In 1979, sitting with Professor Krishna Pattabhi Jois, affectionately known as Guru Ji, I received a profound picture of what this time of my life would look like. He gave me the name Shyama, another name for Krishna, because I was born on the full moon of August/September, considered by some as Krishna’s birthday. Guru Ji is well known for being the Ashtanga Yoga series originator; in addition he is a professor of Sanskrit, a therapist, priest, astrologer and palm reader. The name Jois comes from the Sanskrit word for astrologer. On this day he read my palm and told me, “after 55, only for meditating in the jungle, you.” Although not completely literal, he saw a profound change that would take place in my life.
My mother gave birth to me at 1:11am on Sunday September 4, 1952, year of the Dragon, most memorable to me because that is the year that Paramahansa Yogananda ascended. It is commonly known that up until the time the casket was closed, three weeks after he died, his body had not gone into rigamortis nor had it at all decomposed. He is a truly inspiring modern day master/saint and part of my lineage, that of the Maha Avatar Baba Ji.
I have early memories, about five, of healing others and of holding space for people in need. In fact, during a hypnotherapy session when I was 33, more of my early life was revealed to me. I had been caring for my family (energetically) at the age of nine months, fully aware of every member and the dynamics between each one of them.
Yoga practice started at age fourteen with Lilias Folan and Richard Hittleman. Like Leonard Cohen said,” I started out on burgundy but soon hit the harder stuff.” By age fifteen Yogi Ramacharaka, Paramahansa Yogananda, Wilhelm Reich, Aldous Huxley, Erich Fromm and Alan Watts were all part of my library, and I was an avid martial artist. At twenty-four an acquaintance asked Swami Kousik Manju to do a little demonstration for me, letting Manju know that I would be a future student. Manju did the most amazing spontaneous demonstration with no warm up. To this day, no one has ever demonstrated the mastery of asana and vinyasa, with flexibility uncommon to his body type and strength beyond what I thought was possible. To this day that demonstration of Manju’s remains the finest yoga I’ve ever seen.
My girl friend and later the mother of my children and I were raw food and juice enthusiasts inspired by the Essenes, Tilden, Sheldon, Wigmore, Bragg, Walker, Jensen, Kovinskus, and Ehret. The healing properties of food and nutrition have continued to be an important part of the yoga therapy I practice.
Professor K. P. Jois certified me as an Ashtanga teacher in 1979 and continued to teach me all the four series (recently broken down into six series). The classes at the time were at most eight people and for many months I would be the only student, receiving 4 hour private lessons from the master. At other times the only other student was a quadriplegic girl that was there doing and receiving yoga therapy, something Guru Ji did at his shala and at the Mysore Hospital. Almost every day I would go up to Guru Ji’s reading room and sit with him enquiring about specific techniques and about yoga therapy. He was passionate and ready to pass on all that he could to me. He talked about his early days with Krishnamacharya. Guru Ji would get out of his chair where he would read the newspaper and demonstrate different ways of doing an asana or a vinyasa depending on what needed to be accomplished. He would show me techniques and describe sequences of asana that many ashtangis of today would surely disagree with.
I learned a lot about teaching flexible bodies like my own and a lot about stiff, strong bodies by watching Manju and one of his top students, Brad Ramsey who later became my partner in a yoga school. The many months of private lessons and conversations with Professor K. P. Jois, watching the different body types, and having injured myself and having had Guru Ji injure me, (which he apologized to me on more than one occasion) was the inspiration that evoked the yoga practice and therapy that I utilize today.
As mentioned earlier, healing was always a part of my path. Many astrologers and clairvoyants have seen the doctor, healer, cloister and clergy in my past. One anthroposophical doctor and astrologer said that my chart was the closest to Clara Barton, the woman that started the American Red Cross, that he had ever seen. He clarified by describing me as spiritual red cross. In my mid thirties grace (I like to capitalize Grace but then you would think it is a person) guided me to a job with a diplomat from the Applied Kinesiology College, Dr. Karl Hynes. In my five year apprenticeship with him I learned what would become the backbone of injury assessment, treatment and prevention in yoga therapy. As his assistant, I learned orthopedic tests and assessments, functional muscle testing, measuring range of motion, preliminary treatment assessment and progress reporting (to the doctor). Prior to 1985 when I started with AK (Applied Kinesiology), I had studied sports massage, Swedish, Trager, Shiatsu, deep tissue, fascial release, PNF, strain/counter strain, Polarity Therapy and continued to study as the years went on. Since this time therapy has been my primary work. It became necessary for me to create a modified yoga series to address my own injuries, the physical stress from laboring on my Hawaii farm and to address my increasing age. In my late forties Grace would have her way again putting me in contact with a Native American Indian medicine man, MD and research scientist, Dawn Medicine Wolf. Dr. Wolf further supplied me with profound healing theories and solutions. Now it is time to teach Ashtanga Yoga Therapy, the name chosen because of the all encompassing eight limbs of this Royal Path, Raja Yoga.