Nancy Gilgoff Reports from Mysore in the 1970s

The HYZ logo. It grows!

In a straight-forward account that’s been floating around the internet, Nancy Gilgoff describesthe early form (and early evolution) of Ashtanga as Guruji was teaching it to her and David Williams. I’ve heard David Williams tell this same tale, as well as stories of revisions that came during Annie Pace’s and Tim’s time with Guruji, and I’ve come to a conclusion when it comes to the practice of Ashtanga.

Beware of dogma.

Many of our readers know this already, but it may surprise you to know that the word “parivrtta” was not in the lexicon. It may surprise you how that changed. As Nancy tells it:

During another, later trip to the States, Guruji added in Parivritta Trikonasana and Parivritta Parsvakonasana. The next time he came back to Maui to teach, he saw us doing Parivritta Parsvakonasana, asked why we were doing it, and said that this was “crazy posture” and that we should take it out. But the whole Maui crew loved it so much that he said we could leave it in.

A pose appeared in the sequence because the students loved it. Those of you who have studied with Timji feel this way about the Hanumanasana sequence that follows prasarita. You sometimes have to sneak it in, guerilla-style, outside of AYC. It’s a great read, and demonstrates, I think, elements of the excellence of Guruji’s teaching–indeed of all good teaching: the ability to evolve and learn (from the teaching itself, and from your students).

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “Nancy Gilgoff Reports from Mysore in the 1970s”

  1. This is very interesting, how the sequence basically grew organically from the interaction between Guruji and his early students.

    I’ve heard a bit here and there about the Hanumanasana sequence that (used to?) follows the Prasaritas. Maybe you can write a post on that soon, and expound on it a little more (how it came about, what it’s supposed to do in that place in the sequence, why it was subsequently taken out, etc.)? I think it will start a great discussion. 🙂

    1. I don’t actually know very much about the Hanumanasana sequence, other than learning it in Tim’s shala. The way Tim tells it, students just started doing it, so he started teaching it–very organic. It comes at a great time in the standing sequence, and makes total sense with its simplicity. Instead of rising from Prasarita D, ihale and extend, exhale and slide into samakonasana for five. Exhale hands down, ihale and turn to Hanumanasana right for five (the more accomplished fold here). Repeat samakonasana, then Hanumanasana left. Samakonasana again; then inhale up (not very graceful for me at this point, I’m afraid), step to the front of the mat and come to samasthiti. (Warning: Don’t try this in Mysore!)

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