Would You Let Your Yoga Teacher Stand On You While in Pain And Bleeding?

I struggle with the idea of trusting a teacher so much so as to lay on the floor bleeding and not question his motives. Do you trust your teacher like this? The question comes from T, who commented on one of the Conference Reports from earlier this year in which Sharath related the story of Pattabhi Jois being in Kapotasana, bleeding due to a rock under his arm, while Krishnamacharya gave a lecture standing on him. [picture below].

My first reaction is of course not.  I would not trust anyone to stand on me while I am bleeding.  I feel a deconstruction is in order.

That is Krishnamacharya during a demonstration, standing on
young Pattabhi Jois in kapotasana

At the time of the photo, Jois , depicted under the big K above, was between 12 and 14 years old.  The naughty boy was sneaking out of his house, without telling his parents, and going daily to Krishnamacharya for yoga lessons before school. He knew, at that tender age, that the calling of yoga was his. The only thing he wanted was yoga, and he trusted his teacher wholeheartedly.

Even for a youngster getting to kapotasana would take a few months of study is my guess. So I would assume by then he knew him well, he trusted him, and he probably wanted to impress him.

Krishnamacharya, on the other hand, was at the peak of his career having been given a wing at the palace.  A palace! Can you imagine? In those days? and to teach yoga, no less.

He had impressed the Maharaja of Mysore (who healed himself with his help) and with good reason. In his early 40s Krishnamacharya had 30 years of experience in yoga, which had started with him studying and debating scriptures at the age of 10.

How would you like to teach in one of my wings?

At the time of the photo, for what Sharath tells us, he had no idea that Jois was in pain.  We hear from the grandson of Jois himself that when he saw what happened he asked immediately if he was OK to which Jois responded that he was.

Sharath, the main carrier of the Ashtanga lineage these days confessed that he would have screamed himself.  So would I.

So, no, I would not do such thing.  Pattabhi Jois and Krishnamacharya had a special relationship, one that we will never know about in full. One that we cannot really judge from a distance other than by making assumptions and imagining things.

Comparing ourselves and our teachers to them is like comparing bananas and pomegranates.  They are just not the same thing.

I like pomegranates

These days we have so many people out there claiming to be yoga teachers, that it is more important than ever to exercise discrimination (see 12 suggestions to finding a good yoga teacher). That we are careful about who we trust and that we develop a relationship with a teacher over years.

For example, I trust Sharath in full.  Perhaps it is the projections of my mind, a mind trick, call it what you will. I am guilty of it, and I say that because when he is near me, my body tends to be able to do things that normally it does not.  His presence removes mental barriers it seems.  Besides, when he adjusts me he is ever so gentle and careful that I would NEVER get hurt.

John Campbell, my teacher in NYC is also one that I trust. He has put in the hours, he is certified and has been teaching forever. He is also a humble person, someone who exudes trustworthiness. But you bet if I was bleeding I would stop him. In fact I have done this when one time he was helping me walk the hands towards the heels in Urdhva Dhanurasana and it was just too much for me.   He totally understood.

I trust John.  I have known him now for over 4 years.  He knows my practice. Our student/teacher relationship developed slowly and over years, he knew when I lost my job and my whole life was in turmoil, he knew when I was getting married, even signed the card and contributed towards the pot present I got from all yogis (sweet them!). I also learned about his life and these days we have a very professional bond in which we share about the practice and about life, his retreats, Sharath coming over to the NY area,  my going to Mysore, etc.

How many teachers do we know today that have been studying yoga for over 30 years in a serious way, you know? Krishanamacharya’s way (waking up at 4 studying it and practicing it  all day long).  Not many.

So these are not those times.  Our teachers are not that teacher. And even if it was the big K, we must remember he did not know that was happening.  If I was Jois, I would probably have said something.  Then again, I am not that student.

12 Steps on How To Find A Good Yoga Teacher

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6 Responses to Would You Let Your Yoga Teacher Stand On You While in Pain And Bleeding?

  1. Anonymous March 9, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    Two comments: (1) that is not Guruji being stood upon by Krishnamacharya. He is on the other side of the picture, in shoulder-stand. (2) that is not the palace in which Krishnamacharya taught. He taught in the Jaganmohan Palace.

  2. Claudia March 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    Anon, don't remember where I read that in the latest yoga documentary there was Guruji himself saying that was him, but you could be right, it might not be, I did not see the documentary

  3. Claudia March 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Here is where I read it, look at the video, minute 1:03

  4. Anonymous March 9, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

    after looking at the picture and the thought of bleeding, it gave me the willies and i couldn't even read the article. on a positive note, right now, i have the flu along with the rest of the family and i think about your overcoming lyme disease for strength. you are a true inspiration and happy that you believed in healing.

  5. Claudia March 11, 2012 at 7:31 am #

    Sorry to hear you have the flu Anon… glad to be inspiration, is good to know all that ordeal helps somewhat! 🙂 Feel Better!

  6. Claudia July 30, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    Pattabhi Jois is actually on the other side of the picture, in shoulder-stand. The same picture also appears in the 1934 book, Yoga Makaranda. In 1934, Jois who was born in 1915 would have been about 19 years old. The boy in the picture is clearly much younger than 19 years old!!!