about combining the path of yogi with the path of participant. He never saw it as separate from our lives. He thought that anyone could attain to yoga if they had the desire and the enthusiasm."[45]


According to B.K.S. Iyengar, Jois was assigned to teach asana at the Sanskrit Pathshala when the yogashala of Krishnamacharya was opened in 1933 and was "never a regular student."[46][47] Pattabhi Jois also claimed he was B. K. S. Iyengar's teacher,[48] Iyengar has refuted this claim.[49] Krishnamacharya did have many teachers working for him and they would have been teaching the same yoga system though, therefore he would have received acknowledgement for that.[25]

The Economist published an obituary that questioned Jois's adherence to the yogic principle of brahmacharya or sexual continence and made the accusation that his female students received different "adjustments" from his male students.[42] CounterPunch in a magazine article indicated that Jois was a "reported sexual abuser of students."[50] Accusations of inappropriate touching of women by Jois during yoga classes also surfaced on YogaDork,[51][52] in Elephant Journal,[53][54] and in an article appearing on YogaCity NYC, where a female student reported she was groped by Jois during a class in New York.[55]

The same obituary questioned Jois's adherence to the yogic principle of ahimsa or non-violence and highlighted that "a good number of Mr Jois's students seemed constantly to be limping around with injured knees or backs because they had received his "adjustments", yanking them into Lotus, the splits or a backbend."[42] Adjustments by Jois have been characterized as "overwhelming, producing fear and extreme discomfort in students as they are pushed beyond their physical and psychological comfort zones in often-difficult, even dangerous asana.".[56] It's unlikely that students would have endured such adjustments without faith and trust in the teachers and the method. This connection between teacher and student is how Jois taught Parampara, the passing of knowledge as it occurs between teacher and student.[34] Pattabhi Jois did not call himself a guru, but is considered the master guru, or teacher, of Ashtanga Yoga.[34]


Jois's grandson, R. Sharath Jois, is a major contributor to his legacy. Sharath Jois currently leads the ashtanga yoga community as the director and main teacher at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI) in Mysuru, where thousands of yoga students study each year. Sharath also teams with yoga practitioner and philanthropist Sonia Klein Jones to create Jois Yoga in honor of K. Pattabhi Jois.[57][58][59][60][61] Jones's organization Sonima often provides organizational support to Sharath's world tours, and produces online programs that provide supplementary teaching tools for Ashtanga. Jois's daughter, Saraswathi, and granddaughter, Sharmila, run a successful yoga school in Mysuru and travel the world on teaching tours. Pattabhi Jois's lineage is also carried on by the students that he officially authorized and certified.[34]

The result of Jois's contribution to the practice of modern postural yoga can be found in yoga classes across the globe.[24] Jois devised Surya Namaskara A & B (the "sun salutations") in reference to a passage from the Vedas, and they are commonly found at the beginning of even non-Ashtanga classes.[62] Well-attended yoga styles such as vinyasa, power, and rocket yoga all have direct ties to Ashtanga, and "breath with sound" (aka ujjayi breathing) was also popularized through Jois's teachings.


  1. Jois, Pattabhi (1999; revised ed. 2012). Yoga Mala. New York: North Point Press. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css" />ISBN 978-0-86547-751-3


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External links[edit]

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