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Messages - David Williams

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Workshop Feedback / London workshop, September, 2012
« on: September 08, 2012, 11:55:49 PM »
 Dear David
I just wanted to send you a personal thank you for such an amazing workshop at TriYoga in London last weekend (30 August to 2nd September 2012)
I have come away from the weekend feeling more balanced and energised than I have ever felt in my life.  Two major things (well....very simple things really) that you taught me are:
1. If something hurts - don't do it!!
2. If someone/something in your life is negative and draining your energy then walk away from it.
You also taught me that if I am thinking I am not doing yoga,and just to breathe, move and "feel the feelgood"!!
I hope to practice with you again very soon - maybe next year in Bali.
Warm and kind regards,


Workshop Feedback / London workshop, September, 2012
« on: September 08, 2012, 11:53:11 PM »
Hi David,
it was great to see you in London.
I really enjoy your workshops so much, and they really teach me everything I have come to understand about yoga, and know to be true.
I always leave your workshops feeling pain free and well and full of good energy. even when i start your practices with a little pain, or a bit tired, I always leave pain free and well.
It is a real gift and relief listening to your teaching, it's all i need to remind me again about why i practice.
See you soon, really really with thanks,

Ask a Yogi! / asana practice
« on: October 19, 2011, 07:46:46 PM »

Hi David, 
Long, slow, complete breaths,,, wow, I was sweating a lot.  I let the breath be natural unto me.  with the bandhas, how should I be thinking of them or doing them?  I think I'm doing it correctly but than again.... want to make sure.  ok,,,,, thanks, I'll keep my practice up with all that, which should keep me busy for some time.

Dear Howard,
The deepest possible breathing is always the best. 
Focus on continuous mulabandha, use jalandhara bandha on all forward bends, and when you think you have totally exhaled...squeeze out another pint or 2 of exhaust.  The secret to breathing more in is to simply exhale until you are really empty. This dynamic expansion and contraction of the ribcage is the source of the "real stretching".  Don't worry about "external tugging."
 Also, "yoga is cessation of the fluctions of the mind."  Yoga ends when thinking begins.

Hi David,
ok, so the only consciousness, or better yet. awareness, should be the continuous mulabandha, (uddanya than happens naturally?), and counting of the breaths i.e. 5, than move to next asana.  listening, watching and being in the breath.  thinking about how you're doing, if you're tight, about people, or up coming dinner etc.   is the preoccupation of the mind and takes you further away from yoga and realizing and experiencing "you." 
is this correct?  thanks very much for your suggestions,,,, they are making a huge difference already.

Dear Howard,
Yes, that's it.  Concentration leads to meditation.  Yes, uddiyana comes automatically with mulabandha.
Introduce your mind to meditation during the practice.  It will love it and want to stay zen all day.  Thinking and worrying unnecessarily is a waste of prana.  The mind figures it out.  Everything is seeking equilibrium.


Ask a Yogi! / Pranayama
« on: July 19, 2011, 05:16:29 PM »
Dear Matthew,
The pranayama that I learned from Guruji and the one that I practice to this day is the one listed on the syllabus.  We didn't do any other methods together.
1/4/2/1 is a classic standard and I practice it and recommend it in my workshops. 
I mainly do the 1/4/2/1 lying in bed at night with no bandhas, just getting into the breath.  It is useful for jet lag or sleeplessness.
Tests at Maharishi's university showed that meditation results in even greater rest than sleep, so there is the possibility of getting rest using this mindfulness of the breath to bring about chitta vritti nhrode. Usually, the breathing puts me to sleep relatively quickly and the problem of sleeplessness is solved.

Ask a Yogi! / Pranayama
« on: July 19, 2011, 05:09:59 PM »
guru, in ashtanga pranayama we have rechaka kumbhaka, puraka kumbhaka, rechaka puraka kumbhaka, samavrtti, visamavrtti, bhastrika, surya bhedana, chandra bhedana, then sitali. besides bhastrika the ratio on inhalation/exhalation is 1:1 in all these breathings. does a time ever come when one incorporates ratios such as 1:4:2:1 to any of these breathings or did guruji not use these in the pranayama circle? i humbly appreciate your wealth of knowledge in this area. namaste-matthew

Workshop Feedback / LA workshop, May, 2011
« on: May 23, 2011, 01:17:53 PM »
Dear David,

Thank you for coming to LA. Your visit and teachings really helped me more than you can imagine. I taught myself some yoga after seriously hurting my back, and healed it. Since finding Ashtanga while I had a great desire to practice it, many teachers really made it not so fun. Somehow I lost my way and it became painful and after some minor injuries really doused the flame of desire to practice. I thank you for giving me the perspective to practice the rest of my life....much respect and thanks!


Ask a Yogi! / Re: Krishnamacharya and jalandhara bandha
« on: December 13, 2010, 10:52:25 PM »
Dear Alessandro,
Nice that you have written.  I am glad that you liked my workshop.
Your question is not difficult and you are not boring me.
The book that I showed you was a photocopy of Yoga Makaranda, by T. Krishnamacharya, first published in 1934.  In it, on pages 25-26, Krishnamacharya states, "Where head position is not specified jalandhara bandha (chin lock) is to be practiced."  This book is not easy to find, but some people have photo copies and I was given one.  As you noticed, there were numerous photos of Krishnamacharya demonstrating forward bending postures and doing jalandhara bandha in every one.
(Also, if you recall seeing any photos of Pattabhi Jois demonstrating forward bending asanas, he is doing jalandhara bandha in every one, without exception.)
However, for your research, in Krishnamacharya, His Life and Teachings, by A.G. Mohan, the statement, "Where head position is not specified jalandhara bandha (chin lock) is to be practiced," is quoted on page 146, line 6, in an appendix giving excerpts from the Yoga Makaranda, offering advice for success in the practice of asanas.  This book is available from
I will be teaching at Triopetra, on the beach on Crete, for 2 weeks this summer, from July 23 until August 6, if you want to continue your practice of asanas and pranayama with me.
Before the practice of yoga, the theory is useless.  After the practice of yoga, the theory is obvious.

Ask a Yogi! / Krishnamacharya and jalandhara bandha
« on: December 13, 2010, 10:47:55 PM »
Dear Mr Williams,

My name is Alessandro.  i had the privilege to attend your workshop in Italy in Salento.
First, i would like to apologize for writing to you and wasting your time; secondly, i would like to thank you for all the things you shared with us in those few days.

In a few words: after your workshop my journey in yoga carried on and went through many many differrent approaches on the subject...
It seems like every teacher has something different to say about the practice and especially about asana practice, but it is also evident the they have sort of dogma to deal with.

The result is that i became more and more skeptical about what they teach, what they say, and the way they relate to the "subject" of Yoga.

So i started to investigate on my own, trying to get out of the chaos of informations, and also trying to have a clear picture about the "history" of Yoga in order to better understand
who is T.Krishanamacharya, who is P.Jois and the following lineage...unfortunately the only things i can rely on are books.
I'm actually collecting all the informations and the books about T.Krishnamacharya, trying to trace back the practice of ashtanga.
It is a hard duty, especially because i have to rely on the translation of these books which sometimes is not very clear, even if my knowledge of sanskrit is very little.

Because of this reason i ask for your help.
I can remember that you showed us a copy of a book from Krishnamacharya himself where it was written clearly about the use of Jalandhara bandha.  I remember on that book there were pictures of K. doing asanas.  But i don't remember exactely the name of the book....was it Yoga Makaranda? or Yoga Granthamala?
Yoga Makaranda is no more available, and Granthamala has no indications like that...

Hope to have been not boring.

best regards,


Asana, Pranayama, Mudra & Bandhas / Advice to a 16 year old yogi
« on: September 11, 2010, 02:06:33 PM »
I study mysore-style yoga in Miami and love to practice yoga. I took a workshop with Nancy Gilgoff (and she told us you went to India with her to study with Guruji) and said that you were an amazing teacher. I am sixteen years old and have been practicing since I was twelve. I try to maintain a daily practice to keep my body, mind, and spirit constantly refreshed. I also teach yoga (with a certification) with an emphasis on instilling a love for yoga with basic asana technique and breath. I am a full-time student at school and I've always wanted to study yoga with a teacher one-on-one the way it was originally taught even for a short time. That's why when I saw that you teach individually, I was wondering if you travelled to teach during the winter. (You don't have any scheduled workshops then.) I have 16 days off from school and am curious if you would be interested in coming down to Miami to teach during the winter. (I'm also trying to get my family to do it too!) I love my practice and want to go deeper but I'm no allowed to go to Mysore until I'm a bit older. If you are interested, please contact me.
Dear Andrew,
Thanks for writing.  I encourage you to enjoy daily yoga practice for the rest of your life.  Since you have taken the time to write such a nice, sincere letter, I will give you some energy in return. 
After 40 years of uninterrupted daily practice, I have this to share with you:
Don't ever do anything that hurts or is even uncomfortable.  This is not yoga, it is masochism. 
Yoga is a method to get naturally high. 
You are one injury away from destroying one of the most precious thing in your life, your painfree yoga practice. 
Know thyself...listen to your body, don't ignore it if something hurts.  If it hurts, you are hurting yourself.  One millimeter beyond stretching is tearing. Tearing causes scar tissue. You do not want to sculpt your body with scar tissue. 
Reaching your flexibility potential will come from stretching and breathing with the first focus being the continuous strong bandhas.  Find the position in each asana where your body feels the best.  That's where it is the most energizing.  By feeling good, your body is telling you what it wants and the result is, it will produce endorphins and seratonin, getting you naturally high.  Pain has nothing to do with this.  Pain is not to be ignored.  It indicates injury and is to be avoided; don't let an inexperienced person convince you otherwise. 
I am taking the time to say this to you, because you are young and will get conflicting advice.  Print this letter, save it, and read it again in 10 years.  Then you can write and tell me if I was correct or not.
If you want to practice with me, I will be in Florida in the near future.  I look forward to meeting you.



Ask a Yogi! / Jalandhara bandha
« on: August 10, 2010, 08:57:43 AM »
Dear David,

Thank you for your workshop in Chicago. I so enjoyed your teachings and insights. In particular, I am grateful to learn about the practice of engaging Jalandhara Bandha during forward bends. I started practicing yoga years ago to relieve chronic upper back and neck pain, and have been so frustrated to find that, at times, yoga has actually seemed to make this problem worse. After just five days of utilizing this new form--chin lock during forward bends--I am amazed at how much better my back and neck feel already. I also really notice a difference in my meditative focus and energy by keeping all three bandhas engaged.

You are a wonderful teacher. Thank you so very much.


Workshop Feedback / Chicago workshop, August, 2010
« on: August 10, 2010, 08:56:25 AM »
Dear David,
Thank you for your workshop in Chicago. I so enjoyed your teachings and insights. In particular, I am grateful to learn about the practice of engaging Jalandhara Bandha during forward bends. I started practicing yoga years ago to relieve chronic upper back and neck pain, and have been so frustrated to find that, at times, yoga has actually seemed to make this problem worse. After just five days of utilizing this new form--chin lock during forward bends--I am amazed at how much better my back and neck feel already. I also really notice a difference in my meditative focus and energy by keeping all three bandhas engaged.

You are a wonderful teacher. Thank you so very much.


Workshop Feedback / Birmingham, Alabama workshop, May 2010
« on: May 18, 2010, 01:03:12 PM »
I attended your workshop in Birmingham last weekend with my daughter, Laura, and wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the experience. As a 67 year old newcomer to yoga, I'll admit that I was a little apprehensive, but your method and the message helped put me at ease.
Thank you,

Workshop Feedback / feedback after a Jivanmukti workshop
« on: May 18, 2010, 12:43:59 PM »

Hola David,

I think that all of us here have taken you for granted.

We were having a Jivamukti event this past week, today is the last day.  V (a student who came to your workshop) and I were talking about you last night, the way you teach us to practice, the nonharming attitude and the understanding of it.  The practice that is being taught now at this Jivanmukti workshop has been very hard for me to deal with.  It is brutal on the body and her adjustments are very VERY aggressive.  I have felt throughout the whole week that I am promoting something I am against and I have not enjoyed it.  My back is hurt and my heart is hurt by the whole dynamics of it.  I am happy it is over.  I am not sure if it is the system or the teacher or maybe both.  I guess it is a reminder of what I really want from my practice and to be loyal to it.

I miss your classes.


Workshop Feedback / Re: Connecticut workshop, September, 2009
« on: October 06, 2009, 07:52:06 PM »
Great practicing with you at the Yoga Shala last month in CT. Hopefully our paths will cross more frequently.
I really appreciate your method and energy of teaching. Your general approach to practice always comes through loud and clear. I think it might freak out the type-A ashtangis who may feel that more and harder is always better. Sometimes maybe yes, but to often, especially with all these middle age yoga warriors, and it's a quick trip to the orthopedic surgeon!  I can't tell you how challenging it is to get folks to practice softer.  I often say to the hard cases: "That can't feel good". But everyone finds it at their own pace, or not.
It was interesting to hear you reiterate a point about handstands, jumping with both legs at the same time. That's how I learned it, maybe from Doug Swenson? But no-one, and I mean NOONE teaches it around here that way.  Pincha M is harder for me to jump with 2 legs. Do you feel the same way about the entrance to this asana?
Stay well and enjoy your travels. If something appears on your schedule around these parts, do let me know.

Dear Jeff,
Great letter!
Yes, it was very nice getting to practice together again.
Yes, one should hop up to scorpion with feet together.  Yoga is all about symmetry, in every situation.
I look forward to our next meeting, whereever that may be.

Workshop Feedback / Connecticut workshop, September, 2009
« on: October 05, 2009, 02:21:04 PM »
YO David,
Thanks for a great workshop (yoga shala / CT -- I was able to do 3 days, and you were gracious enough to sign my dave swenson book after the closing session). Here are a few thoughts, both in the nature of feedback for you and for my own understanding as I continue to process some of the info you supplied. The big takeaways for me were:




1/ the focus on the long view. this is kind of self-evident once you really stare at it, but it also tends to get lost in the shuffle if you don’t stare at it.


2/ the focus on no injury / no pain. same point here. I find that I have adjusted my practice in both obvious (say not pushing in a difficult pose or being more aware of tendon tweaks, etc.) and subtle ways (trying to make it more meditation than exercise).


3/ the great statement: it’s what’s invisible that’s important. this really says it all, and is pithy to boot. with the intense nature of the practice, and the fact that most or all who practice it are Type A to some degree, it’s easy to get caught up in pushing yourself to improve various asanas – so it’s important to periodically step back and remind yourself to focus more on breath, bandhas and ultimately, meditation. or at least point it more in that direction.


4/ the goal of increasing oxygen intake: this is kind of a practical subset of the former point, and provides a concrete grounding and focus for it. it also establishes the gross/subtle link between increasing oxygen and increasing prana. as one of the dudes in our workshop said, if you really concentrate on this, you will notice the difference in savasana – you plant more, so you harvest more.


5/ keeping the lightbulb on: namely, to closely monitor your practice and tailor it to what feels right to you. now it may be difficult to find the proper balance here, particularly in a system that in some ways is so regimented (and it’s hard to think of a system more regimented than one motion per one breath for almost two hours !!), but that is precisely why this kind of meta-awareness is so useful to find a proper balance.




1/ drishti / jalandhara bandha. this was a huge correction, and one that had a much broader application than I initially expected. the clearest application of this is to avoid looking at your toes / scrunching up your neck in paschimottanasana, but instead get length via the top of your head as you implement jalandhara bandha. previously, I had focused on jalandhara bandha only in padmasana and dandasana. now it also has universal application in all forward folds and bends. this is really great, as it ties into the main big picture point of oxygen and prana – as long as you work to generate it, try not to dissipate it. or something like that …..


2/ stamp of approval for alternate positions: in keeping with the big picture points to avoid injury and keeping the lightbulb on (aka do your own thing). in my own practice (roughly two years, but only 6 months intensely), I am at a point where I am just starting to do sirasana and chakrasana, and only with assists at that. intuitively, I had proceeded cautiously with these. it is reassuring to have “the goodhousekeeping stamp of approval” from a master to either bag these, or in any case proceed with caution or with a lesser modification.


3/ chest breathing. as a result of the above focus on breath/bandhas and increasing oxygen, I have noticed that I am breathing more deeply, more slowly, and with increased chest/ribcage action and less in the way of “belly breathing”.


4/ holding upward dog. this is a great add to balance all the forward bends of primary series.


5/ “lengthen on the inhale, deepen on the exhale”. also supremely useful. (I hope you are getting royalties from swenson !!) ……….




the stomach exercises and the 5 leg exercises to open up the lower back are just great; I don’t always remember to do them, bit I find that my practice is smoother and easier when I do.




More or less FYI, and in no particular order of importance:


1/ the focus on no injury / no pain, Vol. II. one of your main points got me thinking – apart from some obvious applications like avoiding or modifying headstand, chakrasana, or not doing scorpion after drinking a 6-pack – where the main injury / pain issues are likely to be for most people. A/ particularly when I just started practicing, I had a lot of lower back pain, which I believe was from poorly done upward dogs. I suppose this can be avoided by your regimen of doing a cobra vs the upward dog with legs raised, but this might be a place to focus for people who want to accomplish the full pose – IE, to really break it down how to do this pose properly (IE, chest out, shoulders tucked in, maybe arms not entirely straight to facilitate this, etc.). B/ one area that is not so bad for me, but that I see a lot in class and cringe, is when stiff people try to torque themselves into half lotus, such as marichyasana B and D and ABP paschimottanasana. in short, I think it is very useful to emphasize focus on certain poses (as you did with the marichyasanas), over and above the obvious culprits, where people may injure themselves.


2/ exercises, Vol. II. those exercises are so beneficial, I started thinking about others that might be useful. A/ I am starting to incorporate three others into my routine, standing ones to balance your seated ones: (i) open stance, legs hip distance apart, hands clasped behind the back (as in pasarita padottanasana C), then fold down, head to legs, then fold up and stretch back, chest puffed out; (ii) legs hip distance apart; hands to the sides, side bend right, right hand to knee or below, left arm follows the side up to the armpit; then repeat other direction (this also starts to work the neck); and (iii) just standing upright, doing circles each direction with head / neck (this seems to continue from the prior exercise and I can hear a lot of crunching noises going on in my neck – which feels good and I assume is good !!).


3/ exercises, Vol. III. every Saturday at the shala we have an “ashtanga improv” class – sometimes this is just a watered down primary series, but some teachers really mix it up and try some funky stuff. for me the best part of this is always the hip-opening exercises, and (again, for me) the most useful ones are: A/ pigeon (this one is just great); B/ cradling one leg in seated position (as if you were preparing for janu sirsasana C) and then elevating it upwards and swinging it back and forth vigorously; and C/ in downward dog, raise one leg straight up as far as possible, then torque it back to the other side (opening the chest and getting a good back bend in also). as far as I can tell, pigeon is not in any of the ashtanga series, but it seems an underrated and very useful pose/exercise.


4/ holding upward dog, Vol. II. the notion here is to further supplement primary series with postures/exercises that either balance it out or help open you up. I can think of two: A/ along the lines of holding the upward dog longer / getting more backbending into the primary series, sometimes I like to work ushtrasana into the closing sequence; and B/ along the lines of opening up the hips, sometimes I will throw in a pigeon or one of the other hip openers noted directly above.


5/ bandhas, Vol. II. even an advanced beginner tends to understand (“in theory”) how fundamental/essential the bandhas are to the practice, in the sense that “without them it’s just exercise”. however, I believe it is also true that most people are confused to some degree in their application – and I’m not talking about the fact that it may take years before one can do this on a deep level thru an entire practice. rather, I think there are some points that could use elaborating, as I know it has created some confusion for me (and some others I have spoken to), to wit: A/ the intensity of mula bandha (>> cracking zen walnuts); and in particular, B/ the relationship between mula bandha (MB) and uddiyana bandha (UB). for example, sometimes UB seems to be included within a properly executed MB – do one, get one free type of thing. however, in some positions this does not seem to be the case (like the bends for example, where I find you really have to focus independently on UB for it to kick in). more to the point, sometimes it seems important to separate the two or it will have the effect of constricting the breath / making deep breathing difficult. in particular here, if UB makes the stomach too rigid, this can make a deep inhale difficult, at which point all hell breaks loose and you just have to release everything and start again. so I kind of synthesize this as: the MB is the only real constant; sometimes UB comes along for the ride, and sometimes it goes a la carte; when it goes a la carte, UB has to be modulated on the inhale / exhale to allow full breathing. another way to think of this is the image in swenson’s book  (p. 10), of the string attached to the spine two inches below the navel – IE, where UB is not so much a “crack walnuts” bandha, as a limitation on belly-breathing, so there is some flex where needed, but not so much where your belly pops out and you get away from chest breathing. also, when I find I am doing UB “a la carte”, I find it useful to emphasize it at the end of the exhale – to empty the lungs fully – and then relax it a bit on the inhale.  or something like that ………


SO: dassit for my ruminations and some follow-up thoughts. thanks again for the workshop, which was instructive, illuminating, and simply lots of fun. it was both a privilege and a real pisser to practice with you, and it is nice to have your residual vibe in our daily practice space.


namaste bro / cheers    jg

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