How Derek Ireland got introduced to Ashtanga

I promise I will get to the story of how Derek Ireland got introduced to Ashtanga.

Just indulge me for a second as I try to explain how we have this story.

One of the benefits for us — and none of us do anything that has “no benefit,” right? — in starting this blog is the confluence of people with whom we have had the chance to connect. (We now say as much on our “About” page.) There are the many Ashtanga practitioners who have commented here or just emailed us (or sent us messages on Facebook). There are the “virtual” friends we’ve gained, people like Robbie Norris and Peg Mulqueen. There are the teachers we’ve ended up having some sort of unexpected relationship with, probably most notably David Garrigues.

And then there are the deeper relationships that have developed. At the center of it is Eddie Stern, who basically told us “You go” when we were wondering and waffling about our Yatra via Namarupa. Talk about proof that you should trust the “teacher”.  (Although, to be fair and honest, Tim Miller remains, for us, the Teacher.)

On our Yatra, we met and traveled with a host of interesting and wonderful people. From the Ashtanga teacher world there was Kate O’Donnell and Barry Silver; there were many others — the list would make an already too long preamble of epic length.

And there was both Robert Moses and Radhakunda Das. (I promise we are almost to the Derek Ireland story.)

Since the Yatra, we’ve kept in touch with Robert (and helped edit the last Namarupa issue); frequently, Eddie is on the emails, as well.

These conversations, without giving anything private away, range from mind-expanding to side-splitting. And often, something comes up, some tidbit or insight, that leave Bobbie and I just sort of amazed to be a part of the discussion.

This happened to an extreme last week. (We’re now to the Derek Ireland story.)

After we posted a link to Tim’s blog, recounting his time in New York and dinner party with Krishna Das, Eddie Stern and Leslie Kaminoff, Robert sent an email to Eddie, Leslie and me. In it, Robert noted that, while Leslie had recounted that Derek Ireland and his partner Radha used to come take classes with Leslie in the ’70s at the Los Angeles Sivananda center and that Derek “was introduced to ashtanga yoga in a shvitz by Norman Allen in the 80s”; it actually had been Robert who first introduced Derek to Ashtanga at the Sivananda retreat in the Bahamas.

Robert’s email was very polite and friendly, as was Leslie’s response. It so happens that Leslie was out in San Diego this past weekend, and had dinner on Saturday night with Tim. Tim — to whom I’d sent an email on this, per Robert’s request — mentioned it to us when we saw him Sunday.

All well and good. Then, last night, I got an email from Leslie saying I could post any part of his reply to Robert. How could I not take that opportunity? And then he also sent along the pictures included below.

Here is a bit from Leslie to Robert:

I also didn’t recall that you had returned to the Retreat (Bahamas) after being transferred to the Ranch (Catskills), so I assumed Derek’s first exposure was in NYC, where we did indeed encounter Norman and Tridham Das practicing in the svitz.  Derek did not let on that he had seen astanga before, and he seemed quite surprised actually – but then again, who wouldn’t have been – seeing those 2 jumping around in the 200+ degree heat.  Of course, Derek had to join in.  As for myself, I went and jumped into the ice plunge.
I actually practiced Primary Series in my East 7th Street apartment every morning for a month in late 1985.  It was with a student of David Williams (a beautiful woman from Hawaii who was also a circus performer – can’t remember her name, tho).  I had to stop when my pre-surgical-torn-cartilage knees gave out.
I guess all I can claim credit for was persuading Derek and Radha to make the trek from Lemon Grove to Paradise Island to do TTC, and suggesting that they trade their fancy sound system for tuition because of how broke they were at the time.  Kudos for you for signing off on that deal.
They were both still on P.I. when I was there in June 1987, staying down the beach at Capt. Turner’s place for my honeymoon with my first wife Roberta (see photo below, taken on the famous tennis court).  I believe that’s the last time I saw him.  What a shock and loss when he passed.  He was one of the most accident-prone people I’d ever met, yet he survived all his mishaps (including the accidental self-immolation via exploding camp stove), so I guess I thought he could survive anything.

And the pictures to help set the scene: Derek and Radha (apparently right where Robert first showed him Ashtanga); the ice plunge; the Turkish baths.

DerekRadha1987

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There you have a little insight into one famous Ashtangi’s introduction to the practice.

Posted by Steve

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theconfluencecountdown

Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

8 thoughts on “How Derek Ireland got introduced to Ashtanga”

  1. Thanks for posting, Steve. I hasn’t seen the video of Derek practicing before. It was great to see him in his prime.

    Another interesting fact (though you’d never know it from watching him) he had a torn ACL (can’t remember which knee) that was never repaired. Got it playing rugby. Always amazed me he could do what he did with that unstable joint.

  2. Thank you for the informations about Derek!It is a great help for me and his boys, as he did not had the opportunity to talk to them about his life to them and my knowledge it is limited!
    Thank you again,
    Kristina Karitinou Ireland

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