This past weekend, I spent 14 hours learning from David Swenson, one of the foremost authorities on Ashtanga yoga in the world (here’s his most famous book: Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual). This blog is mostly about me getting it down on (digital) paper before I forget the details. The broad stroke takeaway is that I am forever changed by this experience – as a yogini and a yoga teacher for sure, but as a person just as much. I’m overflowing with gratitude for having had this opportunity and experience. Before I continue any further, I need to thank my husband, Wayne, for this opportunity and experience since he’s the one who made the whole event happen. Thank you, honey xoxo.
I wasn’t sure how I wanted to attack this post, so I think I’ll just stick to the chronology.
Thursday night, I was lucky to be tasked with picking up David at the airport. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve met a few yoga celebrities during my many trainings and I will say that most are very friendly. There have been a couple that were obviously impressed with themselves and one I would put into the category of guarded. I wondered with some trepidation where David would fall, fearing that I would be disappointed. I pulled up to the curb to collect him, got out of my car and he briskly walked towards me and scooped me up in what I can best describe as an enthusiastic hug like you might give your close friend of 30 years with whom you are reuniting. He was authentically, joyously, smiling from ear to ear. Now for those of you cynical bastards thinking, yeah, I’ll bet he did, first of all, shame on you. Second of all, he did the same to Wayne lol, who I’m sure was a little taken aback by the experience. For myself, I was relieved and excited that the weekend was about to begin. We spent the car ride talking about Texas, where he’s from, and New Jersey, where I’m from, and their equally bad reputations. We talked about his unexpected new passion for his wife’s Peloton bike and life in general.
Friday night: the workshop begins
Friday night consisted of a fundamentals of Ashtanga yoga class. This was an overview exploration of the method and the poses of the primary series. What stood out about this introductory session and what I was unprepared for was how funny he was, how dead on his impressions were of Pattabhi Jois, Richard Freeman, Tim Miller, and so on were. The entire class was laughing throughout the two hours.
Saturday workshops: The FULL Primary Series, Floating and Handstanding Workshop, and Pranayama Workshop
Saturday morning began with the full ashtanga primary series. The full series, not edited in any way. I’m making this distinction because when I teach it, I tend to edit. I leave out some of the poses that I know are beyond the skill level of anyone in the room. From now on, I won’t do that. We discussed the need to keep everything in, offering modifications of course, but leaving everything in so that students are aware of the practice in its entirety. If you’re one of my students, buckle-up – that’s coming.
At the end of this practice something happened for the first time in my 20 years of practicing. I’ve seen this happen to other people. I’ve seen this happen to my own students, but I’ve never had this happen to me. As I lay down to savasana, I wept. A steady stream of tears flowed from the outer corners of my eyes, down my cheeks. They were tears of joy, tears of gratitude for the opportunity to be in that moment, tears of love for the practice that has saved me in more ways than I will ever be able to express. Now, I’m not a terribly weepy person and I’m not an overly emotional person, so it took me completely off guard. Even now as I’m typing this, I can feel that emotion rushing in. ❤️
The second workshop was about floating and going upside down… so you know… candy. I learned some great tips for teaching my students and I can’t wait to pass along that information! The third workshop was all about pranayama and I learned that I’ve pretty much been breathing wrong for the entirety of my yoga journey. Hurray! Oh well, nothing like trying to do something easy, like LEARN HOW TO BREATHE ALL OVER AGAIN. Piece of cake. These two workshops along with Sunday’s inversion workshops were taught in the style of teacher trainings. Wonderful. As someone who now teaches often at teacher trainings, I learned a whole bunch of new tools to pass on for partner work. I’m excited.