Manju Jois has given lessons on ashtanga yoga for nearly five decades. His father’s pupil at age seven, and a teacher since 15, Jois’s ashtanga combines aspects of strength, therapy, energy and cleansing. Before going to the US and Europe, Jois met with The Coast at the ashtanga studio in Halifax to share some thoughts on yoga, the West and letting go.
I was wondering what your thoughts were on the commercialization of yoga here in the West.
Well, in the West they’re mostly into business. As soon as they start doing that, it’s going to lose its value. That’s why we like to keep it as authentic as possible. It’s sad because everybody wants to cash in on something.
And what is the true value of yoga?
Health. Concentration helps you get healthier and be healthy for a long, long time. It improves the memory and people live for a long time if they practice it right.
Purifying the nervous system. I was wondering what that means.
A lot of the time in your body, the circulation is not right and people get problems with that. A lot of nerves are blocked up…so when they start practicing, you put the pressure on those things to make the blood flow. So that is what cleansing means. Just making it work.
What do you believe is the most important thing someone should take from the practice?
Ashtanga yoga requires dedication. Breathing is very important in yoga. You have to breathe. That’s more important than the postures actually. When you start breathing right, it takes care of all the other aspects of yoga. That’s why we always say, “Deep breathe.”
Something you had mentioned earlier is when you teach yoga, you don’t want to scare away your students. You don’t want to say, “You have to do this.” Why has yoga come to that point where it’s very
When you’re a yoga teacher you don’t try to control. You have to give them what tools work for them and then you have to be more loving and caring with your students. I think in the West they like to control everything all the time and that’s why there are so many problems in the yoga world. We should stop doing this, trying to control. Give students what they want. Don’t tell them they can’t do it because you have no authority to say that to a student. Yoga is a therapy. Everybody’s physique is not the same, so you have to work according to that.
Over the years, how has your teaching style evolved, or has it changed?
Yoga has so many other aspects to learn. I decided about 11, 12 years ago I should go on the road, go to workshops and teach all the other aspects of yoga. When I went to Sweden, I had a big teachers’ training there. Then I started teaching all the chanting and people loved it.
You had mentioned the true value of yoga is health. For you personally, what does yoga mean to you?
It means everything to me. I love teaching, I love sharing, I love talking about yoga. I like to guide them. That’s why I go to so many countries every year.
Interview conducted and edited by Michael Lee