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In September of 2001, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois was not at his home in Mysore, India. Temporarily leaving his students there to fend for themselves, he traveled to New York, along with his wife and two generations of his descendants, to share his knowledge and mastery of Ashtanga yoga with hundreds of people who had come from all over the world to learn from him.

In addition to those who would be watching, listening, learning — and sweating — at Guruji's feet was Mary Wigmore, a film student at Columbia University, and her associates, who came bearing cameras and microphones to produce a documentary chronicling what might have been (but has proved not to be) his last teaching tour.

After two years of post-production work, the result is Ashtanga, NY. Weighing in at about forty five minutes long, it is a combination of a visual record of the actual yoga sessions, and testimony from various New York Ashtanga students (some being celebrities that you would recognize) describing how they perceive Ashtanga, what it has done for them, and their impressions of Jois. Also prominent in the film is the grandson of Jois, Sharath Rangaswamy, who is preparing himself for the challenge of succeeding him as the only living master of Ashtanga when he departs this existence. He is featured both in speaking about yoga, and in his practice sessions. Seeing him practice, whether the watcher is a practitioner or not, one can only say Wow!.

After its premier at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in May, I had the privilege of seeing its third outing today at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The auditorium was packed. Presumably comprising mostly people involved in yoga in Santa Barbara, I recognized only a few attendees, notably including my teachers David and Andrea, who are well respected and have studied under Jois himself in Mysore. I don't know how many in the audience, like me, were unaware that they had attended the 2001 New York workshop, but there was hearty laughter and rousing applause when they were recognized on screen.

Having been practicing Ashtanga for about nine months (and still anticipating reaching the end of the first series someday), I enjoyed the film thoroughly. My friend Edward, who introduced me to yoga, though he does not do Ashtanga specifically, did also. When it was over, Ms. Wigmore thanked the audience for appreciating it and "laughing in all the right places".

While it will not be in wide commercial release, it is being prepared for sale on DVD, and will at some point be available for purchase at www.ashtangafilm.com, and perhaps elsewhere online.

April 14, 2005 The DVD is now available at Amazon.com among other retailers, including, quite possibly, the "yoga" store in your town. (It is in mine.)

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