Here is the second installment of Donavan Wilson’s interview with Kino MacGregor. We pick up the story when Kino has just flown off to India to tap into the source of Ashtanga yoga.
Kino spent two months practicing with Jois at his yoga center in Mysore. Her dreams are a source of inspiration for her yoga practice and in life.
“The thing about Mysore that was amazing was meeting Guruji,” said Kino. “The practice was one thing; it is really his presence that was amazing. It was him, more than just the asanas. My first memory of Mysore was questioning whether or not I would really be open to the idea of a guru, someone to have authority over me” she said.
“I don’t think it should be an intellectual thing. I was intellectualizing it a lot. When I saw Guruji, I was, like, thank you, Guruji, and my hands were at his feet; it was a feeling, chemistry, and it was beyond my rational mind,” she said.
“The person he was, someone who‘s integrity was unchanged, unquestionable, and unshakable. He was excited to teach yoga. From the time he had one student, until the time he had thousands of students, he never changed. He was excited to teach yoga. From the time he saw T. Krishnamacharya conduct a yoga demonstration when he was 11, until the day he died and saw his dream of teaching come to fruition in the hearts and minds of Ashtanga practitioners all around the world.
“If you watch the old footage of Guruji teaching one student on YouTube,” said Kino. “And then you watch the footage of him teaching in 2006, he is the same person; a little older, a little more wrinkles, but the same person with same teaching. The things that turned him on back then turned him on own now. It was his unwavering dedication to the dream of sharing yoga. The definition of guru is a person whose presence imparts truth, to a statement if spoken by anyone else would be untrue. It was the power of his presence that allowed me to believe in him. Not the words he said, but the being he was.
“After my first trip to Mysore, yoga started living through me,” said Kino. “When I came back, Guruji traveled to New York City. I practiced with Guruji for a month. He remembered me and was very sweet and wonderful. There was a conference and a special ceremony for the victims of the 9/11 attacks,” she said.
During the visit to New York City, hundreds of participants practiced with him. Jois offered conference (an opportunity to ask questions) during his trip to New York City. During her travels to Mysore, she asked Jois several questions during conference. “This is the thing about his integrity,” she said. “No matter how many students were at Mysore, he would always have conference. He would sit there every day at four o’clock except for Saturdays to take questions,” she said.
“I’ve been doing yoga for a little while, it claims to make you feel peaceful, but I feel crazy. I asked Guruji, where can I find inner peace? He looked at me and said you do three things: looking, practice and breathing. Having (practiced yoga) for years, then Shanti (inner peace) is coming, no problem. I’m there and in my early 20s asking a man who has been teaching for 60 years where can I find inner peace. I’d been doing Yoga continuously for eight months and he said many years then Shanti is coming, no problem,” she said. “Anyone could have said that, but it was his presence that imparted truth to those words. I had faith in him and the method.”
Jois’s response to Kino’s question described important elements of the Ashtanga practice. Ashtanga involves the tristana method which combines the following elements: ujjayi (modulated breathing), asana (posture) , and drishti (focal point).
“He took things in stride,” said Kino offering speculation on why Jois did not leave New York City during the terrorist attacks in September 2001. “Jois only stopped once (during his teaching tour) when Shareth’s father died of a heart attack. He had to go back home to perform the pujas (Hindu ceremony to express gratitude or to honor someone) and attend the funeral. In those moments of crisis is when you need yoga the most.”
According to Kino, Jois was always happy to see new students and was prepared to teach because he had a strong passion for teaching yoga. “Before he got sick, he would teach in the big Shala from 5 until 9:30 in the morning,” said Kino. “Guruji would wait until everyone was done. At 10 o’clock, he would go to the old Shala and teach a bunch of people who could not afford to be in the new Shala from 10 to 12. He was in his eighties and nineties at this point. He loved (to hear) that people were practicing.”
Kino addressed the misconception that Jois was interested in teaching yoga for the money: “Some people said he was interested in money; it is not what turned him on. What turned him on was people practicing yoga. How many people when they are 11 years old say this is what I’m going to do with my life? He saw it, it was his dream, and it came to fruition before his eyes.”
[More installments to come]