Monday, May 21, 2007

More Adjusting (Attitudes and Bodies)

Sunday morning of the conference, we had a session with David Swenson on “Safe Adjustments.” David is one of the foremost teachers of Ashtanga-style yoga in this country. Ashtanga requires a very strong upper body (and resilient wrists) and is often practiced with an athletic series of Sun Salutes that uses jumps between each pose and a lot of challenging work in the upper arms. Again, a better style for younger, more flexible bodies—and was actually developed by K. Pattabhi Jois for energetic teenage boys—but is very popular because of the work-out it provides and, I assume, for the focus it requires.

As with Ana Forrest’s class, I wasn’t expecting to be able to do much of the work--not that my Chaturanga Dandasana has ever been that impressive--but I figured I’d see what he had to say. He was such a refreshing presenter! His discussion was funny and laid-back and he never proselytized. He was very upfront about Ashtanga and said (I’m paraphrasing, a bit), “I don’t think Ashtanga is necessarily the best yoga out there, but I do it because I happen like it the best of all.” How pleasant to not get a brow-beating about what’s wrong with the other approaches or complaints about other teachers’ egos. He was rangy and bouncy--sort of like Tigger--and used his body to demonstrate common mistakes in basic poses that had us all laughing (for example, keeping the neck stiff and lifting the head above the arms in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog)—solved by having the student bend his/her knees to release the lower back and allow more rotation in the shoulders).

I’m still a bit leery of Ashtanga (and I read about a lot of practitioners who have to stop because of injuries), but I really enjoyed David’s manner. His information was good and we did a lot of partnering, which is always useful for teachers to get some practice on a real body. Some of the adjustments were a bit advanced, and I’d hesitate to do much with many of my students’ Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangles). However, the session put everyone in a good mood as we were all starting to get a bit tired at that point. I appreciated the feeling that he was merely imparting some useful information, rather than trying to sell us a line. And, believe me, there was a lot of “line-selling” that weekend.
©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved

**On a more tropical note, I’m off to Maui tomorrow, for a vacation and one (four!) last plane trip before I’m grounded for the rest of the summer. I’m going to try and post a few ideas for pregnancy modifications, unless the spirit of aloha moves me to write something else. We’ll have a computer with us, but I’m not sure how much internet access we will have. It seems like everyone is online over there, tho, so I don’t think it will be a problem. Catch you from the Pacific!**


Nadine Fawell said...

David Swenson sounds great. I agree with him about Ashtanga, and all yoga. There is no best, just the one we like best. I could do with some reminding of that, because I do tend to think it is my way or the highway...

Total Health Yoga - Kris said...

Have a wonderful trip! I like Swenson's comments and agree that each of us can find a style that is most appropriate for our individual bodies and needs.

BTW, when you have time (and only if interested) consider yourself "tagged". List of questions about yourself at

Brenda Plakans said...

Thanks gals! I think it's so easy to get caught up in the which-yoga-is-superior discussion, that I forget that they all have something to offer, depending on the practitioner. Pantanjali just said...sit and breathe!!