Guaranteed Transformation – If You Want It.

Via on Oct 23, 2011

During his 7-day workshop in Copenhagen, Denmark, I had the fortunate opportunity to squeeze in a café Americano (times two) with level-2 authorized Ashtanga yoga teacher, David Robson.

The topic of discussion: Ashtanga yoga, of course, and how the practice itself can seem quite daunting for beginners as well as critics, the curious and even experienced practitioners.

i. There are Yogis and then there are Ashtangis. Really?

David: Ashtangis are considered ‘extremists’ maybe, but extreme on the side of yoga. Ashtangis, by following the prescriptions of tradition, tend to be very committed to this practice. It can seem that when we say one thing works, we are saying another thing doesn’t, but that’s not the case. All yoga is yoga; Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a particular path and it works, but that doesn’t necessarily mean any other path is any less effective.

“Admire the work, not the asana.”

ii. You need to be physically fit already to practice Ashtanga, fact or fiction?

David: It is a demanding practice and I don’t believe anyone should start by doing the entire primary series. To just do a led class, I think it could be pretty hard for most people and most beginners. Things like age, overall health, strength and flexibility may impact how quickly someone learns the practice, but these factors become insignificant over time. You have to take the time to let your body adapt to the practice and you gradually build up at your own pace. The mysore-style teaching format is really the perfect way for a beginner to learn yoga, as it starts from scratch and develops according to the abilities of the individual. I totally believe that anyone can practice and take benefit from Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.

“The depth of the practice can’t be seen in asana. Somebody that can do a backbend and grab onto their ankles isn’t going to be further ahead in their practice than somebody who has trouble forward bending or is stiff. That doesn’t make a difference- that’s not what the practice is about.”

iii. Establishing a practicehow many days a week?

David: The six days a week (except on moon days and Saturdays) does seem intense, but it’s a big part of the practice. I often tell my students that if you have to, do less more often. A steady practice will help us bring steadiness into the rest of our lives. Yoga is medicine, and it’s important to take it as prescribed. It’s the antidote to halahala. However, you have to start somewhere so you do what you can do. Any practice is better than no practice. It also helps if you have a community around you that is doing the same thing – it becomes much easier.

(Yoga) Its a total transformation if you want to do it, its guaranteed that it will change everything.

iv. The duration of practicehow long should it be?

David: Practice typically takes an hour and a half to two hours. You keep adding asanas, but once you pass a certain point, you split and do the next series. The duration of a practices changes according to what series, i.e. primary, intermediate, etc. is being done.

v. Getting up EARLY – how early?

David: Get up as late as you can (he says this with a smile). Don’t get up at 3am in the morning if you don’t have to. Brahma Muhurta – about an hour before the sun rises, is the most auspicious time to practice. Doing your practice before your day starts, when everything is quiet and before everyone else is up, allows you to set your ‘intention’ and your day’s course first thing in the morning. You have this time to practice everyday, you don’t have to fit it in later.

Me getting up early is doing what its supposed to. Its creating non-attachment and non-worldliness.

vi. Do you have to visit Mysore?

David: It would be good if you could. When I found out that you could go to Mysore and study with the source, I was excited about it. If you are really interested in Ashtanga, I think it’s very important, and I’d recommend it.

Integrating yoga into your life makes everything else all the more possible.

A photo I took of David in Copenhagen.

David’s Copenhagen, Denmark workshop was held at Astanga Yoga Studio.

David Robson leads one of the worlds largest Mysore programs at Ashtanga Yoga Center of Toronto (AYCT). For more information, please visit the AYCT website

About Tanya Lee Markul

Yoga Editor, Elephant Journal. I yoga, write, take photos and I investigate existentially. I got a thing for those who have found expression through some form of mastery or artistic fashion, and sincerity. (You set me free I set you). I adore anything that is equally cute and creepy. The most special ingredient you can find, be and put into anything is: yourself. Remember, everything you want, you already have and are. Look within. The more you use it, the more it will grow. For more randomness and love, visit me at Rebelle Lotus and, you don't want to miss the creative rebellion at Rebelle Society. Join us.

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29 Responses to “Guaranteed Transformation – If You Want It.”

  1. Claudia says:

    Loved this, great timing too… To clarify things :-) and from a very knowledge able teacher!

  2. I'm excited about the dipping my toe in the ocean of Ashtanga & seeing how I like it, but not sure I can reasonably do 1 – 2 hrs a day. Still…enjoying all the Ashtanga articles lately…make me think it might be just what I need!

  3. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    David, it was lovely to meet you – I am looking forward to hearing more from you here. We are grateful!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  4. bindifry says:

    fantastic. all very well said. simple & straight to the point. amen to this. or namaste :-)

  5. [...] Claudia did link to this post at Elephant Journal, which is worth a look. It’s just six quick questions with David Robson, [...]

  6. Thaddeus1 says:

    "Ashtangis, by following the prescriptions of tradition, tend to be very committed to this practice. It can seem that when we say one thing works, we are saying another thing doesn’t, but that’s not the case. All yoga is yoga; Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a particular path and it works, but that doesn’t necessarily mean any other path is any less effective."

    I love this sentiment. I was just having this exact conversation today, after taking a very modified ashtanga class with lots of "exploration." Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with exploration and if you want to make a path out of it, I say go for it.

    But the importance of tradition, and precisely the paraparam (disciplic succession) is a path often frowned upon in the postmodern world. The idea being that it somehow infringes upon one's "self" and/or freedom. Of course, these are the very notions that we strive to bring into question on the path of yoga in the first place. And so the choice to follow the tradition takes the gamble out the game. The idea being that the guru has traveled the path and gotten to a place where you want to be. You could of course try to find your way there on your own, or you could pull over and ask directions. Even at this point, after asking, one has only begun because then one must be willing to follow. This course of action above all else requires humility and a good amount of faith and so it is definitely not for everyone. But, as the scriptures maintain, not everyone is ready to come to the place of practice.

    Thank you for this candid and concise discussion.

    Posting to Elephant Ashtanga

  7. fivefootwo says:

    Beautiful, beautiful. "yoga is medicine" take it as prescribed. Important not to improvise, particularly at the very beginning.

  8. Thea says:

    I loved the flow and the message of the blog. Thank you.

  9. iloveginger says:

    wonderful! keep the ashtanga love comin'!! i'm new to ashtanga! my issue is time as well- thank you David, my new goal will be to practice more often-maybe doing the sun salutations and standing poses if time is short {im in Midwifery grad school and working full time} im starting to see tiny transformations..ah it will be an amazing day for me when i can fully jump thru/float

    • Thaddeus1 says:

      Hey BIRTHnerd…So glad to hear your excitement for the practice of Ashtanga…it is a truly wonderful practice and it will take you far in this world…Be sure to check out the new Elephant Ashtanga page on Facebook. We will be posting all the relevant ashtanga articles from the past and present, so you can be sure that you won't miss anyhting….Also let any and all of your friends know…blessings

  10. Beautiful photo at the end… stunning!

  11. [...] Related articles on Elephant: Guaranteed Transformation, If You Want It. [...]

  12. [...] is guaranteed transformation, if you want it, says David [...]

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