Sunday, 13 May 2012

David Swenson Manchester workshop 2012 and my first jump through!

Literally just arrived back from THE most amazing workshop with David Swenson in Manchester.

I spent 2 weeks with David back in the Christmas/NY of 2008/2009 in Goa. At that time I had a fledgling practice. Actually it could hardly even be called a "practice", I'd been attending a part-ashtanga class for 7 months once a week in a gym. I loved the feeling I got from that hour and a half so much I just booked the 2 week retreat, not really knowing what I was letting myself in for. I hadn't eve done the full primary series and didn't know who David Swenson was. I loved the retreat (apart from being ill) but did not at that time take any notes and didn't realise what was going on most of the time and absolutely hated adjustments!!

So, despite spending 2 weeks with David, this was like the first time. I'm just going to try and put the notes down as I wrote them or I will be here for hours. I hope they make sense.... Oh, and by the way, some of the tips are INVALUABLE. I did my first jump through without touching the floor, first time!!! Unbelievable.

You give Ashtanga as a gift in box. You would open the box and there would be 5 things:
1) Breath (ujjayi breathing)
2) Bandha - not just a lock but more a valve
3) Drishti - not just a gaze or looking place but line of intent - the direction of your energy, not just your eyes looking (at your toe for example) If you are blind, you can still use drishti.
4) Asana
5) Vinyasa - Vinyasa is not the jumpback/through. It is sequence and synchronisation of the breath and the asana. Think of Pattabhi Jois' Yoga Mala - breath is the string of the mala, asana are the beads.

Inhale = expanding
Exhale = contracting

Never give 100% in your asana practice. Why? If you give 100% and your teacher comes and adjusts you it pushes you you over the 100% into the danger zone of injury. Always practice at 85-90%, your body will like you better and you will be able to practice for life, with less injury.

Warrior 2: Stand with the correct leg position and open yourself to the side with arms parallel, opening the chest and hips. Then simply turn your head. (Stops leaning the torso etc).

Padmottasana / Revolved triangle: When bending forward, think of someone pulling your sacrum back behind you whilst your chest moves forward over the front leg.

Ashtanga has no rules, but has boundaries, you can move between them.

Janu B - David was taught with the foot pointing out to the side. Now it is taught with the toes facing forward in the same position as A, you lift and place the perineum onto the heel. You should eb able to see your big toe.

Whenever you are gripping your toe around your finger, curl your toe around your finger to create opposing forces.


Flying, floating and hand standing:


Chaturanga: Only have your arms at the 90 degree angle if your back is flexible.
You can go lower (with the arms creating a less of an angle) shoulders above hands is OK. Rolling the shoulders forward is OK too.

Beginner's chaturanga - "push and plop"!! Teaches rolling over the toes and lifting the body from the floor (which is difficult!)


You're in downward dog. You look forward and visualise a skateboarder's half-pipe, you jump forward lifting the bottom at the top of the half pipe and as your bum comes through, look up towards the ceiling creating the half-pipe movement with your hips/bum ad place your bum down. (I did this first time I tried it after this instruction/visualisation)

Jumping through with straight legs - once you've mastered the half-pipe with cross legs, do it in the same way with cross legs then straighten the legs nay when you've come through, looked up and then place bum down. No one need know your legs weren't straight to start with :)

Straight leg jump throughs from scratch are for the very flexible (i.e. if you can easily do paschimottasana stomach touching thighs).

Jump through for beginners - "One, two, follow through" (describing two steps forward from down dog to hands then two legs coming through to sit).


Cross legs mid-calf not ankle. Alternate which leg goes on top each the you jump back.

You can jump through with both bent or straight arms - each are OK, but will either would be easier depending on your body type. (flexible, non-flexible).

Flex feet to pull through.

Hands - whole of hand into floor. Fingers are sometimes forgotten. Press fingers and fingertips into the ground to facilitate jump back/though.

Pranayama: When seated, draw the sitting bones, coccyx and pubic bone towards each other. Then visualise a swirling tornado at the centre of the square with the energy moving upwards.

Ardha baddha padmottanasana: Beginner's, lift leg and hold one hand under knee and one hand under foot. Stay there if that is enough. You can then release knee and move arm round the back to try and bind. Grag elbow if need be, work your way down to the the toe. Only then, if you can bind will you then allow the muddles of the inner thigh to relax and let your  knee fall down.

The reason David teaches only bend if you bind is that there s the tendency to let the foot slip half way don the leg. This puts undue strain on the knee. You can use your bent standing leg as a shelf, that's OK.

Bhujapidasana: Beginners take feet do the outer edges are alined with the other edges of the mat. Bend the knees and place the hands to the floor but keeping the chest and the hips level all the way. You can stay there is that is enough. Top of the head on floor is fine to start - more proficient is your chin on floor but David was taught with top of head.

To jump into BJ from down dog (second series): Keeps head the same level as it is in DD. If it comes any higher you will tip backwards. Fingers press into ground.


Start with pasasana entry - knees together, feet together, hands in line with feet, then open knees wide behind arms and slowly wriggle feet back together and place wherever is comfortable on to of bent arms. Placing knees at the muscle attachment (e.g. at the armpit) will be more comfortable than placing them at the middle of the muscle.

Jumping into Bakasana - Think about doing it in slow motion. Bend arms before your knees into a shelf before you get anywhere near placing the knees onto them. Fingers press into ground. Slow it down. Keep head the same level as head in DD.

Tittbhasana: Think bakasana, but then extend legs straight, pointing toes and squeeze legs inwards against arms. Keep elbows bent is easier. 

Pincha mayurasana: Elbows beneath shoulders, think apart drawing the hands apart but do not let them move. If going up one leg at a time the second leg is the important leg to keep the balance. Draw the legs together to the centre to get balance. 


Think of back bending as front opening/stretching rather than backbending. 

Paschimottanasana is the "western stretch" i.e. The stretch of the western side (when practicing towards the sunrises the west is behind you (your back)). It is your back which is stretching (not your hamstrings).


Ustrasana: When you are entering the posture you push hips forward and lean back. But once you have your heels you should have enough opposing force between the hips moving forward and the back arching that you should be finding holding the heels difficult (your hips are moving so far forward that you're pulling against the hands on the heels. 

"The James Brown" = To come up from Ustrasana physically draw your knees together like JB does to come up from splits to standing on stage!

Drop backs: Same - draw knees together to facilitate coming up from backbend. Walk the hands of feet in if your knees are behind the heels. You will only get momentum if your knees are beyond your heels. 

I didn't want to publish any notes on the full talk as I don't want to ruin anything for anyone who may go in the future to one of his workshops. So i'll finish it there, I hope you get something out of it. But if you can, you must go to practice with David at some point, I'd say sooner, rather than later.....

Thank you David.

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