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K. Pattabhi Jois (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)[4] in Mysore, India.[5] Pattabhi Jois is one of a short list of Indians instrumental in establishing modern yoga in the 20th century.[6][7][8][9]

K. Pattabhi Jois
Guruji white.jpg
K. Pattabhi Jois 2006 in entrance of KPJAYI in Mysore, India
Born(1915 -07-26)26 July 1915
Kowshika, Hassan, Karnataka, India
Died18 May 2009(2009-05-18) (aged 93)
OccupationYoga teacher
Known forAshtanga Vinyasa Yoga
Spouse(s)Savitramma (Amma)
ChildrenSaraswathi Rangaswamy
RelativesR. Sharath Jois (Rangaswamy) (grandson) Sathu Jois (granddaughter)


Early lifeEdit

Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois (Kannada: ಶ್ರೀ ಕೃಷ್ಣ ಪಟ್ಟಾಭಿ ಜೋಯೀಸರು) was born on 26 July 1915 (Guru Pūrṇimā, full moon day) in the village of Kowshika,[10] near Hassan, Karnataka, South India. 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 five, he was instructed in Sanskrit and rituals by his father, which is standard training for Brahmin boys. No one else in his family learned yoga.[11]


In 1927, at the age of 12, Jois attended a lecture and demonstration at the Jubilee Hall[12] in Hassan by T. Krishnamacharya[13] and became his student the next day. He stayed in Kowshika for two years and practiced with Krishnamacharya every day.[11]

In 1930, Jois ran away from home to Mysore to study Sanskrit, with 2 rupees.[1][14] 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.[15] Jois often accompanied Krishnamacharya in demonstrations.[16] and would occasionally assist Krishnamacharya in class and teach in his absence.[17]

Jois studied with Krishnamacharya from 1927 to 1929 in his own village, and then in Mysore from 1932 to 1953.[18][19] He studied texts such as Patañjali's Yoga Sūtra, Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā, Yoga Yajñavalkya and the Upaniṣads.[20]

Yoga KoruntaEdit

In 1924 Krishnamacharya spent time in the Calcutta University Library, supposedly researching an ancient text which he called the Yoga Korunta which he described as badly damaged and with many missing portions.[17] Krishnamacharya claimed he had learned this text from his teacher Rama Mohan Brahmachari in the Himalayas.[21] Jois began his studies with Krishnamacharya in 1927 and was taught what Krishnamacharya called the Yoga Korunta method.[17] An entire system of practices including Pranayama, Bandhas, (core muscular and energetic locks) and Dristi (visual focal points) were included along with āsanas and vinyāsa.[21] Jois went on to teach the same method.[22] Jois stated that he had never seen the text;[23][17] its authenticity is difficult or impossible to validate as no copy has ever been seen by scholars.[24] A major component of Ashtanga Yoga absent from Krishnamacharya's early teachings was Surya Namaskara A & B.[21][25] However, Surya Namaskara already existed, and Krishnamacharya was aware of it in the 1930s, as it was being taught, as exercise rather than as yoga, in the hall next to his Yogaśala in the Mysore palace.[26][22]

Family lifeEdit

On the full moon of June 1933, when Jois was 18 years old, he married Savitramma,[14] who affectionately came to be known as Amma by Pattabhi Jois's family and students alike. They had three children: Saraswathi, Mañju and Ramesh.[27][28]

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 in his early 60s.[29]

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 with a salary, scholarship to the college and room and board.[17] Pattabhi Jois held a yoga teaching position at the Sanskrit College[16] of Maharaja from 1937 to 1973,[30] becoming vidwan (professor) in 1956,[30] as well as being Honorary Professor of Yoga at the Government College of Indian Medicine from 1976 to 1978.[20] He taught there until 1973, when he left to devote himself fulltime to teach yoga at his yogashala.[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.[31]

In 1948, Jois established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute at their home in Lakshmipuram.[32] In 1964 he built an extension in the back of the house for a yoga hall.[11] 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 the book J'apprends le Yoga (1967, English title: Yoga Self-Taught) which mentioned Jois and included his address. This brought Westerners to Mysore to study yoga.[14][22] The first Americans came, after Jois's son Manju demonstrated yoga at Swami Gitananda's ashram in Pondicherry.[11] Jois gained attention from celebrity students including Madonna, Sting, and Gwyneth Paltrow.[33] To accommodate the increasing number of students, he opened a new school in Gokulam in 2002.[34] Jois continued to teach at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, now in the neighbourhood of Gokulam,[10] with his only daughter Saraswathi Rangaswamy (b. 1941) and his grandson Sharath for the rest of his life.[35]

His first trip to the West was in 1974 to South America, to deliver a lecture in Sanskrit at an international yoga conference.[30] In 1975 he stayed for four months in Encinitas, California, marking the beginning of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in the US.[31] 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'[11] He would return to the US several times over the next 20 years, to teach yoga at Encinitas and beyond.[31]

Parampara, the passing of knowledge from teacher to pupil (traditionally, from guru to shishya), is said to lie at the heart of Jois's Ashtanga Yoga.[36] Teachers are certified through many years of daily practice and extended trips to Mysore, India, to become authorized "lineage holders".[36] Haing studied under Krishnamacharya for many years, Jois expected the same from his students, creating among the most stringent professional development requirements in modern yoga.[36] 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.[37] '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.[37]


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."[38][39] Pattabhi Jois also claimed he was B. K. S. Iyengar's teacher,[40] although Iyengar has denied this.[41] 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.[22]

The Economist obituary 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.[8] CounterPunch magazine article indicated that Jois was a "reported sexual abuser of students."[42] Accusations of Jois's inappropriate touching of women during yoga classes also surfaced on YogaDork,[43][44] in Elephant Journal,[45][46] in Yoga Journal,[47] in The Walrus magazine,[48] and in YogaCity NYC.[49]

The obituary in The Economist also questioned Jois's adherence to the yogic principle of ahimsa or non-violence, writing 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."[8] 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."[50]

In 2019, R. Sharath Jois, the grandson of K. Pattabhi Jois, made an official statement apologizing to the victims of the sexual misconduct perpetrated by his grandfather.[51]


In the early 21st century, Jois's grandson, R. Sharath Jois, led the ashtanga yoga community as the director and main teacher at the K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI) in Mysuru. Sharath also teamed with yoga practitioner and philanthropist Sonia Klein Jones to create Jois Yoga in honor of K. Pattabhi Jois.[52][53][54][55][56] 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 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,[36] who teach yoga classes across the globe.[21]

A student, David Life, co-founder of Jivamukti Yoga, 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."[57] A 2006 film Guru was made about him by Robert Wilkins.[58]


  1. Jois, Pattabhi (1999; revised ed. 2012). Yoga Mala. New York: North Point Press. ISBN 978-0-86547-751-3


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  5. ^ Anderson, Diane. "In Memoriam". Yoga Journal.
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  29. ^ " Articles: Tim Miller Interview by Deborah Crooks". Retrieved 18 February 2019.
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  31. ^ a b c "News from California, the nation and world". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
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  41. ^ Sjoman, N. E. (1999). The Yoga Tradition of the Mysore Palace (2nd ed.). New Delhi, India: Abhinav Publications. p. 5. ISBN 81-7017-389-2.
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  51. ^ "Sharath Jois, PARAMAGURU on Instagram: "Growing up I was very close to my grandparents. When I recall learning asana from my grandfather it brings me immense pain that I also…"". Instagram. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
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External linksEdit