27 May 2008

Did this really happen?

The yoga crew with our teacher, Sati, Guruji and his daughter, Saraswati
23 March 2008

Expressing my Islamorada experience in words is not going to be easy…but I’m giving it a shot.

On the 23rd of March 2008 nine ashtangis, including myself, from Yoga Life went on an 8 hour road trip to Islamorada, Florida for the grand opening of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute U.S.A. Our excitement and anticipation was indescribable. Not only were we going to be witnesses to this amazing historical event in yoga history, we were going to be meeting the one and only, Sri Krishna Phattabhi Jois and his daughter, Saraswati.

When we arrived to the condo we began to get all glammed up with dresses, hair and make-up like we were meeting the Queen of England or something. On our way to the shala, Sati was in the back seat and I guess in a way of bringing us back to reality, she said, “guys, we’re about to meet Guruji.”

There are no words to describe how I felt walking into the shala and seeing Guruji for the first time. My immediate reaction was to cry…but I was able to hold it back. Then, I just felt extremely weak, like my legs were going to collapse. All I could do was stare at him and embrace the overwhelming sense of shock of being in his presence.

During the teacher training program, we talked about Guruji as if he were royalty (and he kinda sorta is), like he sat on a huge golden chair behind elevated gates and armed guards or something. But when I saw him, he was just…a man, with a gentle smile, soft, sparkling eyes and grandfather-like demeanor (who rolled into class on the last day with a beanie...I mean, how awesome is that?). From some of the stories I heard about Guruji, I think I was expecting someone more aggressive or intimidating. I will hold that memory deep in my heart.

And…oh….Saraswati. All I can say is “WOW”. She led most of the classes while we were there. She is just an amazing force of greatness. When I look at her I see loyalty, love, maternal goodness, strength…like it could have been my own Mother teaching class. It was so great to take led primary with her, especially since ashtanga was originally taught and practiced only by men. Having her walk by us during our practice sporting her adidas sweat pants and cute little fuschia-painted toes gave me a great sense of…I don’t know…triumph and comfort.

I remember over 2 years ago watching the NYC Guruji documentary on television with my Dad and thinking that I could never attempt such a difficult form of yoga. It was so foreign to me…I could never be a part of that “world.” Little did I know that one day I would be in Guruji’s presence and bow before his feet.

This is going to begin to sound like the academy awards now...but, I would like to take this opportunity to give express many, many, many thanks to my parents who have given me endless support (both financial and emotional) on my yoga journey. If it wasn’t for them, I’d probably have to resort to a life of crime in order to fund my yogic “excursions.” :-)
I also have to thank my fellow ashtangis/colleagues/friends/road-trip buddies/roomies for sharing this experience with me: Pinky, Isa, Sati, Pria, Annie, Radha, Stacy and Mia. In the words of Ani DiFranco "we gotta have a good explanation for all the fun that we had." I love you guys.

Lastly, I would like to thank my yoga teacher, Sati because without her ashtanga and Pattabhi Jois would never have entered my world. Thanks to her I have the understanding and education of Guruji’s impact on such an important aspect of my life. A shout-out to Sara Torbett for allowing Sati to cultivate the ashtanga program at Yoga Life.

I am so grateful to be a part of this amazing history…
Saraswati Namastubyam
Varde Kamaroopani Vidya Aarambham
Karishyami Siddhi Bhavatu Me Sada


  1. Shivani,

    I love this blog....spoken truly and from the heart...I completely feel the same way and I am so honored to have been there with you!!

    Much love,

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