Carrying the Torch of Ashtanga Yoga: Tim Miller.

Via David Garrigues
on Jun 5, 2012
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Dhyana Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga School of Philadelphia brought Senior Ashtanga teacher Tim Miller to Philadelphia spring 2012

I recently spent an inspiring weekend assisting Tim Miller at his workshop here in Philadelphia.

I am thankful to have had the chance to absorb his teachings, to benefit from his wisdom and experience. I received many lasting impressions that will fuel my practice and teaching.

One thing I absorbed was how Tim conveys a quality of soulfulness in his communication, a soulfulness that is transmitted in his groundedness, humor and respect for—and tolerance of—people’s differing levels of commitment to the stages of yoga.

Tim’s ambling, slow movement around the mysore room, his gray hair, steady voice and long time experience all help call to mind the archetype of the wise old man—the battle worn, benevolent father, who has been through the fire and darkness and emerged into the light on the other side.

He comes to you vulnerable but unshakeable, with a winking, biting, at times slightly faltering delivery that is perfectly accented by a variety of playful smiles and wild, ironic, slightly mocking and searching facial expressions. This variety of gestures are used at opportune moments to drive home significant points or to cause you to reexamine something you might have thought you had already figured out.

Tim Miller and David Garrigues at Dhyana Yoga

I would describe his presence as widely embracing and powerfully connected to the lineage.

During the hours and years he has spent inside yoga rooms he has become steeped in the tradition and he has achieved a demeanor that is reassuringly supportive in ways that recall Guruji’s presence.

When with Tim you feel you are firmly anchored in a safe harbor and that, with his teachings in mind, you will feel more firmly protected when you journey into unpredictable, changing seas of rigorous, daily practice. You feel that in the important matters of yoga, he knows the direction we all need to be steering our selves. You feel relieved to have a guide who has helped thousands of people walk along the hilly, winding yogic road to the gates of self-study.

Tim’s seat within the lineage is that of a heavyweight (not literally, Tim!)—like the meaning of the word Guru, weighty, stable, Tim is able to support, embrace and carry the formidable weight of the shakti, spiritual, healing energy that is generated by serious students of ashtanga in any given session.

Tim Miller adjusting John Vitarelli of Dhyana Yoga

Tim shares Guruji’s love of the yoga sutras and other sacred texts, and is fond of indian myths and teaching stories.

He even tells some of the same stories Guruji used to tell and in that way he is not only passing on the lineage through teaching the sequences of asanas but also through retelling Guruji’s stories, that might otherwise be lost. These stories provide important imagery and context for the practice, they help convey the purpose, paradox and humor of practice. They also disarm you, keep you on track and are ever aiming for the proper fruits of your efforts.

One key image can be found in the story from the Upanishads that Tim told about the two birds in the mango tree—one is the looking bird and the other the eating bird. The eating bird continually eats the mangos and no matter how many he eats, he’s never satisfied. The looking bird only watches, he doesn’t get caught up in the addictive, compulsive, unbridled appetites that are at the root of suffering.

Guruji loved this story and told it frequently, and so does Tim perhaps because it provides an effective visual image for distinguishing Self from not-self. The overall set of images vividly portrays the difference between the great or true Self, Purusa (looking bird), as opposed the small or apparent self, Prakriti (eating bird).

David Garrigues and Tim Miller in the Mysore room

The weekend reaffirmed for me that given his very human perspective, his love and devotion to yoga and his experience, Tim—the person and teacher—is one of the most important channels for students to receive Guruji’s healing teachings in as direct and pure a line as possible.

Tim said to me that he is happy to carry the torch. So seek him out and enjoy!

Watch a video of Tim and David adjusting in the Mysore room together.

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Editor: Lynn Hasselberger


About David Garrigues

David Garrigues is an international yoga teacher. He is recognized as one of a few teachers in the US certified to teach Ashtanga Yoga by the late world renown yoga master Sri K Pattabhi Jois. As an Ashtanga Ambassador he bases his teachings on the idea that 'Anyone can take practice', a core idea in the teachings of Sri K Pattabhi Jois. David's mission is to help others flourish within the living, contemporary lineage of Ashtanga Yoga. He aims to be part of an ever wider circle of people who are committed to applying the teachings of ashtanga yoga in ways that promote physical, psychological, and spiritual growth in themselves and others. David's website and highly popular youtube video channel, Asana Kitchen, has a wealth of free, expert yoga instructional materials to inspire progress in beginner through advanced practitioners. He is the author of three Ashtanga Yoga dvd's, A Guide to the Primary Series, A Guide to the Ashtanga Yoga Pranayama Sequence, and A Guide to the Second Series. His book Vayu Siddhi: A Guide to Free Breathing was written and inspired by yogic sacred texts on the science of asana and pranayama, the two favorite subjects of students of ashtanga yoga. He is the director of the Ashtanga Yoga School of Philadelphia and the Ashtanga Yoga School of Kovalam in India.


4 Responses to “Carrying the Torch of Ashtanga Yoga: Tim Miller.”

  1. Thaddeus1 says:

    So sweet and powerful. I wish I could have been in that room to simply bathe myself in the years of experience and wisdom.

    Thanks for sharing these reflections.

    Posting to Elephant Ashtanga. Be sure to Like Elephant Ashtanga on Facebook.

  2. Mamaste says:

    Just intro'd on FB to: Yoga, Spirituality & I'm Not Spiritual.

  3. Art says:

    what a great video, everyone looks so sweaty. is it hot in that room? i also noticed both instructors are wearing wife beaters. is that an ashtanga teacher uniform? what is it about the looking bird makes him/her better than the eating bird? seems to me the looking bird is so obsessed with looking at stuff (in this case his/her friend enjoying a pretty sweet fruit) he/she doesn't take the time to branch out and do other things. i guess, in a way, that's a lot like most ashtangis. just saying…namaste.