Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Bit of History - 1970's to today

So we've been discussing the history of Ashtanga yoga over the last several week. Given the prevalence of yoga in the media today, the number of studios a person can attend, and the classes you can find at the fitness centers it rather seems as if yoga has always been with us. But yoga didn’t just magically appear and suddenly everyone was doing it (though it seems like it at times). Rather, a variety of yoga styles came to the States (California) in a rather round about way via several very influential persons. Here is where we bring in the next set of instructors, many if not all of whom are still actively teaching today. And again, I've focused on the Ashtanga lineage. I’ve tried to provide a few links if you’d like to know more about some of them.

Manju Jois (Pattabhi Jois’s son)
David William
Nancy Gilgoff
Doug Swenson
(Sahdna Chi Yoga)
David Swenson
Richard Freeman

Beryl Bender Birch

In the late 60's early 70's, David William discovered yoga and a personal quest took him to India where he tried out a variety of styles in a quest for one that would suit him. He happened to observe an Ashtanga demo (to drum up business, yogashala’s would send students out into the country and cities to demonstrate their particular styles). The young man David talked to was Manju Jois, one of Pattabhi Jois’s sons. David was hooked and headed off for Mysore. In the coming years, David not only learned the primary series, but second, third and forth as well. It was during this time he talked Pattabhi and Manju into coming to California for a visit.

Meanwhile, Doug Swenson and David Swenson were practicing in Texas (this is the 70's remember) and occasionally getting arrested for this strange cult-ish thing. David made his way to California to take up surfing and found David William's and Manju. One thing led to another and David ended up in India to learn the Ashtanga sequence as well. I’m not certain about some of the details, but the whole group of them mentioned above kinda fell into the Ashtanga practice about the same time in California and Hawaii.

The Ashtanga style I teach is heavily influenced by David Swenson. I have found his teachings and methodology to be so open and approachable to a wide variety of students. I have also taken classes from Manju, who teaches a very traditional form. Doug Swenson offers a Sahdna Chi style of vinyasa yoga, flowing gracefully from posture to posture, while David William prefers a more, "Do what you enjoy!" philosophy (he won’t even do headstand because he doesn’t like it).

That is the beauty of a yoga practice. Learn the sequence and make the practice your own.

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