Excerpts from “Guruji”
 
Guruji : The portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Through the Eyes of David Swenson
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Guruji always says 99 percent practice, 1 percent theory. What is your understanding of the theory part?
The theory is what you do the rest of the day, when you are not on your mat. If the theory cannot be woven somehow into the fabric of our every step, of the rest of our day, then it’s useless. Theory without application is just mental gymnastics. So the theory is determined by the choices we make. There are all kinds of people who can do amazing asanas, and they can be mean, nasty people. They might be really flexible, that doesn’t mean they are a yogi. So the philosophy means the choices we make. What is the 1 percent theory? You know what Mahatma Gandhi said when someone asked his religion? His reply was, “you follow me, you live with me for two week, you will understand.”…
On my first trip here in 1977, I watched Pattabhi Jois work with a quadriplegic boy. His family would carry him into the yoga shala and place his body on the floor. Pattabhi Jois would stand over him, take his body, manipulate him, put him in a yoga posture, and just “you do breathing. One ,two,” and just count and have him breathe. Then he’d put his body in another yoga posture. He didn’t say you can’t do yoga. So we have to be careful we don’t limit this to just some physical thing. This is also where the theory comes in: How does it apply? There is a definition of a yogi that I like: a yogis is a one who leaves the place a little nicer than whey arrived. So a question each of us can ask is: is the world a better place by our presence in it?
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What is the value of daily practice, day in, day out, twenty years, thirty years? What kind if inner quality is produced by it?
Well first of all, it’s really not a daily practice. If you look at the method of ashtanga, it’s daily  but I wouldn’t say it’s seven days a week. Ashtanga yoga averages out to five days a week. When you take out the moon days and the Saturdays that’s nearly six days a month, then invariably there’s some holiday, especially when you are in India: it might be Cow Day or some other kind of day and there’s “ladies’ holiday”, so it’s not meant to be practiced every single day. You need to have at least one day rest of a week. We are kind of like houseplants. If you deal with them with a regular schedule, they respond more easily. In a healthier, stronger light they grow stronger by this regulation. There is a saying of the alchemists: through reputation the magic is forced to arise. Aristotle said that practice is the strongest teacher of all. It’s only through reputation that we can gain depth of understanding. If you want to learn how to play the violin, you just play it the rest of your life, you continue to improve. Doesn’t mean you can’t play other instruments as well. It’s okay for people to practice different systems, you don’t have to practice only ashtanga, as long as we have the same goal to learn about ourselves. The benefit of regular practice is the strength that comes from that. However, if for some reason, any reason, a health reason, or out of sheer frustration, anyone goes away from practice, it’s okay, don’t feel bad. You come back to it and start again. If someone only has twenty minutes twice a week to practice, great, do that. Very few people are going to be able to do it ninety minutes a day for six days a week for the rest of their lives. But many people will be able to say, “I have fifteen, twenty minutes. I could do that Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.” Great, do that much. Even Pattabhi Jois has said, minimum daily practice Suryanamaskara A, Suryanamaskara B, and the final three postures of the closing sequence. So anyone can take benefit from this. If you are confined to a wheelchair, whichever part of your body you can move, you can move that and breathe with it.
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Is there anything you’d like add?
In the most simple terms, the best advice I can give anyone is enjoy your yoga practice. If you enjoy something, you’ll want to do it the next day. How do you enjoy it? Try to achieve the definition of asana. One I like is “posture comfortably held.” Move through the practice, practice for the rest of your life. Focus on your breath, don’t worry if you can do as asana. If you can’t do an asana, if you are feeling beat up, change your practice. Doesn’t mean the system is bad, use the tool differently, find a way to do this for the rest of your life. Enjoy your life. Let’s all strive to be a yogi, meaning: is the world a better place by your presence in it?
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