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pattabhi jois's teaching style

14th November 2003 permanent link

Brian Micklethwait has been reading Yehudi Menuhin’s memoirs, and talks about Menuhin’s experiences with his first violin teacher. Some of what he says reminded me of Pattabhi Joi's teaching approach, as I said in Brian’s comment section:

This is very interesting. I study yoga (as Menuhin also did) and the yoga master I studied with in India - who has been practicing for 75 years and teaching for over 60, and is now one of the best known and most senior teachers in the world - has exactly the kind of minimalist approach Menuhin describes in his violin teacher. He doesn't care in the slightest what students' practices look like. He teaches mainly by touch - helping students into positions they never thought they could get themselves into, so that they then experience what it's like to be there and have their perceptions of what they are capable of altered. Outside of class he does - sometimes, when he feels like it - issue long philosophical lectures in a very endearing but not easy to follow mix of idiosyncratic English and fluent sanskrit - but in class it's all short, sharp commands/reminders - "breathe!", "straight arms", "your heel to your navel!". As to why the arms need to be straight, or the heel at the navel - he doesn't bother explaining, just says you should do your practice diligently every day and "all is coming". If you're willing to put the effort in, it will all make sense eventually; and if you're not, what good was a verbal explanation going to do you anyway?

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