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.
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: