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.