I was super excited to do this interview with David Garrigues. I have watched his videos and read his blog for years. His commitment to the practice shines through everything that he puts on the “interwebs”. The way he speaks and presents information is mesmerizing and I look forward to practicing with him in person.
I am equally fascinated by his books, Ashtanga Yoga Maps and Musings and Ashtanga Journals. His voice is pure and comes through clearly in his work. Both books are written in a way that makes me feel like I am getting to know him and it makes them feel very personal. Each book is packed full of wisdom on Ashtanga yoga. They are the sorta books that you can just pick a random page in the morning and something will jump off the page that you needed to hear.
So who is David Garrigues?
David Garrigues is one of a few teachers in the US certified to teach Ashtanga Yoga by Yoga Master Sri K Pattabhi Jois. As an Ashtanga ambassador he bases his teachings on the idea that ‘Anyone can take practice.’ said by Sri K Pattabhi Jois. He is dedicated to sharing the beauty and soul of Ashtanga Yoga with everyone.
David’s mission is to be part of an ever wider circle of people who are dedicated to exploring the living, contemporary, lineage of Ashtanga Yoga. He wants to join with enthusiastic people who are open and committed to learning and applying the teachings in ways that promote physical, psychological, and spiritual growth in themselves and others.
David is the author and producer of 4 dvd’s/downloadable video series: Ashtanga Yoga: Guide to Primary Series, Ashtanga Yoga: Guide to Intermediate Series, Ashtanga Yoga: Guide to Ujjayi Breathing, and Ashtanga Yoga: Guide to Pranayama. He has also written three books: Vayu Siddhi: Secrets to Yogic Breathing and Ashtanga Yoga: Maps and Musings Part 1 and Part 2
David’s highly popular YouTube video channel, Asana Kitchen, is one of YouTube’s premiere resources on Hatha Yoga and has a wealth of free, expert instructional videos to inspire progress in beginner through advanced practitioners.
David teaches workshops, mysore intensives and in-depth studies around the world, including a mysore and pranayama intensive in Kovalam, India during the month of February. He is also the director of the Ashtanga Yoga School of Philadelphia.
APP: How do you pronounce your name? LOL
DG: The easiest way to think about pronouncing it is to drop the “ues” at the end. So you just say “Garrig”. Guh-Reeg
APP: Tell us about your new book, Ashtanga Maps and Musings
DG: “Ashtanga Yoga” All the content in the book is about Ashtanga Yoga.
“Maps” I base all of my teaching on a set of Hatha Yoga maps. I call them maps but really they are the Hatha Yoga techniques such as: pranayama, mudras, asana, and samadhi. And then within those techniques you have another set of maps the Ashtanga Yoga ones that Sri K Pattabhis Jois talks about in Yoga Mala, vinyasa, dristi, dhyana, breath, and bandhas. And then within the Ashtanga Yoga maps you have more maps! For example, vinyasa has earth, foundation, dynamism, etc. So the books explore all these maps extensively.
“Musings” My thoughts, explorations, drawings, pictures, articles and journals about these maps.
APP: Why should we read this book?
DG: 99% practice, 1% theory. Never forget how important the 1% is. You need the 1% in the background of your mind when you practice and so its worth it to read books that teach you the 1%. Yoga is the perfect Rubik’s cube and so any information you have at your disposable is useful in gaining more insight and understanding into the practice.
APP: It was recently the anniversary of Pattabhi Jois’s passing, can you please share a fond memory or story with us?
DG: One day it happened that there were several of us students hanging around in the front room of Guruji’s old house hoping for some of Amma’s delicious coffee. Amma was Guruji’s wife and an incredible human being. The atmosphere was rather loose at that time, there was no official conference, no distinct timing or plan, no official teaching from him. We’d just mosey over there towards sunset and see what was up. Sometimes questions about the practice would be introduced and if Guruji was in the right frame of mind, he’d answer. So the topic whether some people were teaching the method correctly or not came up, something that had to do with the speed of the practice.
During the discussion there was an interval of cross talk and commotion, and during this time Guruji looked at me, and for a moment it was as if it was only he and I in the room. He let me know that the method was to be done swiftly, that tempo, rhythm, and dynamism were essential to learning the practice properly. He said ‘quickly you do, that is the method’. Without too many words he let me know that he was trusting me to understand what he was telling me and that I was somehow responsible for remembering and sharing this aspect of the practice.
To me he was not saying that the practice is to be done in haste, unthinkingly fast, or in any sort of hurried fashion. Instead he was saying that the proper method is done by practicing dynamically, by moving into and out of the asanas in complete gestures born of free breathing, animal surety, confidence and energetic enthusiasm.
APP: How important is parampara (teachings passed down through a lineage)?
DG: I’m going to give you my very short, brief answer and I will quote Guruji, “One doctor curing, two doctors deathing.” To me its that important. The teacher/student relationship is of the utmost importance. If a student asked me if they should dedicate themselves to a teacher I would answer, “Most definitely and trust is the key. One of the most important relationships you can develop is to have someone be a guide and an ally on your spiritual quest.”
APP: You are very knowledgeable of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. How important are they to a yoga practice, if at all?
DG: The more knowledge you have the better. In the beginning, maybe the first ten years, you won’t read them or pay attention to them as much but as you grow in your practice you will discover their power and how important and how crucial it is to have the Sutras in the background while you practice. The Sutras open up a whole new world, a whole new set of maps, for the student to gain insight and understanding into, “Who am I? What is this Yoga? Why am I here? What am I doing this for? Why do I struggle, suffer? What is this pain and what should I do with it?, etc”
APP: You often talk about the word “dynamism” of Ashtanga yoga, what does that mean?
DG: The easiest way to define it is to compare Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga.
The distinctly static approach of the Iyengar yoga system stands in sharp contrast to the dynamism of the Ashtanga system. The two systems could be said to exist on opposites ends of the pole of static vs dynamic learning models. With Iyengar yoga you go into your posture slowly enough to perform ‘error correction’ on the way into your posture. This means you can analyze and survey your position and thus correct errors before finally committing to a position. With ashtanga yoga, as a general rule, there is no time for ‘error correction’ on the way into your asana. Instead you commit to your position with the rhythm and surety of a dynamic gesture. The assessment and correction process happens after you execute and complete your movement into the position. I call this process calibration (as borrowed from the author Gregory Bateson).
Calibration can be defined as “a comparison between measurements”, and this means that you use the asana allies or maps (the foundational asana vidya principles) to measure the quality of your efforts, you internally assess the degree of success that you have in finding a grounded, middle position that ‘lights up’ your central axis. And then you store your findings in your memory and in your body and endeavor to achieve more accuracy the next time you do the asana.
The two systems, static (Iyengar) versus dynamic (Ashtanga), represent the difference between learning through conscious, moment to moment self correction (static) and learning through a kind of supra sensory, intuitive approach that relies on unconscious obedience to inner calibration (dynamic).
For example when you are going up into Sirsasana (Head Balance), you go from position 7 (the set up) to position 8 (the state of the asana) with a single, confident move. And that is NOT the time to attempt to correct your position on the way into it. Instead get ready, anticipate and then let fly a confident move, come into your posture as a total, uninterrupted act. Make sure your gesture has a decisive beginning and a decisive end point. And afterwards use your thinking mind combined with your kinesthetic acuity to swiftly take in information about the quality and physical orientation of the position that you achieved.
The dynamic method requires patience and practice, because it takes time for you to develop the requisite coordination between your senses, brain, and muscles to effect an aesthetic and functional movement that brings you into an accurate, well founded position. This is part of the reason for Ashtanga’s strict guidelines that call for unfailing consistency— your learning according to this particular learning model depends upon repetition and practice.
APP: What is the Asana Kitchen and why do you do it?
DG: The Asana Kitchen is my online YouTube channel where I take a specific posture and then break it down. From the beginning one of the main intentions that the producer, Joy Marzec, and I had about the channel was that it would be for beginners through advanced practitioners. I am very passionate about debunking the myth that Ashtanga Yoga is for men and women only under the age of 40.
Ashtanga Yoga can be practiced by a 18 year old to a 55 yr old to a 85 year old IF they approach the practice smartly and understand where they need to work, where she/ he is along the asana progression steps. It means the practice won’t look the same but the same maps will be utilized.
And so the AK was developed as a way to teach the asana so that both an 18, 55, and 85 year old could utilize the videos. For example, my videos on the JUMP BACK make sure to include exercises that cover a variety of different ability. In the videos the 18 year old students sees what exercises he/she needs to be working on in order to progress and so does the 55 year old student.
To order Maps and Musings and access David’s other practice tools visit http://www.freewebstore.org/David-Garrigues
Learn more about David, read articles and see when he’ll be teaching near you visit his website www.davidgarrigues.com
Visit the Asana Kitchen on YouTube by clicking here
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.