Judging an Ashtanga teacher by the website

Over to the right, you’ll find two lists of websites. One relates directly to the Confluence — the five teachers’ sites, the Confluence home page, the Mysore site and an intro to Ashtanga — and the other is a list of some blogs and sites of note, which we’ll keep adding to as we find new interesting ones. (That’s to help with our goal of being a resource for you — we hope you can come here and get a regular fix of Ashtanga news and information.)

The five Pandavas, with Krishna

It’s worth taking a little bit of time to look at the five teachers’ sites, especially the teachers you may be less familiar with from the … I’m tempted to make a Pandava reference, but I don’t think it quite works.

Obviously, there are storehouses of information at each one. But for the moment, I am going to talk just about a quick glance, a look, if you will, at the “covers” of each.

What I find from the quick look is the following, which in some ways reinforces my impressions of them and in others tears away those preconceived notions:

  • Richard Freeman’s site suggests to me his combination of influences and his joint interest in the practice and the philosophy. There’s also a certain serenity to it (via the bamboo) that corresponds to the way I expect him to be in person.
  • Nancy Gilgoff’s seems more like it is the site of one of the first people to trek into the (then) unknown of India and find Guruji. It is less slick than Freeman’s, and it seems to emphasize her less. It also seems a bit withdrawn, or maybe just that it doesn’t quite invite you in as quickly. I take that to reflect the on-the-edge of America quality to her moving to Maui all those years ago.
  • Tim Miller’s site, of course, is one I’m most familiar with of these teachers. It seems to me to emphasize the lineage to Guruji quite a bit while also being straight-forward — after all, this is his lively and his living: his shala. When he is traveling for weekend workshops, Tim is at his shala — in the tradition of Guruji — and I think his site lays out for you how to come, how to practice, how to get on the mat at the shala. It reflects that he is there, teaching.
  • Eddie Stern’s site, from what I’ve gathered about his shala, picks up the vibe and community that’s there. There aren’t any signs pointing AYNY out; you have to know and want to come. It also stresses the teaching line of Guruji in a very plain and traditional (since that’s the reputation Stern has) way. (A deeper dive, which I’m trying not to do here, on purpose, lets you into Stern’s writings and intellectual interests; but, again, there aren’t any flashing lights leading you that way.) I’m going to be very curious to see what Stern’s “presence” is like.
  • David Swenson’s site is the one that gave me the idea to just quickly glance at each and see what the impression was. His suggests he is everywhere, moving about, spreading the word of Ashtanga yoga. It’s the most market-driven site, fitting his role. It also clearly isn’t tied to a shala, as the other four are. It certainly stands out among them — and I have to imagine that the “Ashtanga Yoga Productions” branding rubs some people the wrong way. But I think he has an important role to play in bringing Ashtanga to the masses.

Those are my quick thoughts, without bringing any real value judgments to the table. Is there one I like the most, one I like the least? Of course. But right now, I’m just interested in how they may, or may not, reflect the teacher behind them — on a purely first-glance, judge the book by the cover, impression.

Do you come away with a different sense of any of the sites or teachers? Are there places I’m off the mark? Do they seem like good reflections of each teacher?

Posted by Steve

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theconfluencecountdown

Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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