Greetings from Paris—I am sitting in my fourth floor apartment in the Latin Quarter, overlooking the Seine with a lovely view of the Ile Saint Louis and Notre Dame cathedral. After arriving yesterday, the girls and I have been exploring the neighborhood, trying out different places to eat, doing a little shopping, and trying to adjust to the nine hour time change. Fortunately for me, I don’t have to teach until Friday, so I should be well acclimated by then.
Today’s full moon occurs at 11:52amPDT in the nakshatra called Purvashada. The Vedic Deity that rules this nakshatra is called Apas, the Goddess of the Waters, and the type of energy associated with it is called Varchograhana Shakti—the power of invigoration—similar to what we feel when we bathe. The great yogi and philosopher, Adi Shankaracharya, equated water with Sattva--the spiritual quality of life. The primary motivation of Purvashada is Moksha, or liberation. This is an excellent time to reconnect with our inherent spiritual potential.
The full moon of July is Guru Purnima—the celebration of the spiritual teacher. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois was born on the full moon of July in 1915, and it was his destiny to become the Guru to thousands of Ashtanga Yoga practitioners all over the world, and to be known simply as “Guruji”. The first Guru Purnima celebration honored the great rishi Veda Vyasa, originally named Krishna Dwaipayana—“the dark one born on an island”—a towering spiritual figure born from the union of the sage Parashara and the fisherman’s daughter, Satyavati, who would later marry King Santanu and unwittingly create the dispute over the rulership of Hastinapura that led to the Mahabharata War. Veda Vyasa wrote the Mahabharata, the Puranas, the Brahma Sutras, and the Srimad Bhagavattam. In addition he is credited with reorganizing the Vedas into the current fourfold format of Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda. (Veda Vyasa means the “divider of the Vedas”)
Guru Purnima is a day when we express our love, gratitude, and devotion to our Guru, and remember the significant contribution that he/she has made to our lives and the lives of many others. It is also traditionally a time for us to reflect on the past year and to recommit ourselves to the spiritual path taught by our Guru.
Pattabhi Jois taught Ashtanga Yoga for over seventy years with great enthusiasm, passion, faith, wisdom, and joy. I don’t think that there was anything he loved more than teaching, even though it took more than fifty years before he made a significant amount of money or achieved any recognition for doing so. Guruji always said, “Slow growing is good,” and his own life reflected that statement. With slow growth there is time for the development of a good root structure that will ensure that the teachings endure the test of time. Guruji had great faith in the practice of Ashtanga Yoga—not only to change people’s bodies, but their minds and hearts as well. He firmly believed that when his students committed themselves fully to the practice of Ashtanga Yoga they would be rewarded with good health, long life, intellectual discernment, and awareness of the underlying Spiritual Principles of Life that, when adhered to, would have the effect of the uplifting of all of humanity. If this is truly the “Age of Unity” as some interpreters of the Mayan Calendar say, then yoga is the greatest tool we have to move in that direction. As we use the tools we have been given by our teachers, it is important to recognize where they came from and to give thanks.