Welcome! Something unusual for the Yoga Podcast, this time James Altucher (my husband) is interviewing me (the Yoga Teacher)
And he is not holding back, he asks about personal things (very personal), about yoga, about what brought me to it, what it did to me, what it can do for you and how it influences every moment of my life
There was talk ranging the whole gamut from Patanjali to Professor Krishnamacharya and his teacher, to BKS Iyengar to Pattabhi Jois (founder of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga System) to BKS Iyengar to Paul Dallaghan, Jessica, Kino... everybody!
And he asked me about the Periscope LIVE yoga class I offer for 30" EVERY FRIDAY - Why Periscope? Why should you go into it? How would you benefit from it? Will you like it? Is it for you?
And we even talked about relationships, specifically our relationships, and the challenges that we face when working, teaching, dealing with children or step-children and god-children, to cooking and travel, to who packs the clothes and who wins at chess, every time!
WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT ME
I don't want to sound arrogant, I prefer to keep it on the humble side, and even that sounds arrogant, I feel I can win.
So, ok, what is special about me is I keep it real, I have spent tens of thousands of dollars circling the globe in search of true teachings, good teachers of asana, pranayama, and on lots of meditation retreats.
I also write books and one of them became a WSJ best-seller...
Mostly I am into the flow of life, into living each moment and appreciating the subtleties and nuances of how life is always different, with every breath we take.
Yoga is fundamentally a BREATHING practice. And that is the most important part of the message for me.
Hope you like it!
Paul Dallaghan has a yoga retreat that I can only describe as the Richard Branson's Isand for yoga...
Any yoga "real thing" you'd like is there at his place in Ko Samui, Thailand (I've been to the place twice). For example: ayurvedic treatments, infrared saunas, pool, steaming showers, excellent food, exceptional yoga and pranayama instruction and amazingly beautiful accommodations by the ocean...
And he is one of the most humble people I know.
Claudia A. Altucher: Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Yoga Podcast. I am over the moon to have this guest with me because I've been looking for him for over, I'm gonna say, seven to eight months, and he's just so busy, but I have Paul Dallaghan. He is the co-founder with his wife, Jutima, of Yoga Thailand and Samahita Wellness –
Paul Dallaghan: Ex-wife.
Claudia A. Altucher: Excuse me?
Paul Dallaghan: That's ex-wife.
Claudia A. Altucher: Oh, I didn't know. I'm sorry to hear.
Paul Dallaghan: [Laughs] Nothing to be sorry about, but yeah, go ahead.
Claudia A. Altucher: Oh, okay. So that's news, I guess. Last December, CNN named them as one of the top ten wellness resorts in Asia. He has been trained personally in a one-on-one capacity with Sri O.P. Tiwari, a true yogi master, master of pranayama, and head of the Yoga Institute Kaivalyadhama in India. And amazingly enough, Paul was also trained in advanced asana practice with the great Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, who's the man himself, the founder of the Ashtanga Yoga Vinyasa system as we know it. Both centers – I had the opportunity to visit it twice in the beautiful island of Koh Samui, and he is also, at the moment, on top of all of this and having two children, he has been taken by the Emory University in Atlanta in the USA in the field of biological anthropology, and he's following a Ph.D. program, bringing the yogic practices and philosophy to the scientific field. Paul, welcome. So grateful to have you on the podcast.
Paul Dallaghan: Yeah, thank you, Claudia.
Claudia A. Altucher: So it is 3:38. I guess there have been major changes in your life. I know you just returned from a teacher training in Thailand for a full month. Are you still in Koh Samui time or are you in Atlanta time?
Paul Dallaghan: I'm in Atlanta time.
Claudia A. Altucher: Yeah? You've totally recovered from jetlag, no problem?
Paul Dallaghan: Well, I'm in – I never – naturally, there's a certain amount of drag that goes with the flight, but I find that it's not that big of an issue, and especially, I suppose, when you just kinda regulate yourself or maybe some of the benefit of the breath practice, I think, helps a lot. I mean, I once asked my own teacher, Tiwari G., who had just flown back from Europe to India, I said, "How are things? Any jetlag?" And he said, "What jetlag?" And this is him at 80 years of age, and he said, "What jetlag? If you do the practices, that doesn't really bother you."
Now, I'm not saying that, "Oh, this magical thing and everything goes away," but rather, that a certain, I suppose, respect in working with our own natural rhythms, our own internal clock, and – if you can kind of manage the length and the detail of the flight, along with how much and when you're eating, along with when you go to bed, and your own kind of rhythmic, internal setting, which you can kind of play with a lot just via the breath, then I think jetlag is way less. In my case, I feel its presence, but it's sort of minimal.
Claudia A. Altucher: That's very interesting, 'cause I remember in 2009, you gave us sort of like a – somewhat of some suggestions to avoid the jetlag, and you suggested, "Eat before, a healthy dinner, like three or four hours before; don't eat when you're in the airport, and try to relax and move the body, and then in the morning, if you want – " and you said, "Start singing some mantras and – " [laughs] – and it was funny because you looked around like, "What would be the reaction of other passengers if you started singing mantras and do some pranayama?" – all of which I tried, and none of which worked, and it probably is because I haven't been practicing 13 years nonstop like you have, so it didn't work for me.
Paul Dallaghan: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know how or what you did, so – but you know, I think the biggest thing is eating, and how long the flight is and when and how much you eat is a big factor. I mean, a lotta people get on the plane and it's around midnight and the time they get on, and then they're given the plate of food and they eat it, and – which they wouldn't be doing if they were just normally at home or whatever, you know? So avoiding those kinda little mishaps can help a lot. The rest, if you're doing any mantra singing, do that in your head, obviously.
Claudia A. Altucher: Right, yes. [Laughs]
Paul Dallaghan: And that's up to any individual for what they wanna get into, their preference, you know? Personally, I like to relax and watch a movie, you know? But usually, there's work to do.
Claudia A. Altucher: Right. So you started – you discovered, you say, yoga in 1995 in New York City, and you were on course to become an actor?
Paul Dallaghan: No, I had a academic background in economics and business, and I had done a bit of work in that after graduating in Europe, and I came interviewing on Wall Street, but something other, shall we say, was calling me. I wasn't that interested in getting a job, per se. You know, 23, 24, I felt, "Well, there's other things in my heart, and some of them just require exploration, and some, I can't put a finger on or express," but given a space and given a kind of a freedom, which is what I felt New York embodied and which is why I wanted to be there was to pull off the tie, quite literally, and explore. And one of the things I was interested in was the expression that might come through acting, et cetera, and so I went in and out of that over a couple of years there, and in the sense, sort of satisfied that urge or interest, but at the same time, the word "yoga" came into my vocabulary. When maybe I should've been looking at The New York Times help wanted section, instead, I was looking at obscure pages, say, on The Village Voice or whatever, and out of there popped the word "yoga" and my curiosity and so on from there.
Claudia A. Altucher: And so then you began a – it happened kind of fast because you began teaching in New York in 1998, so I guess – and you started with Sivananda, you had mentioned, I think, and had some explorations in that time?
Paul Dallaghan: Well, the first yoga session I ever took was Sivananda, but I also had a – got a job in a restaurant in the East Village, and I found a room in the top floor of that same building, but in between me and the restaurant was a small, young Jivamukti yoga studio.
Claudia A. Altucher: Wow.
Paul Dallaghan: So I used to have a key to the studio to go to my room, and – it just turned out, you know? So I sort of found myself, without any prior intention, in a sort of a yoga world zone. And early on, I got sort of a mental message, "Oh, you should teach yoga," but then the slightly erroneous, but rational side, said, "No, you've got other things to do."
Claudia A. Altucher: But when you say you got a message, what do you mean? You got a message from the universe? Did you read it in a billboard? How did that message come in?
Paul Dallaghan: [Laughs] Must've been a text message back in 1996. Oh, they didn't have text messages back in 1996.
Claudia A. Altucher: Right. [Laughs]
Paul Dallaghan: What I mean is you just get – I don't wanna go too much into that, but you just get sort of inner insights – or in this sense, it literally was an inner kind of voice or message that I chose to ignore until I couldn't ignore it after a few years –
Claudia A. Altucher: Well, no, once it puts the Jivamukti studio before your – between your bedroom and the world, it becomes kind of a – I mean, the mythology of that image is just enormous. [Laughs]
Paul Dallaghan: Yeah, but I – I was still intent – and I suppose I had to explore other aspects of my character or desire and ambitions, and they took a couple of years not so much to get satisfied, but to get extracted and somewhat beaten, even, so that I kind of realized what really speaks to me or interests me is, you know, to embody it in a yogic path, but it is sort of working within, working on the inside, working and – you know, via, I suppose, these practices on who I am, and I said, "Okay, let's go with life that way."
Claudia A. Altucher: So that's very interesting to me. So you – because you were very young, and to have that realization at such a young age, "Okay, let's go with what life takes – is sort of guiding me to do," is a little bit of a blessing.
Paul Dallaghan: Yes, but at that age, you don't think you're very young, you know? [Inaudible due to crosstalk] If you're 26, you don't think you're young. You're like, "Well, shouldn't I have done stuff already?" And that was part of my problem before that. It was like, "Well, I'm supposed to have got into this or done that or made that," and that's what was the kind of trajectory coming out of a academic and university setting, and that path, in itself, had to unravel.
And if anything, it wasn't – there's no sheer intelligence or genius on my part; it was more just, "Let me explore and take a risk," and in the process, it was kind of frustrating or a little bit challenging to, I suppose, ego and the mental side, but on the other side, it was exciting to just sort of be free and look at things. And within that, I suppose, because being willing to explore within that came a realization, which if you look at a life, you could say it came early, but I mean, I could almost say, "Well, why didn't it happen at 18 instead of 26?"
Claudia A. Altucher: Right, yeah, the mind can always complain.
Paul Dallaghan: Not – no, I wouldn't call it complaining, but it's more like the process of going through things is important to the process, you know? It's important to the discovery, to the understanding. So if you don't allow the process to go through, then it's always something that's one step away or at a distance or – so it's not just the, "Oh," you wake up at 18 or 48, you know, and there it is; it's rather that either life has kicked us into some difficulty or challenge or something inside is unsettled or dissatisfied or wants to search and look, and that actual process is the benefit in and of itself and the kind of revealing factor.
So whenever that comes up for – for me, you could say it was coming up early. It wasn't – the thoughts were there as a college student, but you're in kind of a nice, boxed world. You step out of that and then you're in the world, and so then those thoughts really came up, you know? "Okay, I can have a job, but that seems too easy," you know? Or it doesn't seem – "It won't satisfy me, so what else is there?" is the way my mind was looking at things at, I suppose, 24.
Laruga Glaser couldn't help but being a yoga teacher... It kept calling her, even when she was kicked out of a yoga teacher training!
Even though she experienced hardships growing up, meaning abuse, which I can relate to, she learned through yoga to transcend and heal.
I was taken by her presence and her pace. She exudes stillness, and she is very friendly.
As a teacher she has a heavy international traveling schedule as well as a Mysore program she runs daily in Stockholm.
I also appreciated how she helps us all give ourselves a break when she says (talking about the brutal winters in the Northern hemisphere)...
I do feel it is important to be sensitive to the seasonal shifts and adjust the rhythm of one’s practice during these times of external extremes, instead of trying to force the same pacing month after month
Claudia A. Altucher: Let me ask you something. It’s 4:00 PM in Stockholm, so I’m wondering: what did you do today?
Laruga Glaser: Oh, okay. Well –
Yeah, my usual schedule is – I’ll – first thing in the morning, I practice – I’ll do my practice, which is quite early.
Claudia A. Altucher: What is “quite early”?
Laruga Glaser: My alarm come – goes off at around 2:45 AM.
Claudia A. Altucher: Oh, my goodness.
Laruga Glaser: So – but that doesn’t mean that I necessarily get up right away. It depends on – sometimes I hit “snooze” a few times to be perfectly honest.
Claudia A. Altucher: Well, you’re very allowed. Anyone who puts the clock at 2:45 AM is allowed to “snooze it” in my world.
Laruga Glaser: Yeah, sometimes I need a little bit of a buffer. Sometimes I do pop out of bed right away, but sometimes I’ll – you know, it’s a good way for me to kind of segue myself out of bed.
Claudia A. Altucher: So what time do you go to bed then?
Laruga Glaser: In a perfect world: 8:00 PM. That doesn’t always happen. Usually, I really start winding down between 8:00 PM or 9:00 PM, but the best time for me to be in bed is before 8:30 PM, really.
Claudia A. Altucher: Yeah, you need that. For me, too, only I don’t wake up that early. That’s very impressive to me.
Laruga Glaser: Yeah, yeah, that’s important.
Claudia A. Altucher: And then what did you do?
Laruga Glaser: Then – so I’ll do my practice, then it’s like I have to, very quickly, kind of shower and get ready to head to the studio to teach. So my commute isn’t too bad – it’s about, from door-to-door, it’s maybe about 20 minutes?
Claudia A. Altucher: Do you go by train, I guess? Or –
Laruga Glaser: Yeah. Twenty – twenty-five minutes, really, actually. So, yeah, I catch a train into the city center and make my way to Yogayama to teach. So I start around – a little after 6:30AM is when I start teaching. So my boyfriend leaves, actually, earlier to open the doors; he opens the doors at the studio at 6:00 AM. So some students like to arrive before I arrive to get started.
Claudia A. Altucher: Right, right. Yeah.
Laruga Glaser: So he’s a really big help for me because then it allows me to have some breathing room to do my practice because I won’t – you know, it’s – I will not wake up at 2:00 AM or 1:00 AM to do my practice. [Laughs]
Claudia A. Altucher: No, that will be – yeah. That will be going Sharath – like, going a little – like, well, he has to ’cause he opens at 4:00 AM, but – yeah. So your boyfriend is very into Ashtanga yoga as well; in fact, you met him in Mysore, is that right?
Laruga Glaser: Yeah, I did. I met him in Mysore in 2009, and – yeah, so we both have this mutual passion or dedication for the practice, which is really nice. We – but, you know, yoga doesn’t necessarily consume our life and conversation day-to-day, but it really – we kind of just have this steady acknowledgment of that it’s something that we do daily. We support each other’s process, and also he supports my teaching, and I also support his practice and also his teaching. He teaches a little bit – not nearly as much because he has another full-time job. It’s a great thing to share together, so –
Claudia A. Altucher: Yeah, of course. And so you teach from 6:30 AM or so until what time?
Laruga Glaser: Until 10:00 AM.
Claudia A. Altucher: Ah, okay. Mysore – where you’re adjusting everybody depending on the level they’re at.
Laruga Glaser: Yes, yes. So –
Claudia A. Altucher: And what happens after 10:00 AM?
Laruga Glaser: So – oh, gosh. It could be so many things. You know, sometimes I have meetings and different things that have to do with teaching at Yogayama; other times, it’s a matter of me – you know, I’ll come back home, I’ll eat something ’cause, usually, after practice, I really don’t have time to eat, and, actually, don’t like to really eat too much before teaching – so it’s kind of really like my first meal after teaching. So I definitely try to have something to eat. And then I do need to rest and wind down after teaching.
Claudia A. Altucher: Of course, of course, and, you know, it’s interesting what you said right there, and I find this the more I practice. I’ve been practicing daily, non-stop, since 2007 – even though I started in ’05. Like, there’s always a transition between starting Ashtanga, but I find the more I practice, the less I want to eat until late in the day – seems to be – the practice seems to generate that.
Laruga Glaser: Yeah, I find it really interesting. But I have gone through different cycles with that where – you’re kind of in the practice in a way where it seems like the appetite drops where you want to eat later, but then I’ve also gone through some cycles, too, where it’s like – it seems like my body wants food earlier in the day or the metabolism or my appetite has increased. You know, sometimes it waxes and wanes, which I find kind of interesting as well.
Claudia A. Altucher: Well, maybe I’ll experience that when I get to higher levels. I am only in that primary – little bit of intermediate – series. Maybe when I get to the ultra-strong handstands and balances, poses that you have amazing photos of, maybe then my appetite will change.
Laruga Glaser: Well, I mean, that’s still high level. I think just daily practices and consistency and – that’s an advanced practice, too. I don’t know if it’s always – I don’t know if it’s always these other more advanced poses all the time, but –
Claudia A. Altucher: You talked recently – you said that you were – you had been experiencing, I think I heard this in an interview, a little bit of fatigue during a period of your practice, and –
Laruga Glaser: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I did. So, yeah – I just – it was a little bit like I kind of – just – I don’t know if the right term would be kind of “hitting a wall” a little bit – just – I think there are several factors going into it. One thing is, like, just adapting to living in Sweden. So when I first moved, it’s kind of like everything is new. And like, you know, the body and my – and everything is just kind of like calibrating to being in a new place, but
Claudia A. Altucher: Where were you living before Sweden?
Laruga Glaser: I was in the Midwest; I was in Columbus, Ohio.
Claudia A. Altucher: Where you were born?
Laruga Glaser: No, no, no. I actually was born in South Carolina.
Claudia A. Altucher: Oh, you were born in South Carolina? Oh.
Laruga Glaser: Yeah, I was born – but I didn’t stay there for long. So when my sister was born, she – we’re only 13 months apart –
Claudia A. Altucher: Oh.
Laruga Glaser: Yeah, so – yeah, that’s a quick turnover –
Claudia A. Altucher: Yeah, very quick.
Laruga Glaser: [Laughs] When she was born, then we moved away from South Carolina, and we moved to Illinois, where I grew up in a small town called Edwardsville that’s like in the southern part of the state – so, not close to Chicago. Like, every time I bring up the state Illinois, everyone thinks, “Oh, you were from Chicago” – which is actually where my dad is from originally. So I grew up there until about – yeah – the time that I graduated high school. And then I ended up in Columbus, Ohio, when I went to university there at Ohio State.
Claudia A. Altucher: What did you study in university?
Laruga Glaser: It’s really – so I changed my major, like, four or five times. But I actually – I graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in human ecology with a focus on fashion merchandising.
Claudia A. Altucher: Wow. And then from that to yoga teacher?
Laruga Glaser: Yeah, yeah, so – yeah. I mean, it was – I think, too, because of the fact that I changed my major so many times, I was a little bit not – I was just a little bit confused on where to go. You know –
Claudia A. Altucher: But you started yoga really, really early, so you were practicing already by this time.
Laruga Glaser: Yeah, and I wasn’t – you know – I can’t say that I was super, super serious, but I was really – so when I first discovered yoga, and actually before I even started practicing Asana, I was really interested in spirituality, philosophy – you know, I was even dabbling in New Age thought; I was reading about meditation; I was reading about Buddhism – anything I could get my hands on when it came to just spirituality, different views of thought – and through that investigation, I came across like – that’s when I came across Ashtanga yoga, like the eight limbs, before even understanding that there’s an Asana practice called Ashtanga yoga.
So it was just like I had all this information, and then yoga just really sparked my interest. I just loved this – I don’t know – it just seemed so holistic in a way where it’s like – it was about self-investigation and about practice and self-reflection and just being guided within and all these things. It really spoke to me versus kind of like more religious establishments, kind of telling you from the outside: follow these rules, “Do this, do that.” The whole path of yoga kind of just – there was something in it that I acknowledged, that I recognized, that kind of sparked something within me. And then to find Asana practice, which was actually the tool of using the body to further this investigation, just really excited me. I just thought joining the use of the body with the mind and the spirit – I just felt like that was so amazing.
Claudia A. Altucher: Yeah, and I especially find that interesting particularly with Ashtanga yoga because it’s a type of – the Asana in the lineage of Pattabhi Jois is so challenging. They take the Asana part so seriously, and the breathing, that it really puts you in touch with the body right away. You start feeling that transformation in the body immediately, and so the questions begin to come because it’s so intense.
Laruga Glaser: Most definitely. Yeah, I mean – yeah, this gateway of using the breath and the body, so breathing consciously and just moving and – I just – I feel like in the Ashtanga yoga practice, yeah, there is an intensity, but it doesn’t necessarily always have to be intense. Sometimes, we can add on layers of intensity that don’t necessarily have to be there, but there’s something about this Asana practice where, you know, you’re kind of uniting breath and movement and you’re using the body as a tool where it’s just – you connect to all the sheaths of your body in a way where it’s not just physical. You feel the mental sheath, the subtle sheath, that all of these just kind of like – it’s like all of a sudden, you kind of connect to it.
And I remember, early on, when I was practicing, I didn’t really understand what that was – like, but then, later, when you kind of do something reading and you’re kind of like, “Oh, yeah. Okay. That’s kind of something that I was experiencing or connecting to.” But I will tell you, my first start with Asana practice – I was doing other forms, which I really enjoyed – like kind of softer forms, or a little bit more like Iyengar-type of inspired practices. But when I found Ashtanga yoga, it was like – I don’t know – it was just like the clouds parted, the angels sang –
I don’t know. Right away, I just had such a strong connection to it even though it was very challenging. It wasn’t like it just – everything just was so easy, but I just – there was something to it that just ran a little bit deeper inside that I hadn’t really experienced before.
I had to go. Badly. But one of my three roommates was taking a luxury long shower in the only bathroom. What to do?! No oh no! The thought crossed my mind...
Use the Indian bathroom? Me?
None of the four of us sub-leasing that house in Mysore, South India circa 2008 had yet opened THAT door.
None of us had dared step into the vortex of how two thirds of the world do their business.
But I had to. What was the alternative?
So I did.
I opened the door.... Slowly. Would the walls be splashed? Would there be water in the pot next to it? Would it even be clean? Would I fall into an infinite tunnel of shit?
No. Phew! Very clean.
I went outside to refill the pot with clean water, grabbed some extra toilette paper, closed the door, and did what I had to do.
Wait. What is this?
Even though it was uncomfortable, everything was easy... It almost felt... Hm, what is the word? NATURAL, human, normal. DIFFERENT.
Imagine my delight when I saw the episode of Shark Tank in which Bobby and Judy presented what they have come to call "Squatty-Potty" a company that created a stool so we can, IN THE WEST, squat easily...
Because I have this habit of calling anyone who helps me evacuate my intestines better I picked up the phone and gave Bobby and Judy a call and they agreed to go on the podcast that I do with lovely husband, "Ask Altucher".
The four of us had a lot to talk about. Almost every illness out there starts in the intestines.
Bobby shipped me two Squatty-Potties ahead of the podcast recording so I could try it myself, and I have to tell you, I noticed a few things right away...
If you get put off by talk of how the body works, maybe skip these points...
As a yogi, I am fascinated by this type of things
1) It works JUST like the Indian toilette, only it is EASIER because my muscles don't have to hold me in position, my legs simply raise to the occasion
2) It works. It is the right position in which to do "our business"
3) This is only for women... I know... But I noticed that I was able to empty my bladder to an extent I had never done before... I mean, it kept going and going... Like the pink bunny
I will let you hear the episode and I hope you try it...
Julie Piatt is my woman crush... She is the embodiment of a yoga teacher, mother, musician, artist, supportive mother and wife, healer, and song writer.
Listen to her for a few minutes and you will feel elevated. She excudes calm confidence and centeredness.
Ever since I spoke with her last week I have been doing the meditation she "downloaded" - I cried on the first try, it touched something very deep within me. Then I was able to just sing to the beautiful humming and mantras, and I plan on continuing for 40 days.
Julie has just released THE PLANTPOWER WAY: Whole Food Plant-Based Recipes and Guidance for The Whole Family together with her Vegan Ultraman husband Rich Roll
In this episode we talk about how what kept her going even when she was first married to Rich and he would eat so differently (he was a recovering alcoholic), what is like to UN-SCHOOL 4 children, why the plant power way is so powerful, how it healed her and how it can heal you and me too.
Oh.... And I also ask her to marry me.
The meditation she offers can be found here, at her husband's Rich Roll page
It's the best 9 dollars I ever invested, and I don't say that lightly.
Find more about Julie at SriMati.com
And remember to subscribe to my newsletter so you can stay in touch!
Joy Marzec is a movie writer, producer, director, a music band member, an idea machine, a complete choose yourself case (she invested what she would have paid in film school into making her own films), OH AND...
A yogi practicing the fourth series of Ashtanga Yoga (which in plain terms means something like winning an olympic gold medal three times, not that asana should EVER be on the olympics... But just to give you an idea)
If you cannot see the episode photo with the big play button click here to listen, or play in I-Tunes or Stitcher
It seems to me Yoga choose Jessica rather than the other way around.
She had a great job in Paris in IT, she travelled all the time, and she was making money.
But a workshop with David Swenson and meeting Pattabhi Jois in London between 2000 and 2002 changed everything.
She could not believe how people would show up early in the morning to "sweat together", and practice this dynamic form of hatha yoga. And she liked it.
So she started practicing and traveling to Mysore and meeting people and ...
She joined Yoga Thailand in its early stages as a teacher and by invitation! and met Tiwari who is one of the most serious and advanced practitioners of pranayama in the world today.
That, meeting Tiwari, is something I envy her for (in a good way of course) because she got to study under direct supervision from him... they still talk on the phone.
Prakriti It means "nature" in Sanskrit. Dr. Svoboda, says Jessica, is a great writer, very entertaining, very clear and practical. He is a teacher and a yogi.
Ayurveda The Science Of Self Healing by Vasan Lad. Jessica says this one is for those of us interested in learning more about the pulse, and a good introduction.
Ayurvedic Nutrition - By Atreya Smith, one of Jessica's teacher. This book is clear on diet and the benefits of it.
ANOTHER BOOK WE MENTION IN THE PODCAST:
(Here is the interview James did with Buettner on living to 100)
Her Studio in New Orleans
Her book: Yoga Thailand's Healthy Lifestyle Cooking I've tried recipes from this book for the past five years, in between visits to Ko Samui, and they are delicious and packed with nutrition.
Claudia A. Altucher: Hello and welcome to the Yoga Podcast. Today I have for my guest Jessica Blanchard. She is the founder of Balance Yoga and Wellness in New Orleans. She is a trained yogi for years, authorized by Pattabhi Jois in the Ashtanga yoga tradition. She has also studied at Yoga Thailand under Paul and Jutima Dallaghan, and also Master Tiwari, one of the most authoritative authorities in Pranayama in the world. And Jessica has an interest in Ayurveda. She is a member of NAMA, the national organization which governs and protects Ayurveda here in the United States, and she studied at the European Institute of Vedic Studies and Ayurveda as well. She’s a co-author of Yoga Thailand’s Healthy Lifestyle cookbook, which is in Amazon, and Jessica had the life I think I wish I had when I was in the corporate world. Jessica, welcome to the Yoga Podcast.
Jessica Blanchard: [Laughter] Thank you, Claudia.
Claudia A. Altucher: It’s great to have you. So I want to ask you – I’m insanely curious. You started practicing around ’99, 2000 – is that so?
Jessica Blanchard: That’s right, yeah.
Claudia A. Altucher: And you had a job.
Jessica Blanchard: Oh, yeah, yeah. I worked at Accenture, which is a big consulting firm, multinational. And at that time I was based in Europe
Claudia A. Altucher: Where in Europe?
Jessica Blanchard: Well, in southern France. Officially my base was called Sophia Antipolis, which is close to Nice, so – but I was traveling a lot because most of the clients were in other places. It was kind of a pan-European office, so I would travel to, say, Dublin, Ireland – that’s actually where I was when I first started Ashtanga yoga, and…
Claudia A. Altucher: Uh-huh. So do you speak French?
Jessica Blanchard: Yes, I do.
Claudia A. Altucher: So were you born in France, or –
Jessica Blanchard: No, no, I was born in Louisiana, and there’s a strong connection between South Louisiana and France ’cause it was originally settled by the French. So I always had a fascination with France. My grandmother spoke French; she spoke Cajun French.
Claudia A. Altucher: Oh.
Jessica Blanchard: Yeah, but I learned it in school, maybe starting when I was 13, and I did spend some time over in France when I was in university, in eastern France, in Noce, which is a small place not too many people go to, but it was great because I learned to speak really well ’cause there weren’t too many foreigners. I made very good friends there.
Claudia A. Altucher: That’s great. But let me ask you – so did you live in Paris with your job because you were living there, or did they hire you, or how did that happen?
Jessica Blanchard: That happened – they hired me in New York, and –
Claudia A. Altucher: I see, and you spoke French. And your job was IT, right – IT related?
Jessica Blanchard: Yes, it was. It was very different, and I really didn’t know what I was getting into when I started. I was a sociology and French major, in a small school outside of Philadelphia, an all-women’s college. And I managed to do well in the interviews – I don’t know how – ’cause I didn’t –
Claudia A. Altucher: That’s great.
Jessica Blanchard: Yeah, and I –
Claudia A. Altucher: But you know, the thing is, I also had a job in IT, so I remember reading your bio – it must’ve been 2006 or so – and going, “Oh, my God, she is like what I want to do.” It’s amazing. I mean, I think you were in Dublin one day and you take a workshop with – well, tell us. Who did you take a workshop with?
Jessica Blanchard: Well, this was actually – first it was just a yoga teacher. I am having trouble remembering her name, ’cause she doesn’t teach Ashtanga anymore. But my first Ashtanga classes were with her – her name was Paula; that’s right – and then soon after that I took a workshop with David Swenson. He was probably one of the first – the first ever yoga workshop I took, and that was in early 2000, I think January of 2000. I still remember it was very cold and dark –
Claudia A. Altucher: Yeah.
Jessica Blanchard: ______ Dublin, and it was ______ gym. But there were all these people. I was surprised because it didn’t seem like many people did yoga. There were no yoga studios. All of the classes were in very cold church halls or gyms. We would push the equipment out of the way. The first time I met Paul was at this very funny gym; there was carpet on the floor and he was traveling and teaching there. But –
Claudia A. Altucher: And David Swenson is like a huge – is like – within the Ashtanga yoga world, probably everyone has seen his book because he teaches both the primary and the intermediate series in that book with modifications. So for those of us who can’t get into the pretzel, he has sort of like side images so that you feel like, okay, yeah, I can do this, and it’s very reassuring.
Jessica Blanchard: Yes, and he’s a very – yeah, he makes yoga very accessible, so it’s been – yeah – nice.
Claudia A. Altucher: And something happened to you there, like you caught the Ashtanga bug. You liked it
Jessica Blanchard: I loved it. I really did. I can’t exactly say why. I think it’s a constellation of factors about it: the moving, the breath, the fact that it does require – because it’s physical, you concentrate. It requires concentration. And there was less talk and fluffiness and I think –
Claudia A. Altucher: Yes. [Laughter]
Jessica Blanchard: And it’s interesting ’cause in Europe I feel like yoga was less fluffy than it is in the US since – you know, now I moved back in 2007, but Ashtanga – to me it seems like it’s a little more popular in Europe than it is here in the US.
I had a chance to record this episode "live". And what a difference it makes!
Kino is one of those teachers that barely needs introduction because she is super famous, he has a quarter million subscribers to her YouTube channel, 679,000 followers on Instagram, 43,000 followers on Twitter and another quarter million (almost) Facebook likes to her page.
She has also been on the cover of Yoga Journal many times.
She is one of those very rare teachers who has gone very deep down the asana route, currently learning the 5th series of Ashtanga Yoga which is the equivalent of performing an athletic feast worth of many gold medals in the olympics, and she is a pleasure to talk to.
Reading her book "Sacred Fire" her story feels like a fairy tale. She caught the yoga bug very early on and started traveling to India in her early 20s. Her ability in asana and her power to communicate and teach make her a great combination, so much so that she attracts massive numbers of students wherever she travels.
But it was not all fairy tale.
She also had to take a lot of heat from the "yoga police" which as you know by now, does exist.... I know... I can barely believe it myself but there is such a thing.
She has been bashed and criticized for her outreach and for trying to expand the circle of people she reaches with her passion, which is yoga.
Today the Miami Life Center is a vibrant store front on 6th street in South Beach. It is always full of people and great energy and there are great instructors always present, with assistants. They also have great workshops going on all the time.
And the best part about Kino is that she comes with Tim. Tim Feldman, who is also a very advanced and serious practitioner is her husband and together they created the center. I hope to have Tim on the podcast soon as well.
- Her beginnings with yoga... Her first class
- Kino meets Govinda, her first teacher of Ashtanga
- Her first trip to Mysore
- Meeting Tim and the love story
- The hardships of a long distance relationship
- Her first Vipassana Silent Meditation 10 day retreat, and her second
- Discovering body image issues around the legs and hips
- Opening the Miami Life Center - It was NOT easy
- The "yoga police" and how she deals with haters
- The stereotypes around women being more flexible and men stronger - Not necessarily true
- What took Kino a very long time to understand
The Power Of Ashtanga Yoga The Primary Series [Book]
The Power Of Ashtanga Yoga II: The Intermedia Series [Book]
Audio CD The Mantra Collection
Announcer: Welcome to The Yoga Podcast, keeping it real, with your host, Claudia Azula Altucher.
Claudia Altucher: Hey, it's me, Claudia. Thanks for listening to the podcast. I'm really grateful to all of you who've been giving me some amazing feedback. I wanted to give you a little – very quick intro to this special episode. I actually interviewed Kino in person and that was the first time I did this, because I've been doing ridiculous hours of waking up to interview people who are in Asia, Japan, Bali, Australia, and then some other teachers that are not so far, but it was never really – even though that Skype face-to-face, sometimes you are able to do it, it was different to do it at the studio.
And I was also in Miami, so I was practicing in the studio, and I thought that was something that was very interesting. We arrived about half an hour early, and opening the door, there was one of Kino's senior teachers. His name is Patrick Noland, and he recognized me from prior times that I've practiced at the Miami Life Center, and we started to talk, you know, sort of introduction. Kino was doing a final exam for some students on another room, so what I found curious that I wanted to share with you is the schedule that Patrick told me he had had on that day.
And I had it in a recording on my phone, but I apologize, I can't put it here 'cause the quality is really bad and I didn't want it to affect you, but he told me that on that day, he had woken up at 4:00 AM to walk his dog and then he taught, at 6:00 AM, a Mysore class all the way to 8:30 AM, then he was gonna practice his own practice – he does something serious, something really advanced. Then he was gonna go and – no, then he was gonna teach a led class. So instead of Mysore, a led class is very – he actually does the count and all the students go at the same time, and then, after that, he was going to drive to the other side of town to give a one-hour private lesson.
So I thought that was very eye-opening for all of us who are thinking, "Oh, I would really like to be a yoga teacher," because I think it may put things in perspective a little. I couldn't believe the level of activity that Patrick had on that day. But anyways, we chit-chatted for a little bit, and then Kino finished her class and exams, and we started talking. And so here she is, Kino MacGregor.
Claudia Altucher: Okay, so – yeah. Okay. So before we start, Kino, I just want to say that I'm a little jealous of you.
[Laughter] Actually, not a little, but a lot, and it happened because I started reading Sacred Fire, which is a book that it feels very confidential, like you tell a lot of little stories that are not in a proper, you know, Ashtanga book, and it felt like a fairytale, like a really good fairytale. So it's the good kind of envy, but – [laughs] – at the same time, it's envy.
So – but I want to introduce you to my listeners although you don't quite need that much introduction, but Kino MacGregor is an international yoga teacher. She is the author of two books, The Power of Ashtanga Yoga and Sacred Fire, and you have another one coming up, which we'll talk about soon. She's also the producer of six Ashtanga yoga DVDs. She's the co-founder of Miami Life Center, and the founder of the Miami Yoga Magazine. Now, the amazing thing about her is her YouTube channel has almost five million views, her Instagram account has 514,000 followers, and she has almost 40,000 followers on Twitter. Amazing.
Kino is one of the select group of people to receive the certification to teach Ashtanga yoga by its founder, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois of India, and she was – you received this before the age of 30, which is an amazing accomplishment. Welcome to The Yoga Podcast, Kino.
Kino MacGregor: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Claudia Altucher: I'm very happy that you not only joined me but you let me do it here in the Miami Life Center. You were just doing a final exam or something like that?
Kino MacGregor: There was a course, an intensive course, that we just wrapped up right before Christmas.
Claudia Altucher: Ah, okay, so that was the end of it and then – that was very interesting. We have some sounds of that, so…
Kino MacGregor: Yeah. Right.
Claudia Altucher: So as I said before, I'm a little envious of you. Yoga came so easy, in a way, and at the same time, not so easy. You were very young. You were 19 or so?
Kino MacGregor: I was 19 when I did my first yoga class, and it was not an Ashtanga yoga class; it was a Sivananda class, more focused on relaxation and sort of a restorative view of how to use the postures, and I did my first Ashtanga yoga class when I was 22 years old, and it was really then that I kind of committed to doing the practice more regularly.
Claudia Altucher: Right, and you said in this book that I find fascinating, Sacred Fire, that you were looking for every kind of exercise before that. You had done Zumba and aerobics, all kinds of things, but something clicked for you in the yoga right away. What would you say – what was it, do you think? 'Cause you went to a class and the instructor even said to you, "Do what you can," right?
Kino MacGregor: Yeah. My first Ashtanga yoga class, the thing that really sort of resonated for me was that the practice answered a searching, sort of a latent searching that I'm not sure I was aware of consciously. But when I did the practice, there was something that really settled inside of me, and it instinctively drew me back to keep practicing, and so that's really the first and probably most fundamental feeling to really go deeper into the yoga path.
Claudia Altucher: And then, at the age of 22, you find yourself in New York City, right?
Kino MacGregor: Exactly, yeah.
Claudia Altucher: And you were studying something in the university?
Kino MacGregor: Yeah, I moved to New York City after some years of sort of just partying and kind of losing yourself in youth and fun and this sort of thing, and I moved to New York City to join a Master's degree program from New York University, and I sort of thought, "Well, I'm gonna get my life back on track." That's sort of what I thought. I thought that I would go to graduate school and maybe get a Ph.D. and get some internships and sort of get a real job and that sort of thing. But when I moved to New York, what actually happened is that I joined a traditional Mysore-style class, and that, for me, really solidified my connection to daily practice. I never thought that I would do yoga every day. It's not something that I, "Oh, I'm gonna do yoga every day."
Claudia Altucher: I don't think anyone thinks that.
Kino MacGregor: No, yeah, I mean, some people are sort of all-or-nothing. Some people who are fitness-oriented people or they go to the gym every day or something like that, I never had any physical discipline before yoga, so it was never really like – I didn't have a daily fitness regimen or routine, not when I was growing up, or really anything. I would work out randomly or something like that.
So when I moved to New York and I joined the Mysore-style class, the teacher, he said to me, "This class meets six days a week. You can come at 8:00." And there was no option to come three days a week or drop in or something like that. It was just sort of like, "You're here every day or you don't do it." So I came every day, and after my first week, I could barely move my arms, and after about a month, I had changed my sleep cycle, and after three months, I wanted to change the way that I was eating. It changed everything about my life 'cause now I had this thing I did every day in the morning, and it required me to make different lifestyle decisions and different lifestyle choices.
And very quickly, after that first class, I got the inspiration to actually go to India, to go to Mysore. So I actually got that inspiration and I followed that dream, really, all the way to Mysore, to India, where I met ____, I met Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
Claudia Altucher: But before that, I even want to point out the teacher that said to you, "This meets six times a week," he's just no ordinary teacher either, right? [Laughs]
Kino MacGregor: Right, no, this was Govinda. His name was Russell at the time, so Govinda Kai, and –
Claudia Altucher: He's an amazing teacher. He's awesome like you are.
Kino MacGregor: He's really awesome. He's really, really awesome. Yeah, for sure.
Claudia Altucher: So it's amazing, and you said he directed you to some books on – you had some struggles with food, like I think every woman in the planet. I know I do. He directed you to some books on eating, one called Conscious Eating, was it?
Kino MacGregor: Yeah, for sure. I remember, after I had been practicing for maybe a couple of months, I remember looking at what I brought for lunch for my internship, and it was just this sort of hodgepodge of things, and I remember that dessert was Mentos, and I thought, "This doesn't really seem so healthy," and I kind of read the ingredients, and I was like, "What are even the ingredients in this?" It was like sugar and Red No. 5 and Blue No. 2 and Yellow No. 20, and I thought, "That doesn't seem really good for me," and I went to my yoga teacher and I said, "What recommendations do you have for how to eat in a correct yoga lifestyle?" And he said, "Well, you could try to read this book called Conscious Eating.
So I read that book and it really changed the way that I thought about things, and one of the most important takeaways from Conscious Eating was Gabriel Cousens, he sort of did this research, they cited this statistic where he said that if we took all of the grain that feeds the livestock for all of the animals that are raised for meat production and consumption and we took that grain and we fed that to people, then world hunger would end today.
Claudia Altucher: Wow.
Kino MacGregor: So if we just simply redistributed that grain, then all the people who are starving in underdeveloped countries and all the people who are homeless and starving in our own countries, we would be able to feed them all, and I thought –
Claudia Altucher: Wow.
Kino MacGregor: I just really thought there was no moral and ethical argumentation for eating meat on even on that level. I care about the environment and I care about doing the right thing morally and ethically. And so pretty much after I read that paragraph, I pretty much woke up the next day and made the choice to vegetarian.
Claudia Altucher: Wow, radically, just like – and you haven't come back to eating meat ever?
Kino MacGregor: No.
Claudia Altucher: Wow, and you're fine? You never miss the protein or the –
Kino MacGregor: Well, I don't –
Claudia Altucher: I mean, you do some pretty intense yoga moves.
Kino MacGregor: Yeah. [Laughs] Yeah. I mean, I don't miss the protein. I make a concerted effort to eat the vegetarian sources of protein, and if I'm feeling really depleted, like if I'm doing a lot of asana, I'm doing a lot of teaching, I make sure to maybe take a protein shake or something like that, that's gonna help create sort of a balanced approach to nutrition. In the beginning, I really wasn't into that. I just kinda stopped eating meat, just kinda ate whatever for a little while, but I mean, there's a lot of argumentation about which is more health-related issue, and I really think that's a personal decision that you need to figure out between you and your nutritionist or your doctor or something like that based on every individual's health needs, 'cause some people have serious health concerns that maybe they need to eat a particular food or even a particular meat in order to sort of save their life, which is completely acceptable, but I don't have anything like that.
Claudia Altucher: Right.
Kino MacGregor: I feel really good eating the vegetarian diet. I try to do the extreme version, where I was vegan for a while, and I've tried to be raw vegan for a while, and that was really extreme, and I did not feel so healthy.
Claudia Altucher: It's hard.
Kino MacGregor: Yeah, it was really difficult and I really felt sort of – I don't know – a little too restrictive. It felt a little bit almost like an addiction on some level for me. Other people do it and they don't feel like that, but I did.
And so you asked me if I ever miss the protein. I don't miss protein, like, I haven't eaten meat for so long that even when I see it, it kind of – I start to think about it and makes me physically uncomfortable when I think about what that was and what that came from. Like, that was a being and it had a life, and then now it's sitting there, cooked, you know, like your thigh muscle was once attached to you and then it would be cooked and served to someone. Kind of trips me out.
But what I do miss – and this is gonna sound completely random – what I do miss sometimes is the fun experience of it, you know, like a community experience of not having to be like, "Oh, do you have a vegetarian option?" or, "Do you have this?" or, you know, or you walk by and you – like, on the 4th of July in the United States and you smell barbecue. You know, barbecued vegetables also smell good, but when you smell barbecued meat and that sort of thing, none of those smells bother me, but there's a community aspect that I think slowly is starting to shift, but 15 years ago, when I kinda made that choice or 14 years ago when I made that choice, it was really sort of like a flag in the North Pole, sort of staking out new territory.
Claudia Altucher: Wow.
Kino MacGregor: And there's more options and you're sort of less ostracized for making those choices now than maybe before.
Claudia Altucher: Than back then, yes. And so is it true, then, when you got to India for the first time, I believe you were 22 or something? 23? You had no hair?
Kino MacGregor: Yeah. So one of the things that I did in my first year of practice is, when I was practicing, it seemed like this was the first time that I really began to question all the choices that I'd made up until then. Before yoga, again, I had no physical discipline. I was either an academic, or when I wasn't studying, I was intensively partying. So I sort of had this party on the weekends, study during the week, and somehow it all managed to balance itself out.
Claudia Altucher: Typical New Yorker.
Kino MacGregor: Yeah, typical Miami Beach too, you know, Miami Beach.
Kino MacGregor: Yeah, something more typical East Coast, something like that. So what I did was, slowly, I realized, "Well – " so I was looking at my clothes and I thought, "Well, who am I when I wear these clothes? Is this me or am I trying to put on – am I trying to be the party girl or am I trying to be the studious girl or am I trying to be this girl or that girl?" So I gave away almost all my clothes and then I used to have so many different colors of hair. I used to have light blue hair, red hair, and then I had orange hair and strawberry-colored hair. I used to have all these crazy colors. I used to wear wigs and then cut it and grow it and cut it in weird ways and all these kinda strange things, and then, I don’t know, I was sitting there in New York after I practiced for a little bit, and I just kinda got fed up with just
Saraswathi Jois is the legendary daughter of Sri K Pattabji Jois, who founded the Asthtanga Vinyasa Yoga System out of Mysore, India.
She has been teaching yoga for over 50 years, and has taught hundreds of thousands of students all over the world.
She is also a pioneer and a woman who lives by her own rules. When her husband was no good to her, even in India, in the 70s, she divorced him. She was also the first woman accepted to the Sanskrit College of Mysore, and a pioneer woman to teach yoga to both men and woman in India. She has had her own yoga institute for 40 years.
For the full episode description read here
For The transcript click here
Last Spring I had a chance to take a workshop with David Garrigues at his institute in Philadelphia.
I was impressed by the impetus of his enthusiastic movements, the passion in his way of teaching, and the softness (I cried like a baby) of the chanting part.
David touches a nerve with the devotional side of yoga because when you sit through a chanting session and he is playing the harmonium and singing mantras you "feel things".
It would be very hard not to. In my case I cry like a sissy...
It's really embarrassing for me. We talk about it in the podcast, but I still wish I could hide when my emotions go raw like that.
He is easy to approach even if dead-serious about the practice, because he has a great sense of humor, which is necessary, wouldn't you say?
The ONE THING I really got from David was to use support for the shoulder stand.
I don't buy into the no-props anymore. Not after his workshop, because I can see, and feel the difference when I do it with two blankets underneath me.
The "gesture" or the full expression of the pose can be accessed much better when there is support because the body gets help in getting straight and there is a lot less strain in the neck.
Another thing that David had me see differently is that a pose, an asana, is a lot more than just a pose...
It is a GESTURE. A symbol, a yantra, a work of art...
That simple definition "GESTURE" made me look at the whole practice differently...
Even as I am getting into a pose, any pose, I feel like I am gesturing in, forming something, co-creating together with the space around me.
And I know that this can sound vague...
But the more we do asanas, the more we begin to see the profound inner world they take us into, and that is what fascinates me about David's special way of teaching.
Download of The Primary Series (Class lead by David)
Upcoming Book Edited By Joy:
This is what Joy says about it:
Maps and Musings is a book of yoga based off of David's journal entries, finalized articles he's written, interviews he's done with me, brilliant notes of struggle and inspiration written on envelopes or pieces of scratch paper, poems and sutras he identifies with, and of course his drawings that redefine yantra and asana. The book will be released this May.
Healing Back Pain: The Mind Body Connection By John Sarno
Mind Over Back Pain by John Sarno
Claudia Altucher: So hello, and welcome to the Yoga Podcast. I am thrilled to have with me today David Garrigues. David is the director of the Ashtanga Yoga School of Philadelphia. He's one of a few teachers in the United States to be certified to teach the ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga System by the late Pattabhi Jois who is the founder of this system. He teaches workshops all over the world and he has several instructional DVDs on the primary and the intermediate series of ashtanga yoga, as well as a book that comes together with the DVD on the fourth limb pranayama, the branch of breathing. And he has also recorded two devotional or kirtan CDs called Jaya Sat Guru and Bad Man Bhakti.
David, welcome. Thank you for joining us today in the Yoga Podcast.
David Garrigues: Thank you for having me, Claudia.
Claudia Altucher: So let me ask you a question right off the bat. Is Garrigues a Spanish name? Do you have any Spanish connection?
David Garrigues: [Laughs] It's a Basque name. So right near – it's in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, but I think it's on the French side.
Claudia Altucher: So we're not related. Not a chance [Laughs].
David Garrigues: I don't think so. But I had a bass teacher once that he insisted it was Garrigues. So who knows?
Claudia Altucher: Who knows?
David Garrigues: Yeah [Laughs].
Claudia Altucher: So David, you started practicing yoga about 25 years ago. Is that fair to say?
David Garrigues: Well, even more.
Claudia Altucher: Even more.
David Garrigues: Yeah.
Claudia Altucher: Can you remember what brought you into it? What was it that – why yoga? What happened?
David Garrigues: I can remember it perfectly because it was a very amazing thing happened. I was young. I was sixteen. So that was 30 – more than 35 years ago. A friend, he – I was a dishwasher. That was my first job when I was sixteen years old at a restaurant.And there's always an eccentric dishwasher that's, like, older, they – 'cause it's just kind of a job you can do. And so there was another guy, a dishwasher, an older guy, and he was into all kinds of crazy stuff, but he was into yoga. And he took me out to a park and taught me the Surya Namaskara, the Sun Salutation outside. I just – I loved it. I thought it was incredible and I started doing it by myself outside on the beach every morning.
Claudia Altucher: Where were you then?
David Garrigues: I was in West Seattle. I lived – I'm from Seattle and I lived on Alki Beach in West Seattle, and I would go out in this little park and do it. And I even wrote a paper about it in – for my school and I called it "The World Is A Sacrament". So I got – it was very devotional and it took – me, right away I took to it and was just sixteen years old and didn't know anything about it. And I actually continued to practice the Sun Salutation without knowing anything else about yoga for some years, actually.
Claudia Altucher: So there was a devotional component that got you right away? You sensed there was something in it for you?
David Garrigues: Yeah. Yeah.
Claudia Altucher: That's very interesting.
David Garrigues: Yeah.
Claudia Altucher: Now, if I may fast forward, you had this story recently. In the summer of 2013 you were driving in New Mexico and you had a pretty intense car accident.
David Garrigues: Yeah. Yeah. Yep.
Claudia Altucher: And what happened? Tell me.
David Garrigues: Well, it was a real freak thing because it was in the middle of summer in New Mexico on the highway and was going reasonably fast and all of a sudden we came across something I'd never encountered 'cause I'm not from there, but an unbelievable hail storm. Radical. Giant balls of hail and a torrential downpour. Unbelievable. It went from clear to like that to you couldn't see twenty feet in front of you. And it was just – the cacophony of weather. Whoa. And I tried to stop, tried to put on the brakes, and it totally didn't work. We started swerving totally out of control at 75 miles an hour. Totally out of control.
And so we were – fishtail to one side, and Joy's there next to me. She's going, "We're okay." Then we swerved to the other side. Three times. Just all the way across the road, completely thinking –
Claudia Altucher: Oh, my gosh.
David Garrigues: – the thing was gonna – if it would have – it could have rolled. It could have easily just caught and rolled. And then there was other cars too that were off – that had already spun off to the – off the road. And so finally it slowed down enough that it righted and we – and then – but I ended up off of the road going really fast on the grass.
Claudia Altucher: Wow. Jeez.
David Garrigues: [Laughs] And then finally it came to a stop and that wasn't over then because there was, like, three feet of water. The car started sinking in the water. And I tried to open it and it was like water started coming in the car. So I – somehow I managed to back up and get out of it and drove off and nothing happened. Not a scratch or anything, but…
Claudia Altucher: That's almost a miracle 'cause when you go into water and mud backing off doesn't just happen.
David Garrigues: No, I know. It was [laughs]…
Claudia Altucher: That's incredible. And I just want to say Joy [Marzec] is your partner who's also an amazing yogi, movie director, and an amazing person. But what I got from your newsletter is that when this was happening, which is terrifying, you had some insights –
David Garrigues: Yeah.
Claudia Altucher: in this because you kind of confronted death right there.
David Garrigues: Yes
Claudia Altucher: And you said here, I have it, "In those few lucid moments, I saw my shadow clearly and I saw that my shadow contributed to me being in this dire situation. I saw the wrongness of my impatience, my continual dissatisfaction, the kind that hinders, not helps." And that's an eye-opening moment there. When you're confronted with death, you…
David Garrigues: Yeah.
Claudia Altucher: It really puts things in perspective, doesn't it?
David Garrigues: Yeah.
Claudia Altucher: Well, I'm glad you're here.
David Garrigues: Yes. And it's amazing when that veil gets ripped out like that and how lucid that is. And then when I talk to other people about it, it's so hard because when the danger's over, you remember and you take something with you, but then also, I don't know, it's so strange how that work, the maya, the illusion. It's so easily comes back that you get impatient again. But I definitely learned from that and it stuck what me, some of that.
Claudia Altucher: I guess that's why we call it a daily practice, having to come back to what's real. "Okay, I'm still facing death. There's no need to rush [Laughs]." It's very hard for me.
David Garrigues: Right. And the practice exactly brings you back to that. Every day.
Claudia Altucher: You also said something recently that caught my attention. When it comes to the difference in practice through age, you say, "At 30 I want more and more Asanas, I want more practice. At 40, I want my pranayama." What happens as we age with the yoga practice as we grow older?
David Garrigues: It's not as much as I want my pranayama. It's more I definitely explored the Asana in a different way and I'm not as drawn to the transitions. I'm drawn to the Asana itself and to what – and to being there in that place. And so – and that, to me, was, I guess, unexpected because of how physical I am and how athletic I've been and just how much I love movement and dynamism and how much – that's one of the reasons I really love ashtanga is the flow and the real amazing transitions that link everything together.
But certainly, aging has just made that less important, the flow and the movement, and made the stillness and the breathing and the exploration of the position – this is different than pranayama. It's actually like I'm interested in the very basic shapes like triangle and shoulder stand and what they reveal meditatively within internal awareness and consciousness and breathing. And it's something very different than a sitting practice or even a pranayama practice because it is still a shape, and it's something – and there's variety involved in it. When you do inversions, that's really different than a seated type of work. And so it's just coming to love that more. And fewer Asanas.
Claudia Altucher: I feel the same way. I'm 46 right now and I find that the more I step on the mat and the pranayama practice grows, the breathing practice grows, then it – I don't even need to do so many postures because you start to get kind of more juice out of each of the postures. You identify new things happening in the body. So I guess would you say the Asana has enough in it to bring you inwards from being totally out there and thinking about where the next paycheck comes from to going really to that central axis that you talk about and to focus your energy within you?
David Garrigues: I do. I say, for me, there's – because it's combining so many important elements that – 'cause there is a seated kind of meditation type of aspect that would not require Asana that – other than sitting, but it's more than that because it is physically expressive. And I also liken – I think Asana is yantra.
Claudia Altucher: What is yantra? What does that mean?
David Garrigues: Yantra is like mantra, but it's – so mantra is mind instrument, so it's a corolla of the mind, a sacred sound that you utter. And yantra is a – it has to do with form and order and a physical device for meditation or shape. And so Asana is that. It's a shape or a form, a certain ordered-pattern form and there's an aesthetic quality to it to. That it has something compelling to the eye or to the senses. And so for me, that's why the Asana can do what you're saying. It draws you in completely because it has so much interest for somebody that – I don't know. There's an aesthetic aspect to it, right?
Claudia Altucher: Yes.
David Garrigues: And that's included in movement and posture that is particularly compelling to me.
Claudia Altucher: I was lucky enough to participate in one of your workshops earlier this year and you were calling it a gesture. It's not just a pose that you're doing. It's a gesture.
David Garrigues: Yeah.
Claudia Altucher: And you said the difference between a beginner student and an intermediate student – do you remember what you said? You said it's the gesture.
David Garrigues: It's the…
Claudia Altucher: You said is that you maintain these – I guess the yantra, we could say. Would that be fair to say?
David Garrigues: Yeah. And that the yantra – to make a yantra, a skillful yantra, is to make a gesture. And that gesture has – like mudra, the word mudra, which is an important…
Claudia Altucher: What does that mean, mudra?
David Garrigues: Mudra is – well, it means seal or it has many meanings, actually, but it means like a stamp. So you – like a king when he signs his thing, he leaves his stamp. That's a mudra. But it's also a gesture, like a hand gesture they have. The classic mudras are like dancers. Indian dancers do all the hand gestures or all mudras. And then in yoga they have those – the classic ones too for meditation and things. But it's a broader term that any – all the transitions between the postures in the ashtanga system they're gestures. So you gesture between the posture. And they're alternating, opposing patterns, those gestures, that they're – so your gestures reveals one pattern when you inhale and another pattern when you exhale, and those are opposing patterns.
But then the Asana itself is a gesture. And in that way, it can be a kind of very slow unfolding gesture. It could take ten minutes to complete this gesture that is headstand or whatever you're working on.
Claudia Altucher: And then these opposing forces that happen, say, for example in the down dog where your heels are going to the ground and the seat bones are aiming towards the ceiling or even in the headstand where you're inverted and everything is upside down, learning to breathe in the face of these opposing forces, I guess that's part of what yoga is all about, right? Even when you step off the mat –
David Garrigues: Yeah. Yes.
Claudia Altucher: – maintaining that equanimity. I think you talk about equanimity in your book as well.
David Garrigues: Yeah. And so that – and it's a very curious thing, opposing forces, because they – in one sense, if you get – go right to the root of it, of yoga, the source of all that is you is completely equanimous. In fact, it seemed as, like, all equal, everything, like there's a unity that exists. And then what actually starts kind of creation or manifestation is imbalance. So form is based on imperfection and in that sense, like ignorance in a way. And so those – and the opposing forces are the quintessential pair that come right from that equanimity. And that – and so all the forms get created from just those two original forms like the yin and yang.
And so what's interesting is you have to use those opposing forces to get to the unity, to get back to it, to kind of return to this source that we've forgotten. And so the – that's how you do it, with breathing, with the inhalation and the exhalation. And like what you're saying, by stamping the heels down and lifting the sitting bones up or pushing the thigh bones back as you resist. They're everywhere, those. And then you learn how to use those to get, to find that center line, that elusive middle that is dynamic.
Claudia Altucher: and I suppose when you add all of these elements and you just go to regular practice, you step on the mat. But with this kind of knowledge, then it becomes a whole exploration trip into just the Sun Salutation [Laughs]. It's amazing how much can go into it, right?
David Garrigues: Totally. Yes.
Claudia Altucher: It's incredible. You said that in the book "Vayu Siddhi", by the way, that you wrote, and which to to me is total poetry. I find you to be a poet because the descriptions are very vivid, there's a lot of – the way you write is just very – it's very well written. And you said that the inspiration for this book came to you during a period of immobilization.
David Garrigues: Yes.
Claudia Altucher: What happened to you? How did this book come to life?
David Garrigues: You won't believe this. So we – it was after Guruji [Patthabhi Jois] passed away, my teacher. And the next time I went to India after he passed away, I was supposed to go to Mysore and Joy and I got to Bangalore, that's the city that you fly into to go to Mysore, and we – for some reason I couldn't go there. I got totally – just I couldn't go. And so we decided – I started looking for other places we could go and we ended up going to this place really remote. It's called the Andaman Islands. So it's a set of islands that are off the coast of – the East Coast of India and they're completely remote. There's Aboriginal tribes living on some of the islands. It's just crazy wild and you have to get – you fly in a plane and then you go in a boat.
And finally we – so we went there and I was gonna focus on my practice and we ended up staying at this place where there was a yoga shala up – you walked up these stairs and it overlooked the jungle and everything. And so I was amazingly stoked for this kind of time just to retreat and do that. And then I also – there was surfing there [Laughs]. So I got a little bit distracted with some surfing. And for some reason, a really – I don't know, within one week, less than a week, I was working on Twist, the stand –
Claudia Altucher: I'm not even gonna ask what that is. I'm not sure I want to know [Laughs].
David Garrigues: Well, it's a twist, but I trenched my back, tweaked it really bad.
Claudia Altucher: Oh.
David Garrigues: I could barely walk.
You know that episode where you introduce your guest and you do it all wrong? And then he has to stop you -very politely- to make corrections? Well, this is one of those episodes...
But the good thing is Matthew Sweeney is a really cool guy, he was not disappointed and he wanted to correct things because he has two partners on the beautiful yoga place they share in Ubud, in paradise Bali, and so he told me.
And I left it on the podcast because I think it is good that you hear the spontaneity of how it all went.
I met Matthew through a photograph. And it is not as woo-woo as it sounds...
We were in Mysore, it was 2008, and one night, during one of those frequent electric cuts, my friend Martina and I started looking at his book "Ashtanga Yoga As It Is".
We looked specifically at the advanced postures, like, pick any of the photos in the sample page below... like really, ANY...
Then we would look at each other, Martina and I, over the flickering candle light and go:
"Noooooo... That is impossible!"
What I love about Matthew is that he works very hard at the practice, at teaching it and at keeping it real.
He has "beef" with the usual teacher trainings when they are impersonal and the teacher does not get to know the students (think those courses that teach more than a hundred at the time).
He also does not believe that one system can be good for "everyone", because he has seen the results...
People leave the practice when it is too rigid, when it won't adjust to the issues and the lifestyles and DNA of each individual person.
And that is sad.
He is also adamant about getting to know personally the people who will go in the world and teach what he teaches.
His teacher trainings have many levels, but they are not there to annoy anyone, but rather to build a solid relationship, to do it right.
And, because his practice is so extensive and has happened over such a long period of time, he has created his own sequences, which you can download (see about Matthew section at the bottom of the email)
WHAT WE TALKED ABOUT
Matthew's teaching space in Bali
DVDs books and posters (available for instant download as well)
Claudia Altucher: Hello and welcome to the Yoga Podcast. I am thrilled today to have Matthew Sweeney with me. Matthew is the director of the Yoga Shala Bali in Ubud. He is a yoga teacher, a Star Wars fan, and a twice black belt in martial arts. Matthew has explored and practiced four, or even five I think, of the Ashtanga Yoga series of Sri Jois, who is the founder of Ashtanga Yoga, as well as the teachings of Krishnamacharya, Desikachar, BKS Iyengar, among many other teachers and trains of thoughts.
He started teaching yoga in 1996; at first Ashtanga Yoga, but as he went on he received thousands of students with unique challenges and he developed his own sequences. He is the author of two books, Ashtanga Yoga As It Is, and Vinyasa Krama, in which he explores the sequences –
Matthew Sweeney: I’m sorry. We might need to interrupt that because I think a couple of things are incorrect there. I might need to revisit.
Claudia Altucher: Oh, please, please correct. Tell me.
Matthew Sweeney: Okay, just the start because I’m not the director of the Shala Bali here. There are three shareholders, so if the other shareholders heard that they would probably be a bit upset with me. So maybe we restart that one. And the other one is – I remember this, I’ve just got to think about it – the year that I started. I started teaching in 1992.
Claudia Altucher: In 1992. Would you mind if we leave this like this because I think it’s spontaneous and it’s good and then your partners hear how loyal you are, which is a great thing. I’m sorry about this, that I didn’t have it right.
Matthew Sweeney: No, no. It’s not a problem, it’s just I don’t want to get in trouble.
Claudia Altucher: Of course. I understand. And it’s good to know you started in 1992, then. I had that – I didn’t get that right so I’m glad you told me. But I do know, and this perhaps you also have some DVD’s that can be downloaded with two sequences, Vinyasa Unlocked and the Moon Sequence. Is that right?
Matthew Sweeney: Yes, that’s correct.
Claudia Altucher: Yes, and many posters of sequences that are quite impressive.
Matthew Sweeney: Yes.
Claudia Altucher: So I didn’t quite get the bio right, but Matthew is here to help which is a great thing. So Matthew, welcome to the show. Thank you for coming in.
Matthew Sweeney: No, thanks for having me.
Claudia Altucher: So it’s 6:00 p.m. there in Bali?
Matthew Sweeney: Yes, that’s right.
Claudia Altucher: What did you do today?
Matthew Sweeney: Oh, today we rode around looking for furniture and bits of – tables and chairs for a little Indian Dosa restaurant that we’re starting to create.
Claudia Altucher: Nice. Is that together with –
Matthew Sweeney: A little Indian restaurant called Dosa Corner.
Claudia Altucher: Very nice. I love Dosa’s.
Matthew Sweeney: Yes, I know. So do I. I love South Indian food, so yeah we thought we’d – there’s not good South Indian so much here in Bali so we thought we’d make a good little sort of, yeah, chi shop and Tiffin.
Claudia Altucher: Oh, how nice. So this is in – this retreat where you’re teaching, which you share with other partners, and it looks amazing in the photographs. It looks really nice overlooking rice fields and –
Matthew Sweeney: Yeah.
Claudia Altucher: That looks really, really nice.
Matthew Sweeney: Yeah, it’s lovely.
Claudia Altucher: And let me ask you, so what’s the weather like there?
Matthew Sweeney: Ah, well hot and – hot and humid pretty much all year around, though at the moment it’s nice because it’s raining almost every afternoon so it cools off.
Claudia Altucher: That’s good. When was the last time you saw the snow?
Matthew Sweeney: [Laughs] That’s an odd question. Oh, a long time ago. I think the last time I really saw snow was probably in Germany in 1993 or ’94.
Claudia Altucher: Yeah, because in all your pictures you look like there’s always sunshine around you and you inspire me because I thought if I follow Matthew’s teaching I’ll probably never see snow again, which –
Matthew Sweeney: I mean I have to say, I’ve actually been talking to my partner, Lauren, about this. She really wants to have a white Christmas somewhere so we’ll probably go and do the snow in one or two – well, not this Christmas but maybe the Christmas after that.
Claudia Altucher: Oh, okay. Well, you know –
Matthew Sweeney: It’s not that I’m against the snow, it’s just that I love _____ -
Claudia Altucher: Warm weather.
Matthew Sweeney: And warm weather.
Claudia Altucher: Yeah, me too.
Matthew Sweeney: I like the snow. I like the snow for one week of the year, but that’s all.
Claudia Altucher: We’re exactly the same. We have a nor’easter coming in here in New York, so it’s going to start snowing any time, so it’s a lot of fun. And I have some good news for you. You’re a big Star Wars fan and I understand this weekend the first trailer or the new movie is coming out.
Matthew Sweeney: Oh, yeah. I heard some rumors of this, so yeah, I’m very curious. I loved the first three movies and the following three, they were okay. They just scratched the Star Wars funny bone. So yeah, we’ll see what the next are load are like.
Claudia Altucher: That’s how you started into yoga, right, martial arts and Star Wars? What was it about martial arts that got you thinking along these lines?
Matthew Sweeney: Oh well, I love – I guess I love Bruce Lee and all of that kind of stuff. I grew up wanting to be, I don’t know –
Claudia Altucher: A Jedi master.
We can do all the sitting in meditation we want, but it means NOTHING unless both nostrils are working together... At the same time. Did you know that?
This is one of the thousands of secrets I've learned from Gregor Maehle,
He is an amazing teacher. One of the few practicing yogis living today that is willing to do all the research and write in plain English so we can all understand what yoga means.
On this episode 3, Gregor acts like a catalyst of understanding for all of us to really get it.
In this podcast:
You will hear within one hour, in a magical way,
how all branches of yoga come together to bring you
into the mystical sacredness of this very moment
There is plenty of meditation out there, but nobody talks about how it connects to yoga, specifically.
Schools don't teach it... even the large and famous one...
The focus is so heavily on asana (poses) that people like me end up looking elsewhere, not in yoga itself.
I met Gregor because of his books and I am glad I did because once I started reading I could not put them down.
In fact, I have reviewed all of them here on the blog, and even created a book club around the one on Pranayama because I was surprised that someone could make yoga knowledge so accessible, clear and down to earth.
Every time I read a book by Gregor I feel the "slap in the wrist", as I have come to call it, but it is a tough-love kind of slap, the one that says:
"Don't just settle for asana! There is more to go into... like pranayama and meditation, and the mysteries beyond.
Which brings me to this podcast.
GREGOR SHINES LIGHT
Gregor wrote his fourth book completely dedicated to meditation.
To how meditation fits within the yoga tradition, as one of the eight limbs.
This causes people like me to start dabbling into Vipassana (which is great and they offer free courses but they neglect the body completely) or Shambhaa or Insight Meditation or all other denominations.
Because nobody teaches yoga-meditation.
And by that I mean, how did the yogi researches who have sat and practiced for 3, 4, 5 thousand years approach it?
How have they done it? What can we learn from them?
What happens exactly after asana?
What is it that moves the practice forward when we are "established in a practice of poses"?
WHAT WE TALKED ABOUT IN THE PODCAST
|view into the forest|
BOOKS (Highly recommended):
AMAZING RECENT ARTICLES:
Here is my own related article: The Guru is Dead
Announcer: Welcome to The Yoga Podcast, keeping it real with your host, Claudia Azula Altucher.
Claudia Altucher: Good morning. Welcome to The Yoga Podcast. I'm thrilled to have with me Gregor Maehle. He is a practitioner of yoga and he has been practicing for over 35 years. In the middle of the 1980s, he started traveling yearly to India, where he studied with various yogic and tantric masters. Gregor has published four amazing books – two on yoga asana, the primary and the intermediate series of ashtanga yoga, one on pranayama, and one on meditation, and these books have been translated into many languages. His teachings incorporate not just posture, but also, purification, pranayama, meditation, devotion, and yoga philosophy, and he offers workshops, retreats, and teacher trainings worldwide. The main blog website is http://www.8limbs.com.
Gregor, welcome to the show. I'm thrilled to have you. Thanks for joining me.
Gregor Maehle: Thanks for having me, Claudia. It's a great pleasure.
Claudia Altucher: That's great. So it's 8:00 PM in Sydney, right?
Gregor Maehle: That's right. Yes, it is 8:00 PM here.
Claudia Altucher: And what did you do today?
Gregor Maehle: The day today was spent with practicing yoga and reading some yogic texts and doing heaps of meditation and doing a bit of gardening.
Claudia Altucher: Oh, how nice.
Gregor Maehle: Yeah, I'm just after a tour. I recently came back from Tokyo and I taught in Bali and on the Australian West Coast, so this is basically a bit of a holiday for me.
Claudia Altucher: That's nice, and I saw some photographs in Facebook. You get a large following of students in your workshops, about 60, 70 people?
Gregor Maehle: Yes, that's correct, yeah. Yes, that is correct.
Claudia Altucher: Yeah, that was very interesting that you attract a large gathering. I guess that's wonderful. I saw that recently, you and your wife, Monica, bought some land and you are now living in a forest.
Gregor Maehle: Yes, that's right. Yeah, that might be part of why the phone connection is not that great because I'm not really inside of civilization, so yes, I do live in a rainforest on a mountaintop overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Claudia Altucher: That sounds wonderful, and do you find that the connection with nature at that level helps you with the practice?
Gregor Maehle: Very much so, very much so, and I guess that is something that is often emphasized in the ancient yoga texts, that from a certain point onwards, it is suggested that the yogi move into nature to devote themselves more seriously to the so-called higher limbs of yoga.
Claudia Altucher: Right. Yes, and that's what I wanna talk about today, because, I mean, I am a big fan of your books, as you know. I've reviewed them, I've talked about them, and they're very – they have a lot of the technique and you've done a lot of research around every one of them, so you talk about how different stages look at different parts of the practice, and you have this distilled knowledge of your lifetime work into them, and to me, it's like someone finally decided to write all of the secrets of yoga and put them in four-book form, which is a blessing to all of us. But the one I want to focus is the latest one, called Yoga Meditation, and because I think there's a lot of confusion when it comes to meditation. Would you agree with that?
Gregor Maehle: Yes, there is a great confusion, and part of that is that people generally take the Vedantic and Buddhist translation or meaning of the term "meditation."
Claudia Altucher: Right, right. You say in this book, for example, that you've watched in amazement, a little bit, that many students are, perhaps, get frustrated with teachers that teach only the asana, or the poses part, and then they start looking on their own for meditation techniques, and then they end up maybe doing Buddhist techniques. And that described me. That's what I did. So for example, I went to a Vipassana, and it's not really the yoga tradition of meditation.
Gregor Maehle: No, no, certainly not. If you look at, for example, into the Yoga Sutra, which is the defining text of yoga, it's many thousand years old, and there in the Sutra 3.2, for example, the sage Patanjali says that meditation that is Dhyana in Sanskrit is defined as a permanent stream of awareness from the meditator towards the object of meditation and a permanent stream of information from the object back to the meditator, which is, of course, a quite different idea of what we have in Vipassana and in Buddhism.
Claudia Altucher: Right. So for example, in Vipassana, they just instruct you to watch the breath and then watch for sensations in the body, and so the idea is that all stuff – all conditioning stuff will come up and you won't – you will not react to it in the same way you did before and eventually will clear up, but what I found very interesting is that you say, "Yes, you may prevent yourself from overreacting in the future – " I'm paraphrasing – "to past reactions, but it will not take you deeper into meditation as the yoga tradition does." Am I getting that right?
Gregor Maehle: Yes, I guess the main thing of this – about this Vipassana definition would be, Vipassana is actually something that has developed out of Buddhism, and the main difference between the Buddhism and the Vedanta, which is the Indian or the Hindu equivalent of the Buddhism, and what we teach in yoga is that according to those so-called idealistic schools like the Buddhism and the Advaita Vedanta, the world is an illusion, whereas in yoga, the world is seen as real. So the meditator has actually a keen interest in the world, which is, for us, much more interesting than, for example, our own conditioning.
Claudia Altucher: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, I see. And so this sort of concentration that you were describing or focusing on an object and receiving from the objet is actually more the way of yoga. It's not so much observing sensations; it's concentrating on an object.
Gregor Maehle: Yes, that's right. So for example, we wouldn't really – I mean, you know, the yoga's very much interested in placing the body in, let's say, a perfect position, which the yogis would consider that either Padmasana, the lotus posture, or Siddhasana, a similar posture to that, would be perfect yoga positions for various reasons, but one of the reasons is that in those positions, the body can eventually become so light and effortless that we can completely go beyond the body. That means leaving the body behind so that they can go deeper into the spiritual aspects of the meditation.
Claudia Altucher: Now, what I've seen around from people who are interested in yoga, there's a lot of difficulty with – never mind the lotus, but just sitting down, there's a lot of curved spines, bad posture, and nevertheless, you recommend, you say, "Do not wait to start meditation. Start trying it early on." So for someone, say, who would like to perhaps get into your teachings, read, practice, that cannot sit in any of the four postures that you recommend, sort of like one is kneeling or the – the other one is a modified –
Gregor Maehle: Just cut out.
Claudia Altucher: Oh, I'm sorry. Can you hear me now?
Gregor Maehle: Yes, I can hear you. Sorry about that.
Claudia Altucher: Okay, so for someone who cannot sit easily, what would you recommend to get started with this –
Gregor Maehle: Yes – yeah. Okay, there's actually a so-called "meditation bench," which brings ___ in a similar position as the Virasana position, so – but you're basically sitting in a kneeling position, but you're not sitting on your heels, but your sit bones are slightly elevated.
Claudia Altucher: I see.
Gregor Maehle: So yeah, so that would be – the advantage of such a meditation bench is that your spine is still in the ideal double-S curve.
Anthony has the most extraordinary yoga story I've ever heard, and perhaps one of the first teacher stories to be fully documented, online.
That had never happened before.
WHAT WE TALKED ABOUT
- The embarrassment factor of starting a yoga practice after 40
- How he had let himself go and
- How he lost 50 pounds and regain health
- How he used anything as props (furniture)
- His desire to get the strong poses "done" in the beginning
- Here is Anthony in Marichasana D so you can see the photo when he talks about it (forgive the quality I took it from a screenshot of a video of his)
- I ask him: Did you ever get injured in yoga?
- The impossible poses: here is Anthony in Karandavasana, you can see a video of this "impossible pose" as he calls it and how TERRIFIED he was of this one
- How he got into retaining the breath during asanas as per Krishnamacharya
- Why he thinks Ashanta is a good place to start for someone getting into yoga
WHY ANTHONY IS UNIQUE
The internet has made it possible for us to witness the making of a yoga teacher, and Anthony has the most fascinating story, take for example how it all began:
He started practicing at the age of 43/44, while being 210 pounds, with knee problems, kidney stones and a horrible diet.
But it was not because of his health that he got into yoga. NO.
He actually believed he was pretty healthy, you know, average?
But then his house was broken into and all his saxophones were stolen.
That is what upset him. And then he was upset at being so upset.
So he remembered the practice of meditation, and he wanted to take it back again because he needed more peace.
That is when he noticed that many meditators used yoga as a complimentary activity, and so he went to the library, and, very embarrassed, borrowed a yoga book, just to check it out.
That was early 2007.
As soon as he got into yoga (which was "brutal" as he says), he started sharing his findings and documenting his progress on a blog.
You have likely seen it Grimmly2007.blogspot.com Heck! Everyone has seen it! He is known as "Grimmly"
The whole thing is online, if you go back to the archives you will find him completely obsessed with the jump backs and jump troughs throughout the first year of his practice, and then progressing into future obsessions.
He took a lot of heat from the "yoga police" (yes there is one of those) who did not approve (if you can believe it!) of him practicing at home with books, and progressing as he saw fit.
The nerve, right?
The internet turned against him with rage many times, because, as we all know, it is fun to hate someone online.
Anthony also took it upon himself to translate one text from Krishnamacharya (the grand-father of yoga) which was not available.
The Yogasanagalu from 1945 is something we know, or at least I know about thanks to him.
He also has brilliant insights that challenge people reading his blog constantly. That is one sure thing you can find with him, a different way to look at things, a constant questioning, a search for truth.
Whenever people attacked Anthony he has always been very polite in responses. He does not shy away and welcomes conversations, although sometimes he (like me) wishes people would just not read his blog if they are to dislike him so much. It makes sense, and yet...
His blog became so popular that recently studios from around Europe, Rusia and the USA have began to invite him to come over.
"I don't teach", he says. "I never wanted to teach or imagine I would be a yoga teacher".
He is very humble, yes, but at the same time he realizes he was able to progress fast in asana, and his practice went deep, and so he feels the responsibility to pass it along.
I, for one, am grateful.
I have learned A LOT from Anthony.
I think that thought is the mark of a teacher, not someone who set out to do it, but rather, it happened because he simply happens to know quite a lot about the tradition, lineage, different ways of practice, and so he can share with others.
I was surprised to his response of my usual question: "What is one thing that took you a long time to understand" towards the end of the podcast.
I am always surprised by that one, but Anthony has a way of taking it to the next level.
Claudia Azula Altucher: Hello and welcome to the yoga podcast. I'm very excited today here to have Anthony Grim Hall, because he is the most unique yoga teacher I have ever encountered. He has 2.5 million visitors to his blog and he has been obsessed with every aspect of the practice of yoga. He changed his life radically in 2007 because . . . Anthony, what was your profession before 2007?
Anthony Hall: Before 2007?
Claudia Azula Altucher: Yeah.
Anthony: Oh, I was an instrument repairer.
Claudia Azula Altucher: An instrument repairer.
Anthony Hall: Yeah.
Claudia Azula Altucher: He developed his own practice completely from home by himself most of the time, and now he travels around the world teaching yoga, because people invite him to those studios. So he's been in Russia, and he's been in Spain, and he's likely to be coming to the United States later this year in 2015. He later trained with Srivatsa Ramaswami who is in the student of Krishanacharya for 35 plus years and with Manju Jois who is the son of Pattabhi Jois. He has written two books. One is called Vinyasa Yoga Home Practice Book in 2012 and the other one, Krishnamacharya's 'Original' Ashtanga Yoga. Practice Manual in 2014. Anthony, welcome to the show. I'm so glad to have you here.
Anthony Hall: Yeah, it's good to see you, Claudia.
Claudia Azula Altucher: So its 8 p.m. there in Japan where you are. What did you do today?
Anthony Hall: Today, not much. I'm getting over a cold actually so I've just been taking it easy.
Claudia Azula Altucher: Okay, so no practice?
Anthony Hall: Yeah, I've practiced. Yeah, of course.
Claudia Azula Altucher: Oh, that's good to know. I was taking there for a moment, I wasn't sure. It seems unbelievable to me to be talking to you, because we've never talked on the phone even though our blogs have been paralleled. You started a little bit earlier than me and we've been on the journey of practicing together. And your book is in my blog, my book is in your blog. We've been together in so many levels as we went through, but you have a very specific origin story and I wanted to talk about that about how you came into yoga. You talked about a defining moment that happened to you in 2007 where your house was broken into.
Anthony Hall: Yeah.
Claudia Azula Altucher: Can you tell us?
Anthony Hall: Okay, it doesn't sound such a big deal anymore. I think the first ten times I told it, probably it sounded so dramatic to me but not so much anymore. Basically we were burgled or robbed. The house was robbed. I had seven vintage saxophones stolen. I was an instrument repairer. I got it with someone who worked with vintage saxophones. So I had seven saxophones stolen. And basically I was angry about the saxophones stolen and then I was angry about being angry.
Claudia Azula Altucher: I like how you say that, because the anger on top of the anger is the second arrow. You were really upset.
Anthony Hall: Yeah, I used to do a little bit of Zen before a long time ago. So I thought I’ll just do some meditation and I think I started with some Vipassana mindfulness through some podcast session. And then sitting was uncomfortable, so I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll do a little bit of yoga just to make it a bit more comfortable sitting.” So I went to the library and the books were just dreadful covers. And in those days, you had to take the book to the actual librarian and sort of say, “I’d like a book please.” Most of the books I really didn't want to take up to the librarian. The least offensive were a couple of books. It just happened to be Ashtanga. So that didn’t look so bad. So I took them home and then I basically started practicing at home on a towel in my underwear basically. And I practiced just those, building off from there. Eventually I started getting some tapes, DVDs, but, yeah, that was basically.
Claudia Azula Altucher: You were overweight at that time you mentioned.
Anthony Hall: Yeah, yeah, quite a bit. Did I lose about 20 kilos or something. I guess I was about 94-kilo and I got down to about… I tend to sit around about 77 afterwards. So I lost around about. . .
Claudia Azula Altucher: I looked that up. In pounds, it translates to something like going from 210 pounds to about 160 pounds. So it's a significant amount of weight that you lost through the exercise.
Anthony Hall: Yeah, it's probably a bit more dramatic than that, because Ashtanga builds quite a bit of muscles as well. It’s quite a powerful practice. . .
Claudia Azula Altucher: Yeah.
Anthony Hall: So you’re putting a bit of muscle, as well, which is kind of heavy. If you’re actually fat, I guess I lost quite a bit.
Claudia Azula Altucher: And you said that you would use furniture or books as blocks when you couldn't reach for things. You started transforming things that were in your life into yoga tools without. . .
Anthony Hall: Yeah, I didn’t have any blocks or straps or anything. So I was just using belts and a couple of piles of books and things like that. I remember buying my first mat. It was quite a big deal going into a shop and buying a yoga mat, but it was the right thing to do.
Claudia Azula Altucher: Do you still have it?
Anthony Hall: No, no, I don’t actually. Well, I don't have anything now, because I just moved back. I don’t have anything. I sold everything but I had it for a long time.
Claudia Azula Altucher: What I found interesting when you were talking about this is that you said that you loved the first sun salutation, but the second one exhausted you. I get this picture that you were out of shape, feeling unhealthy. You also said you were feeling bloated at that time.
Anthony Hall: Yeah, pretty much. I think I wrote about how it was… I think later it became disturbing to me how I hadn’t realized the condition I got into. I think that’s quite interesting. I thought I was okay. In Japan, I was teaching English. I had some fancy suits. I thought I looked okay. And it was gradual. You were putting on weight gradually, gradually, gradually. I must be the only person getting more unhealthy in Japan. Yeah, it was kind of gradual. So I didn’t really realize in a way that I put on so much weight, that I was in such bad condition. I had a couple of things happen and then I had my gallbladder removed. I got some kidney problems. Different things but I still didn’t really take it that seriously and I think a lot of people think they’re okay. They think, “I can lose a couple of pounds, but I’m probably not that bad,” but actually I was probably not in good shape at all.
Claudia Azula Altucher: Yeah, and you were 44 at this time when you got that book in the library.
Anthony Hall: Yeah, something like that – 43, 44.
Claudia Azula Altucher: And I think that's what I see in a lot of people, hitting middle-age, and thinking it’s the norm to have all those extra pounds, and then to be unhealthy like taking it for granted that that's just how life is. But I think the way you transformed your life is proof that there is another way.
Anthony Hall: Yeah, you see it walking around. We see it all the time now walking around, because we’ve seen people our age. We see they can probably do with some exercise or they could do with some eating a little better. And it’s like they’ll probably figure they’ll get around to doing it some time. It takes time to turn it around. The longer you leave it, the longer it takes.
Claudia Azula Altucher: And I think also, very interesting, you actually wrote this originally, I believe, in a response to an article that the New York Times magazine had published saying that yoga can wreck your body. I think this is the first time that you got prompted to write this story and you said, “Hey, New York Times, my body was pretty much wrecked before yoga.”
Anthony Hall: Emotional, isn’t it?
Claudia Azula Altucher: What?
Anthony Hall: I got quite emotional about that.
Claudia Azula Altucher: I don’t blame you. I think many of us who take yoga without pushing or trying to make you work instead of having an idea of how you should look like, it definitely helps. I think you’re a good portrait for it but what I find more interesting is that you said that in that article that you had problems with your knees and being bloated, but also the anger seemed to have eased in your life, that you don’t feel so angry.
Anthony Hall: Yeah. I mean, I wasn't crazy angry. I mean, I don't think I was that bad but like any book is it usual to start shouting at your computer and shaking your fist up the computer screen or when it doesn't do when you wanted to do something.
Claudia Azula Altucher: Right.
Anthony Hall: I noticed that I just didn't seem to getting as angry on computer anymore, which is a small thing perhaps but that's one of those . . . I think a lot of people probably get angry with the technology.
Claudia Azula Altucher: Yes.
Anthony Hall: To me, that was kind of a sign that perhaps I was less stressed than more chilled out.
Claudia Azula Altucher: If you were to. . . knowing what you know today, if you were to recommend someone who's curious and hears your story, gets inspired and wants to start yoga, what would be your first point or suggestion?
Anthon Hall: It depends. I mean, to me, I started with Ashtanga and Ashtanga worked for me. Perhaps there was something about. . . Ashtanga is very good for building discipline. That suited me quite well. Also, I used to practice Aikido before when I was playing the saxophone. I was just going to practice by the river every morning. That kind of practicing everyday seemed to work for me. It was quite physically challenging and that worked as well. I think that my temperament actually even worked quite well. I don't think if I pick up particular books, it might not work for me. I might get half after few months back.
If I could study anatomy for yoga it would be with David Keil. To put things in context, he attended a workshop with John Scott, as a student back in the early 2000s, and was chosen to return to Scott's workshops as a teacher of anatomy, for all subsequent teacher trainings, which he continues to do today, year after year.
David Keil has a gift, he can make anatomy interesting and specific to yoga. Anyone who has watched his DVDs knows that he keeps the boring stuff to a minimun, and gets to what is really important from the point of view of the poses.
He also has some very unconventional ways to motivate you, he'll say something like: "What? You have been practicing this posture for 8 years and nothing? Don't you think it might be time to change your approach?
And he is right. Maybe it is time to change approach in things that are not working for us. Anatomy helps, enormously.
After reading David's most recent book my practice was completely transformed. I would step on the mat and have constant realizations, I'd go: "Oh... THAT is how you do triangle pose"! or "Ahhh, THAT is what he means".
And just like that, I kid not, by reading a book, on anatomy, practice became like a playground again.
Unbelievable as it was, listen to him and you'll get the reason. The guy is full of energy and passion for deepening the practice right off the bat, from the beginning, from the asana.
What We Covered on the Yoga Podcast Episode 1:
Books / Authors that David Recommends:
Healing Back Pain: The Mind Body Connection By John Sarno
Mind Over Back Pain by John Sarno
7 Setps to A Pain Free Life: How To Rapidly Relieve Back and Neck Pain by Robin McKenzie
Yoga Mala by Sri K Pattabhi Jois
Books and DVDs by David Keil: