Mag gets Q&As with David Swenson, Tim Miller and Richard Freeman

Yoga International today posted Q&As with David Swenson, Tim Miller and Richard Freeman. (And yes, I’ve edited after I saw all three were online.)

Link right here to the David Swenson one. And a couple excerpts:

How can students apply Ashtanga Yoga to their daily lives, and how can they keep Pattabhi Jois’s legacy alive in the Western world?

Pattabhi Jois was fond of saying “99% practice and 1% theory.” Practice did not just mean flowing through asanas on our mat but rather the utilization of the beneficial aspects of the asana practice within the realms of the rest of our day. The goal was never to spend more time on the mat. The ultimate goal was to increase prana while practicing on the mat and then to take that positive energy back into our daily life and make the world a better place. What does that mean? Well, our mat can become a microcosm for the rest of our life. How do we deal with the asanas that are challenging and the ones we love? Breath, focus, and patience are the tools. When confronted with the challenges of daily existence we can draw upon the strengths we gain from our practice on the mat.

There are many aspects of life that we do not have control over. For instance, the economy, weather, accidents, traffic, unkind people, and myriad other instances and situations we may confront within a day. Though we do not have control of these things surrounding us, we do have control over how we react to the circumstances, situations, and challenges that life presents to us. Through the practice of yoga our reactions, actions, and general demeanor are refined. The greatest respect that can be given to Pattabhi Jois is for his students to demonstrate the benefits they have gained through their practice by acting with greater compassion, patience, and overall integrity in their lives. In this way, the legacy of Pattabhi Jois and his teachings will carry on for generations to come and his positive energy will continue to shine through the lives of his students.


How is the Ashtanga Yoga community today with Pattabhi Jois no longer here?

Of course the physical loss of Pattabhi Jois was followed by a deep pain and feeling of loss for anyone fortunate enough to have known him. For me, as I sat with the sadness of loss and contemplated his life and the powerful effect he had on me and countless others, I came up with an image that made it more bearable and brought peace to my heart. The image is of a grand old tree in the forest. Pattabhi Jois was like one of those magnificent trees that stands taller than the rest with a commanding majesty, presence, and fortitude. We gravitate naturally toward these big trees. People gather there and bring family, friends, and loved ones to relax beneath the comfort and security of its massive limbs. The tree provides shade and shelter and also becomes the fulcrum of a community. People travel from far and near to be near the tree.

And the Richard Freeman one:

What do you hope people take with them into their daily practice? What does the yoga community need to do to take the practice of yoga to the next level?

I would hope that people take from their daily practice a taste and enthusiasm for mindfulness which can be experienced as a brighter flame of intelligence that allows one to work more subtly and precisely with sensations, feelings, and thoughts as they arise. Also I would hope that all of us could be a little more curious about the roots of the yoga tradition, the variety of its expressions, its philosophies, languages, art, and its various beliefs. In other words, I would encourage us all to remember to come back again and again to an open-minded application of the attention of samadhi to everything in the whole world.

Practicing with mindfulness in this way can help us to take the practice to the next level because it requires that we act compassionately toward both ourselves and all others. This can remove the obstacle of hiding within a communal narcissism and can open the door to self-reflection and the ability to truly experience the interconnectedness of all things that is reflected through the practice.

Finally, the Tim Miller interview:

Ashtanga yoga in the West has come to mean a set of hatha yoga sequences taught by Pattabhi Jois. What were his main teachings and legacy?

Pattabhi Jois always claimed that he taught exactly as his teacher,  Krishnamacharya, taught him. Based on my experience of being his student for 30 years, I can attest to the fact that, over those 30 years, there were some new asanas added and some sequences rearranged.  If anyone ever questioned him about the changes he would say, “Now is correct.” Guruji was a combination of yogi, scholar, and scientist—he called his school the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. He knew all of the important yogic texts and incorporated these teachings as he refined the system taught to him by Krishnamacharya. Pattabhi Jois practiced and taught this system for 70 years, making little changes here and there.

Eventually there were six asana sequences—primary, intermediate, and four advanced series. The Primary Series is called Yoga Chikitsa—yoga therapy. It is designed to detoxify and heal the body, particularly the gastro-intestinal system, and to build strength and restore the natural range of motion to the joints of the body. The Intermediate Series, or Nadi Shodhana, works at a deeper level to open the energy pathways of the subtle body to increase the flow of prana. The Advanced Sequences, collectively known as Sthira Bhaga, stabilize this awakened energy and further strengthen the body and mind. The different asana sequences give us a very sophisticated and progressive method of cleaning, opening, and strengthening the body, and of steadying the mind and refining our awareness.

Check all the links for all the interviews. 

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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