This weekend there was an amazing Yoga Workshop with world famous Ashtanga Yogi, David Swenson. Three days at the convention center in Hamilton, Ontario that exposed many people to the world of Ashtanga. For me, Ashtanga was the original style I wanted to learn with the late Sri Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India but due to family obligations on my many trips to India, it never happened yet. At first I entered into the convention center and saw the sea of Yoga Mats laid out, so Katie from De La Soul Yoga (organizer of the event) invited me to lay out my mat close to the front. People came from all over to attend David's weekend workshop. The front was actually the middle, as David positioned himself in the center of the large banquet room. While he was giving a series of workshops for three days, today was Handstanding, Floating and flight. Like many people I have had injuries that have left some residual fears but with practice those fears have been put on the side to usher in the Joy of Flying. David began with answering questions from the group. He shared his take on certification as it is a beautiful thing and now a standard, but the certificate does not make an excellent teacher, he himself never had a certificate, nor did Sri Pattabhi Jois, nor did B.K. S. Iyengar or Krishnamacharya. Certification is a beautiful way to help regulate for studios, but experience, compassion and the ability to deepen a yoga practice is a safe way is ultimately what will make you a good teacher. While I myself taught long before I got a certificate, I am grateful for my training experience and look forward to more trainings. As Ashtanga is known for jump backs and jump throughs we began with that style of flight. With the help of partners we assisted each other to truly get the effect of the physics of the jump. While some may think it is about the height or the speed, it is actually supposed to be effortless with light feet and weight in the hands. From there we explored Handstanding, at first with partners to spot and then free style. It was AMAZING!!! No use of the wall whatsoever, and the beauty of this is it forces you to be aware of the body mechanics, while ensuring safety for your joints. From there we took flight with crow and side crow, kundinyasana, and more jumping through. We concluded the evening with a Pranyama and Bandha worksop that slowly turned into a Pranayama Circle. David began with the quote "Life is initiated on an in breath and terminated on an out breath". David has a brilliant way of teaching with remarkable demonstrations, beautiful stories of Sri Pattabhi Jois & his time in Mysore with Guruji, a ton of comedic comments, and encouraging variations to make sure everyone feels amazing! His occasional imitation of Guruji in an Indian Accent was fun to listen to also. The concept that if we are able to control our breath we can control our mind was something he highlighted, mentioning that this movement is meditation and connection to breath. This was important when we had us all explore Maha Bandha with the engaging of all three bandhas and truly experiencing the 6 directions of breath movement, rather then the sucking in of the abdomen that many people sadly think is Uddiyana Bandha. The Abdominal lock is much more than this, in fact Bandhas is the internal lifting and resisting which is what controls the outside core, therefore it is not a contraction, it is a lift.
It was such an awesome experience to learn with an incredible teacher like David. After the workshop he posed for a picture and we chatted up Mysore and Yoga. Thank you David for an awesome experience, I hope to learn more from you in the future. Thank you De La Soul Yoga for organizing this wonderful event.