Marjolein, teacher in Ashtanga yoga, joined the workshop with David Williams. In this essay she gives a review of this workshop:
In the room there is a cozy buzz, mats are being rolled out, blankets fluffed, acquaintances are being made. All chit chat has the same topic: “how exiting to be able to meet David Williams”, the yogi that brought Patabi Jois, his son Manju, and Asthanga yoga to the United States.
David enters the shala in a modest way, establishing first of all how all participants can have a prime spot during his workshop. Soon hereafter the room turns quiet and David shares how he was first introduced to yoga by Tom Law at an Atlanta music festival (picture the Woodstock scene and google if you are looking for some images!).
David has learned all four Ashtanga series as well as the original Pranayama from Patabi Jois. To date, he has 46 years of uninterrupted practice, 20 years of which he dedicated to becoming a yogi. Travelling from his home base Hawaii, he shares with the world the Ashtanga and pranayama as he learned it in the 5000 year old yoga tradition. Being friends with Nancy Gilgoff and having taught amongst others David Swenson and Danny Paradise, his stories are plentiful.
David’s key message during the workshop is powerful: “if it hurts you are doing it wrong”; “there is no benefit from pain and injury. Astangha yoga is a moving meditation. It aims to increase your life force, vitality and energy (prana !)”. While breathing deep, find the place where your stretch feels “the absolute best”, your body will produce endorfines releasing your stress and “increasing your energy bars” like a cell phone.
Many people (not even in India) are able to reach a full lotus or to bind in Marychasana D. Yoga is not about “getting to a posture”, says David. “You can do all asanas in your own way and go step by step. What you can do, you do!” Increase your prana, and your practicing becomes healing! Adjustments can take you out of this special flow and can lead to injuries; only you know how you feel inside!
“Without bandhas it is not yoga” Patabi Jois is quoted by David. So our practice during the workshop is with mula bandha (that will sufficiently create uddiyana bandha when held during the practice) and jalandhara bandha active. Using Jalandhara bandha will support the energy flow in you full spine including your neck.
During the practices, David invites us to keep our knees on the floor in the sun salutations (in stead of upward facing dog) to support releasing the lower back. After two days this becomes actually quite pleasant! And so David is able to place a different accent on a number of asanas, taking us back in time, imagining ourselves to be in the little room of Patabi Jois in which only 8 people could practice at the same time.
Touring with Pavarotti and recent research, had made David decide to take out Chakrasana, Setu bhandha, shoulder and headstand from his practice and teachings. He feels better as a result and has the same benefit is reported by his students. Food for thought and further reading!
David’s abundant experience sheds a different light on the rich history of yoga as well as practicing and teaching. I look forward to sharing and implementing my experiences and hopefully there will be the opportunity to practice with David again.
Aiming for good health till your old age? David promotes a steady daily practice that allows for flexibility: if you cannot do a full practice, then do the “daily minimum”: 3x each Surya Namaskar A & B, and the 3 finishing poses (25 deep breaths in Padmasana and 100 quick breaths in Uth Pluthi).
I wish you all a lovely Summer vacation. And when you practice, practice like David Williams: enjoy every move and find that sweet spot in each Asana! “Aloha!”
- Marjolein Selis
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