Monday, August 30, 2010

Now that it's over...

Everyone has returned home, posting pictures on Facebook, sending email addresses, sending messages until we meet again in 2012. There's much to ponder after our experiences on and off the mat. It's wonderful meeting people from around the country and the world in this setting. We all worked hard and loved every minute of it. I always am inspired and encourage after a Mela.

For the past year and a half, I have been working on David Williams’ poster, The Complete Ashtanga Yoga Syllabus, as graphic designer. It is almost ready for printing. The final size is 36" x 48", is in full color, and is perfect for a wall in your practice room or yoga studio.Individual posters are $75 each, 12 at $50 each,and 24 for $40 each. Shipping costs will be additional. Below is a small version of it for your review. If you're interested in purchasing contact Barbara at Please enter in the subject line "David Williams Poster" and you will be contacted.

Day 6

This is the last day of the Mela. It simply comes too soon. We finished the day with the practice led by David Williams, his Yoga for the Rest of your Life version. Then we practiced Pranayama.

We began our practice with Nauli,
doing our abdominal lifts.

Virabhadrasana A.

We ended the session by practicing Pranayama.

Then it was time to say goodbye to the new friends we made, and to old friends from past Melas. See you in 2012!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 5

I'm writing this post 3 days after it happened. Guess I didn't realize how consuming keeping up with a blog can be. I probably will not remember everything, but will rely on the pictures to refresh my memory.

As usual we begin with Nauli and spinal twists on the floor and divide into 3 groups again: led my David Williams, primary series; 2nd Series led my Danny Paradise; Mysore, with David Swenson.

I chose to do the practice led by David W. My neck was aching from my stage fall and I thought the milder practice would suit me best.

 In the afternoon we had discussion again and went directly to Pranayama. Each day gets easier and my level of enjoyment goes up.
Rouben and Clifford. Clifford surprised the D's
by showing up. David Swenson hadn't seen
him in at least 25 years.

David Williams taking Savasana.
Looking good in Bharadvajasana.

Teaching the afternoon class, Danny demonstrates
the preparation for Eka Pada Sirsasana.
Working toward Eka Pada Sirsasana.
Moving mindfully into Eka Pada Sirsasana B.
Finishing postures.
Sirsasana, Balasana, and others.
Danny adds a variation to Bridge.
Two of the advanced students, with Rouben.
That's the stage I fell off the first night.

Our "Ashtanga Physician" Ward Robinson always
gets the medical questions at the Mela. This is his third.
Pictured here with David Swenson.
Others are in Savasana in the background.
The three yogis were joined by their long-time yoga buddy,
Clifford Sweatte, a student of DW in Encinitas when DW
and Nancy Gilgoff brought Pattabhi Jois and Manju
to the U.S.—hence, the introduction of Ashtanga Yoga
to the West.
DS is demonstrating how to get more air into the
lungs on DW. We partnered on this exercise. 
As the left hand middle finger and thumb press up
on the first rib, the right hand presses between
the shoulder blades in and up on the inhale.
Exhale release the pressure.
Becca, about to go to school at NYU.
Showtime! Danny always brings a band together before
the end of the Mela. It is always fun. This is usually when
people lose their inhibitions in the dancing.
And they certainly did!
The yoga studio stage transforms into a music stage during the Mela
on Thursday night. Danny's unique musical style lends itself to
dancing,  or just moving along with the music in your seat. It's happy
music with much of it being written as a result of his travels in Asia.
Derek playing percussion. Before the
yoga business, he was an on-the-road
musician. He's now a studio owner in
Ottawa and part-time percussionist at the
Mela each year.
Here are the crazy dancers.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 4

Danny Paradise, David Swenson, and Rouben Madikians
We began this day with discussion about developing our personal practice—doing what feels best to do on that particular day. Could be the minimum of 3 A's, 3 B's and the 3 closing lotus postures may be all you have time for or want to do. Yoga should feel good. You should go into a posture and feel the best you can in it.

In the morning session we again divided into three groups. We did Nauli and spinal twists to warm up. One group did Mysore practice, the other group did 2nd series, and the third group did what we are now calling "the old people's practice" with David Williams.

I did the 2nd series and was happy with how far I could go. When I couldn't go any further I started taking pictures.

In the afternoon we had discussion and Pranayama. Today doing the Pranayama was a better experience than the previous day. I continued to sweat during it, but I was less fatiqued. I was looking forward to the deep tissue massage at 4:00. Having fallen off the stage the first day while talking and not looking, I stoved my toe and did something to my neck and shoulder. The therapist went deep. My shoulder spasms became less intense. I had dinner and went to the whirlpool. It, too, was therapeutic.

Here are some pictures of some of the postures I was having problems with. Others weren't.

Danny is assisting Ricky Tran in Durvasana.

We assisted each other in Pinchamayurasana.

Working to get into Tittibhasana B.
Derek gives me a "moving" thumbs-up.

David Swenson mesmerized and entertained
during his presentation about his yoga journey.
I told him if he was ever out of a yoga job,
he could become a comedian.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 3

We began today’s program with discussion, of course. Then we proceeded to the practice. We were divided into 3 groups. Danny led us in his altered version of the Primary Series. He stay with the traditional poses of the series and added a few of his own, which were basically Power Yoga postures. Some were balancing postures that require focus and breath. Some were difficult, others were easy. He included Ardha Chandrasana and Parivrtta Ardha Chandrasana, postures that I love.

Then, David Swenson led us in Second Series, maybe the first 10 postures, pausing the practice to give some details on postures that were a little harder, and particularly jump backs and jump throughs where you might jump up with a bent leg in preparation for the next posture, or jumping back out of full lotus. His demonstration with a student of “crocodile” was hilarious. We all tried it with a partner. It was fun. When Swenson teaches there’s lots of laughing and great humor. David demonstrated how to get into Kapotasana, giving details on hand positions as you lower the head to the floor. Also, in Ustrasana he encouraged coming up symmetrically by engaging the aductors to aid in lifting you back up. In all of the years I've been practicing this posture that little detail has been overlooked and I was amazed at the difference.

In the afternoon session there was some heated discussion about the detoxification aspect of this yoga. David Williams, who also preaches the detoxifying and purifying result of this practice, played devil’s advocate when he brought our resident physician, Ward Robinson, into the discussion. Ward has been an avid Ashtangi for some time and teaches as well, but he said that there is no medical literature that indicates that our bodies even store toxins. Whoa, Nelly! Danny Paradise reacted most vehemently, as he says our bodies are full of industrial toxins, 136 or more of them. David Williams sat with a smile on his face as a result of his successful provocation. Danny said, “just Google it and you find the information.” Ward said, “Sorry, but I don’t get my medical information from Google. I get it from the New England Journal of Medicine.”

I would argue that just because it isn’t in the literature doesn’t mean it isn’t so. Yoga in the U.S. is relatively new. I doubt that there have been any studies on the detoxifying effects of Ashtanga Yoga. On recovering from heart attacks and reversing coronary disease, yes, but with a much softer form of yoga, diet changes, and lifestyle changes.

We ended the afternoon with more Pranayama led by David Williams. Today I almost enjoyed it. I found it a bit easier. Maybe I wasn’t resisting it as much. But I sure did sweat. Imagine that—sweating from controlled breathing.

Danny Paradise told his story for the evening session. He has taught Sting and his band, Madonna, and traveled with Luciana Pavarotti to teach him yoga. With Pavarotti he certainly had to create a practice other than classic Ashtanga. Danny is credited with intoducing Ashtanga to Europe and Asia.

I thought, at first, since there was a movie screen on the stage, that he was going to show his movie River of Soul, which I love. He did after I left the room. I bought the DVD in 2006, and simply love it. The video is not high quality, but the music and the images work beautifully together. Danny is the more serious of the 3 yogis. To the observer he certainly appears to be. He is a very gentle soul in my opinion. Not quite as funny as the other two, but he has a trunk full of experiences, particularly in Asia, where he was drawn.

Condensing 40 years of highlights, people who have influenced his life, and world-wide travels can’t be easy. Danny feels the root of yoga is much older than 5000 years, and thinks it has Shamanic beginnings. Danny’s life has been very interesting, exotic, and impactful.

Here's David Swenson demonstration with a partner of crocodile:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Day 2

I'm sitting in the cafe writing this feeling a little perturbed that at 10:52 PM I have to come here to connect to cyberland. I'd rather be connected in my room. Oh well, it is the way it is.

Just before David Williams' program
He had our attention. Left some scratching their heads.
This morning our presenter was David Williams. We did the practice as he was taught by Pattabhi Jois with a couple of exceptions. So I guess it isn't "exactly" as taught. We spent about an hour discussing his philosophy of practicing Ashtanga Yoga for the rest of your life. Ashtanga is about creating more Prana, with breath, bandhas and movement in a nonharmful manner. He shows his disdain for what has happened to this system of yoga—people being injured, people being pushed into postures they're not ready for and may never be. He feels he unleashed a virus when he brought Guruji and Manju to the U.S. to share this system of yoga with the West. Now, in his workshops, he's trying to kill the virus by teaching how to safely do the practice, without injury to yourself or by the hands of others. Yoga should not be painful. Each posture should feel the best it can feel. David's mantra: If it hurts, you're doing it wrong.

We began with some floor exercises designed to adjust the spine. Then we did Nauli (abdominal churning). David does about 500 a day, upon rising. The exercise certainly make you aware of your abdominal muscles.
David Swenson, doing Nauli.

Then we did the practice, stopped a couple of times for discussion, and for me, it was a nice practice. I sweated plenty. I was able to bind on most of my binding postures that can sometimes be difficult for me. At the end of the practice I felt really good.

Afterward I ate lunch with Sue Julian, a yoga teacher from Charleston's The Folded Leaf, who is here for more training in the Kripalu style of yoga, and afterward went to the whirlpool for a treat.

Marichyasana B
In the afternoon we had more discussion among all of the presenters. Questions and answers. Some hot issues. Some jokes. David Swenson is the best joke teller. The other two try, but Swenson beats them in the humor department.

Then Danny led us in Pranayama, which I have not yet come to appreciate. I understand it's importance, but for me it is hard work. I'm not opposed to hard work, but after 35 minutes of Pranayama I'm exhausted.

This evening David Williams told his story of his quest to be a yogi. He certainly is.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Day 1

Arrived today disenchanted with my GPS. At least twice it took me astray. Don't give up the maps.

Had a very nice Shiatzu treatment by Chris shortly after I got here. Then had dinner with the guys—David S, David W, Danny—and mela returnees Derek and Ward—and Diana, DWs significant other. It's so nice to travel to a place far away from where you live and see people you know and like and who share your enthusiasm for Ashtanga. That's one of the benefits of gatherings such as this. And it doesn't go away.

At our first gathering this evening we introduced ourselves. The count is 88 in all, including the presenters. I've invited everyone to chime in on this blog. This blog is for us all—to respond, elicit, comment, or incite. Good night.

Photos from our initial gathering:

The first night we were seated in a circle and introduced ourselves.
There were about 5 people who were returning.
Everyone else was new.
Presenters were seated at the front.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Planning ahead.

I leave for Kripalu tomorrow. Knowing that I  have a long drive ahead, I thought a little pre-planning would be prudent. I booked a Shiatzu session for Sunday afternoon, and a deep full body massage for Wednesday afternoon. My Chi should be flowing and my muscles will love the massage. Pampering is essential when at Kripalu.

So far, 78 people have enrolled for the Mela, which is expected. In 2006 there were 90 participants; around 80 in 2008; 78 for 2010 (there are always the last minute decision makers).

The world-wide economy has impacted the ability to spend money on activities and travel, yoga included.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How sweat it is...

Today in community yoga class the students who attended were treated to a led Ashtanga Primary series class. I led, they followed. Man, was it sweaty! We moved through the postures briskly and dripped like water faucets onto our mats. I was concerned that we were moving a little too fast for my students, but they said I was not. We skipped just a couple of postures, Janu Sirsasana C, Marichyasana B and D, Setu Bandhasana, but otherwise, we did all of the other postures. We all had been experiencing some areas of pain during the week, but by the end of the practice, we were all feeling great. It just felt terrific to sweat so much. In Ashtanga, it's expected. That's how we detox and purify. Sweat is the by-product. Our 10-minute Savasana was our reward for our hard work. Good work everybody!

Then I came home, drank a cold beer, and went swimming in the river. The river was crystal clear.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Being Disciplined

This morning no one came to my 8:30 am class, so it was a perfect time for me to work on strength and endurance for the upcoming mela. I put on some chilled music and started my journey on the mat. I began with sun salutations, moving slowly through A, extending my inhales and exhales, bringing focus to my breath and bandhas, being aware of the lightness in jumping up and back. Then on to B.

After attending a Nancy Gilgoff workshop this time last year, and hosting Bobbi Misiti at my studio in February, I changed the way I brought my hands over my head in my salutations. Keeping a neutral spine was easy when you bring your hands together in front of you and then over head, rather than opening to the sides and lifting them up. But today, I went back to the way I was originally taught and I liked it better. I felt a welcoming to the universe into my heart. Of course, I am part of the universe, but this felt active rather than passive.

I love balancing.
There were several instances where I was ready to stop and go to the closing lotuses, but instead, I moved on to a posture that seemed appropriate. My practice became more of doing what I felt, rather than staying with the set sequencing of Ashtanga. I challenged myself by holding high plank, doing lots of vinyasas, updogs and downdogs, really working my breath, attempting to flow through my postures with grace, taking time in Balasana or Samasthiti to check in with myself.

This preparation is required because for nearly a year I have felt like a crippled yogini. I had changed my diet dramatically and began to suffer from a short left hamstring. I have never had short hamstrings! What was happening? Sure I'm getting older, but this yoga is supposed to help me maintain my health, physically and mentally. What wasn't working? After months of chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, Shiatzu, I was still in excruciating pain. I couldn't practice my yoga. I'd rather die. Some suggested Fibromyalgia, others detoxification effects, but already having two auto immune disorders (Hypothyroidism, Glaucoma) I simply refuse to have another one. The thought that reoccurred to me was one that David Williams expresses in his workshops. A body in dis-ease develops disease. I couldn't agree more, but I am determined that my dis-ease will end. So it turns out that my pelvis was severely out of alignment and it has taken too-numerous-to-count trips to the chiropractor to fix. I'm not perfect yet. There is still pain in my shoulders, which I am addressing with more shoulder opening postures. A month ago I couldn't bring my hands to reverse prayer, or fold forward in Janu Sirsasana. Today I can. Yoga, in tandem with body work, heals.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Preparing for the Mela

I'm in the process of preparing my body for this yoga marathon at Kripalu. I know the level of intensity approaching. I'm looking forward to practicing this wonderful system of yoga with others who share the love for it.

Now that I'm approaching 62, the mind/body connection is essential in maintaining my health and fitness. I don't discuss the spiritual and some of my yogi friends admonish me for it. I live it.

Follow this link to see a "movie" of the 2006 Mela.
Here are a few pictures from past Melas.

Danny Paradise Lecturing
Barbara at the Mela.
The three yogis: David Swenson, David Williams, Danny Paradise

David Williams Lecturing