Spend an hour with David Swenson

Here’s a video that slipped by us; today, it appeared on Facebook — but I can tie it back to the Third Series training because it is from Ashtanga Yoga Hong Kong’s YouTube channel; we’ve already linked to video from the training from there.


At least where the video is captured for me, it shows David partially standing and laughing. Which captures him nicely.

Posted by Steve

Your week, according to Vedic astrology

Tim Miller is up at Mt. Shasta for the second of two weeks of his annual trip (before, I should note, somehow making it all the way down the length of California, on Saturday, I’m guessing, before starting to welcome the flood of Third Series Teacher Training students on Sunday), where it’s a little smoky from all the fires that again are burning in California.

You can read more at his blog post this week, which focuses on the differences of our every day lives. In it, what jumped out at me, was about the most concise summation of how Vedic astrology looks at the week and the influence of the planets. It’s something he’s written about before, but never in quite such a neat package (to me knowledge). Sort of a 101 course:

In an attempt to understand these daily fluctuations I began to look into astrology for answers.  In Vedic astrology, each day of the week has a ruling planet, and each planet has a personality which creates a certain bhav, or mood, on its given day.  For example:  on Sundays we feel sunny, on Mondays we feel moody, on Tuesdays we feel energetic, but headstrong, on Wednesdays we are more intellectually inclined, on Thursdays we feel optimistic, on Fridays we feel more loving, and on Saturdays we feel obliged to take care of those sometimes unpleasant, but important mundane affairs.  At the same time the moon is either waxing or waning, and the planets are making aspects to one another that sometimes create a sense of ease and other times present great challenges.

As I’m about to go practice, I wish it were Tuesday or at least Thursday. Perhaps during practice I’ll consider why that is.

Posted by Steve

Two new David Swenson videos for you

I think, anyway. As best as I can tell, these haven’t been posted before but I think they are companions to some videos uploaded by the folks at the Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Melbourne last October (link to our posts on them here).


Both are nice and quick. You can find the Yoga Centre’s full YouTube video here.

UPDATE: New channel for the Centre is linked to in this more recent post.

Posted by Steve

Ashtanga, Poetry, and Ganesha’s Eyebrow

On our home altar we have a murti of Ganesha that I got a number of years ago. This is the Ganesha who received Vyasa’s dictation of the Mahabharata. He is standing contrapposto with his notebook in one hand and his broken tusk in the other. If you don’t know the story, it’s Ganesha who wrote down the epic, and so inspired was Vyasa that when the pen broke, Ganesha snapped off his own tusk and used it instead so as not to interrupt the poet. His hand with tusk is poised lightly just above the page. His trunk hangs down in an elegantly relaxed “S.” He is looking at you, head tilted to one side, elephant ears perked, and something like a smile implied in his demeanor. Above one eye, his eyebrow is cocked, as if he is waiting for you to utter the next words…

I nearly emptied the bank account to buy this image of Ganesha. I loved it the instant I saw it, but I couldn’t tell you why, exactly, until today.

The summer means a break from teaching for me, and as a result I spend it writing as much poetry as I can. I try to make the most of each day. But here’s the thing about poetry writing. You can’t really clock in, sit down, crank out a bunch of words, and then clock out.

“If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree,” wrote John Keats, “it had better not come at all.”

That process is shrouded in mystery. In the West, it’s long been compared to demon possession (“daemons” in ancient Greece were in an intermediate state between god and human); or at the very least, to possession by the Muse, something poets ardently sought and tried to magically evoke at the start of their poems (“Sing, Muse…”). So, basically, I sit around and wait for inspiration. “Inspiration”: from the Latin inspirare, “divine guidance.” (Also, interestingly, another name for the inhalation breath.)

But I’m under a certain amount of pressure not to waste my time. To make the most of my leaf growing. When something magical doesn’t happen, I get pissed. Which in turn insures that something isn’t going to happen at all, and makes the whole non-process difficult. Which, as Keats noticed, it’s not supposed to be. But of course it is, in turn making me more pissed off.

This was not the case today, however. I sat down, and I waited without waiting, and something like poetry came. In the moments following that odd phenomenon of creation, there’s something like relief: “To me alone there came a thought of grief,” wrote Wordsworth, “A timely utterance gave that thought relief, / And again I am strong.”

When I was done, and the poetry pathways were clear, and the work of poetry was finished, I grumpily rolled out my mat to practice. Because, you know, that’s what we do.

Ashtanga, as has been noted, is also hard. Not particularly wanting to practice doesn’t make that any easier, and a deep-seated sense of insecurity about whether or not one should even be doing Ashtanga can make that difficulty…well, more difficult. Combine that with the fact that you know exactly what’s coming, and what’s coming is hard, and you encounter a lot of mental resistance. Which does not exactly get you ready for yoga in the greater sense of the word: The calm mind. I was not ready. But as I put my palms together for the opening mantra, I looked into Ganesha’s eye with its cocked eyebrow, and had a vision.

The vision took the form of a scene from the 1969 film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Sundance: [Cocking his gun for the fight.] “Ready?”

Butch: [Inspiration striking.] “No, we’ll jump.”

Sundance: [Looking down the cliff at the raging river below.] “Like hell we will.”

Butch: “No, we’ll be okay. If the water’s deep enough and we don’t get squished to death. They’ll never follow us.”

Sundance: “How do you know?”

Butch: “Would you make a jump like that if you didn’t have to?”

Sundance: “I have to and I’m not gunna.” [This is exactly the way I feel before I practice, by the way.] [Snip.]

Butch: “I’ll jump first.”

Sundance: “Nope.”

Butch: “Then you jump first.”

Sundance: “No I said!”

Butch: “What’s the matter with you?”

Sundance: “I CAN’T SWIM.” [Pause.]

Butch: [Laughing.] “Why, are you crazy? The fall’ll probably kill you!”

Unable to resist in the face of Paul Newman’s impeccable logic, Robert Redford shouts film’s most famous “Woooooah shiiiit!” as they jump together. End of vision.

Standing there on my mat, I was laughing. The very act of poetry writing is in essence impossible; the very act of trying to write a poem is in fact the very thing that will keep you from writing a poem, which suddenly seemed, in the eye of Ganesha, very much like the impossibility of Ashtanga. I laughed, and had a delirious practice. I fell into it, like I fall into a poem, because the fall will probably kill me. But it might not. There’s only one way to find out. This, I suppose, is what surrender feels like, and I’d been doing it all along as a poet.

My murti of Ganesha so captured my attention years ago because of course he embodies the perfect state of artistic surrender. He’s waiting to receive, without anticipation and without expectation. He’s prepared, but in no way suggesting that anything must be done with all that preparation. And it’s in the absence of all those things that inspiration comes.

Posted by Bobbie

‘The greatest gift I ever received was the blessing of my Guru’

With tomorrow’s being Guru Purnima, you’d have been right to expect Tim Miller to recall Pattabhi Jois on his blog this week:

It was my good fortune to meet Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, better known as Guruji, in Encinitas 37 years ago.  In addition to teaching Mysore style classes six days a week for three months at the old church in Encinitas, Guruji also generously agreed to teach yoga theory classes at his son Manju’s house three nights a week. At that time Guruji’s command of English was limited, so much of the talk would be in his native Kannada, interspersed with lengthy chants from the scriptures in Sanskrit.  He would go on at great length regarding the given subject, sometimes laughing and occasionally moved to tears, then turn to Manju and ask him to translate.  Manju would then provide us with a very brief synopsis of what his father had said.  I couldn’t help but think that we were losing a lot in translation.

Read it all at the link, if you haven’t already.

Posted by Steve

If you want to plan way ahead: Ashtanga Yoga Conference in Bali 2017

It may turn out you can balance your Ashtanga calendars with a long weekend in San Diego one year, and a week in Bali the next.

No judgement here which is better…

I’d seen sketchy — read, secondhand Facebook — mention of the next week’s Ashtanga Yoga Conference at the Bali Research Center, and now found some firsthand confirmation.

It’s a pretty eclectic group of teachers. From the Bali Research Center’s June newsletter:

We have scheduled the next Conference for April 9-14th, 2017, with Manju Jois, Tim Miller, Richard Freeman, Danny Paradise, Kristina Karitinou and of course Radha & Prem Carlisi. I know it is almost 2 years away, but with these very in demand teachers, we had to schedule this far in advance. So put it down in your calendar as it will be another historic Ashtanga event you won’t want to miss!

That’s got most of the early threads of Western students represented. You can check the link above for more — as well as other opportunities to get to Bali. Because you really need a reason…

Posted by Steve

Breaking: Opponents won’t appeal ruling in Encinitas schools yoga program

Breaking news for you — hot off the presses about an hour ago.

The National Center for Law & Policy — the law firm leading the suit against the Encinitas schools yoga program — will not appeal any further. From its release:

The legal team, led by attorney Dean Broyles of the National Center for Law & Policy, has decided not to pursue the Sedlock v. Baird yoga litigation further after losing the appeal in April.  Attorneys for the Sedlocks successfully convinced both the trial court and the appellate justices that yoga, including Ashtanga yoga is religious.  However, the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) prevailed in their argument that they had changed or removed enough of the religious elements from their yoga program, so that the physical education classes were purportedly not unlawfully promoting religion in the public schools.

“This was a very tough call to make under the circumstances,” stated NCLP president Dean Broyles.  “We knew from the beginning this case would be an uphill battle because yoga is so popular and so many people believe the pervasive myth that yoga’s ‘physical’ practice can be neatly separated from the metaphysical or religious elements of Hinduism.  On the positive side, the lawsuit forced EUSD to significantly change its written yoga curriculum and some of its classroom teaching.  However, as even the appellate court acknowledged, the children are still being led through the Surya Namaskara, which is a Hindu liturgy worshipping the sun god Surya.”

“This ruling was an aberration from well-established legal precedents. No other court in the past 50 years has allowed schools to lead children in ritual religious practices, like devotional Bible reading, prayer, or meditation,” declared Broyles.   “EUSD’s devotional sun worship, including bowing, praying hands, and lifting one’s hands in worship to the sun is objectively religious and should not be treated any more favorably than Bible reading or prayer, even if EUSD is not teaching the children the supporting theology behind the Hindu rituals.  EUSD’s position is deceptive.  The social science research clearly demonstrates that yoga’s purported mere ‘stretching’ and ‘breathing’ components, called asanas and pranayama in Sanskrit, are, by themselves, spiritually transformative.”

“I am very proud of the Sedlock family and for my outstanding legal team for being willing to stand up for the truth and religious freedom in the midst of the trying fires of a very difficult and unpopular case,” continued Broyles.  “The personal attacks endured by the family and the legal team were pretty outrageous at times.  But we consistently told the truth and fought the good fight.  As a result, we have seen more and more parents opt their children out of the yoga classes after learning the truth.  Unfortunately, because of the superintendent and board’s continued obstinacy after parents raised legitimate religious concerns, many good families have left the district.”

Not everything is all done, however. A little more:

“This is not the end of our broader principled campaign to tell the truth about yoga.  We will continue to look for opportunities to educate parents and fully expect to be engaged in future efforts to stop the deceptive religious indoctrination of our children by the state,” said Broyles.  The concerned parents in Encinitas have launched an informative website:  http://truthaboutyoga.com/

That site, which features a quote from former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, includes the following:

Welcome. You are reading this website, so maybe you wonder why a group of parents in the Encinitas school district are concerned about yoga replacing P.E. and why we are educating others to discover the true facts about yoga in our district and beyond. On the surface it may seem like a helpful way to stretch, breathe, and calm a busy mind; but is it just that? There are many pieces to investigate in this vast puzzle and here is where we started: For the first time in our nation, yoga entered all of the elementary schools (K-6) on a mandatory basis for the entire school district in 2012 (5- 12 year olds), and we parents had a few questionsMaybe you have some of the same questions. Maybe there is more to it than you ever dreamed. We were shocked by the answers we found and this website is our attempt to answer most any question you might ask if we were sitting together having coffee together right now. If you need more information after you read this, we are available for a cup with you.

It also links to Tim Miller’s studio and the Jois studio (although it has the old location).

My favorite thing is this:

Q: Would the EUSD Board have implemented the Ashtanga yoga program and replaced the majority of regular P.E. if there were no grant money provided?

What do you think?

I think you can think this: The battle is won but the war continues.

You can scroll back through all our coverage of the trial here.

Posted by Steve