Manju Pattabi Jois is one of the most experienced teachers of Ashtanga yoga in the world and as the son of the Sri K. Pattabi Jois the renowned guru of Ashtanga Yoga Tradition, he has been practicing yoga since the age of seven. Manju has been coming to Dublin annually for many years and his workshops are typically full, drawing a large crowd of yoga practitioners. When I was just starting out in yoga as a beginner, I attended one such workshop and remember being genuinely inspired by his wise and learned approach. Last week, he held a 5 day workshop in ashtanga.ie and though my schedule was tight, I managed to sign up for one morning of mysore practice, pranayama (breath) and chanting.The yoga shala was packed to capacity and yoga mats were lined up side by side which generated a considerable amount of heat, sweat and energy during the class. With so much heat, there is a tendency to stretch that little bit further or try harder or trickier poses. But it had been a long week and I was happy enough to get adjusted in Prasarita Padottanasana C (wide legged bending forward pose) and Paschimottanasana A (seated forward bend) and simply do my practice.
At the end of the Mysore practice, Manju led a short instructed pranayama lesson focused on the breath. He demonstrated Nadi Shodana or alternative nostril breathing which helps unblock the sinuses, Sitali which is a cooling breath and finally a special gum focused breath which promotes oral hygiene.
The final part of the morning concluded with Vedic chanting. The purpose of chanting is to acknowledge and thank the properties of earth, wind, water and fire for giving us all these great things. Chanting engages the diaphragm and upper throat and the internal vibration helps with circulation, brain activity, memory and essentially wakes up the whole body. The sound of multiple voices chanting together was both beautiful and spiritual. The shared sense of community was something we could all be part of, even as strangers. I left the shala feeling energised, lighter and brighter. Manju’s special presence had once again allowed me to unwind and let go.