I traveled to Asheville this weekend to attend a workshop with David Williams at Asheville Yoga Center. Let’s start with a quick background on David. In a nutshell, he brought ashtanga yoga to the United States and trained many of today’s well-known teachers.
David has practiced ashtanga daily since 1971 and he travels around the country now hosting workshops about how to practice yoga for life. He was the first westerner to become a student of Pattabhi Jois (the founder of ashtanga yoga) in Mysore, India and learned the complete ashtanga system from him.
David is 60 years old now and lives in Hawaii where he still maintains a daily ashtanga practice.
I wish I could have attended the whole four-day workshop but it was a blessing to do the Saturday portion. It was so refreshing and reenergizing to hear David talk and to practice alongside a roomful of ashtangis who were there just for the yoga. It wasn’t about how hot the studio was (we had the doors open and a breeze blowing in) or who had on the cutest outfit (Lululemon was few and far between) or who had the best practice (we were all so focused on our own practice and breath). It was amazing.
I learned so much in my short time with David but the thing I want to share with you and the thing I shared with my yoga class this morning is to “follow the feel good.” Simply put, yoga isn’t about being super flexible or having a beautiful practice, it’s about honoring your body, focusing, breathing and feeling good. He encouraged us that we could practice every day for the rest of our lives if we adhere to this statement.
David said that the majority of yoga injuries happen in the first two years of practice. When you’re new to yoga and feeling like you have something to prove and like you’ll be a better yogi if you can just get deeper into poses. He likened it to those who begin running, run a marathon six months later, get injured and quit running. This isn’t what yoga is about. It’s about dropping the ego and just being you on your mat. Doing good things for your body and for your mind. Getting to the end of practice and feeling prana (life force). Leaving your mat and going out into the world with that prana.
So when people say, “I’m not flexible enough to practice yoga,” it’s not true. Yoga is available to everyone. Yoga is not about looking the best in the pose. It’s about linking movement and breath. Listen to your body. If it hurts, don’t do it. This applies not only to yoga but to all sports. You don’t prove anything by pushing through the pain. The only thing that you’re doing is setting yourself up to NOT be able to do the thing you love for life.
Thank you to David Williams for a beautiful and inspiring day. I am so grateful for my practice. It has changed my life.