With the deaths of superstars Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson last week, and Steve McNair on Saturday, it seems we’ve bid farewell to an inordinate number of icons recently. While the losses of Jackson, 51, and McNair, 36, are more tragic and untimely than McMahon, 86, and Fawcett, 62, whose battle with cancer was well documented, each person occupied a place within our collective consciousness. A timeless TV host, the consummate girl-next-door beauty, the King of Pop, and a trailblazing quarterback—each entertained, inspired, and enhanced the way we view life, in various ways, both large and small.
The yoga community, too, recently laid to rest its own icon, Sri Pattabhi Jois, the founder of ashtanga yoga. While his influence was not as broad as the aforementioned celebrities, he occupies an exalted place among yogis. While newer yoga students might not recognize his name, it’s likely that the styles of yoga they practice were influenced, in part, by Jois. At 93-years-old, Jois witnessed yoga’s popularity soar from a sacred Indian ritual to an international health trend. Along with B.K.S. Iyengar, who turned 90 in December, and T.K.V. Desikachar, Jois carried the lineage of Krishnamacharya, credited as the “father of modern yoga.”
While I’ve been to southern India, not far from where the Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute is located, and studied ashtanga with two of his disciples for several years beginning in college, I never took class with him personally. In a Vanity Fair column a couple years ago, he is described by students as “fierce and compassionate” as well as “strict and loving.” Here are a couple videos that capture the late guru:
When reflecting upon any one person's life, famous or not, I think Herman Hesse may have said it best when he wrote, "Every man is more than just himself; he also represents the unique, the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world's phenomena intersect, only once in this way, and never again."
Thank you to those mentioned here, who shared the unique intersection of their talents with so many. Please feel free to share how Sri Pattabhi Jois inspired your yoga practice or comment on how any of the other recently departed influenced your life.