Ashtanga Yoga’s Primary Series (& David Robson) to the Steady Beat of a Drum.

Via Tanya Lee Markul
on Nov 6, 2012
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Photo credit: EK Park

“A trained body is not necessarily a sign of a trained mind.” ~ David Robson

David Robson leads one of the world’s largest Mysore programs at Ashtanga Yoga Center of Toronto (AYCT). He’s also created a Led Primary Series MP3 to the beat of a hypnotic, subtle drum beat played by Matthew Stephens…and, he let me ask him a few questions about it…

1. What inspired you to incorporate the drums into the Ashtanga practice?

David: I made the Led Primary Drum MP3 for a couple of reasons. One was to provide a clear record of the traditional vinyasa count for Primary Series as taught by Sharath. Setting the count to the drum makes the distinctions between each vinyasa very clear, and I think it’s important to know when one vinyasa ends and another begins.

The second reason is that the drum itself provides us with a tool for focusing. I’ve led workshops where we just sit and breath to the drumbeat, and this can be an incredibly powerful experience. The drum props up our attention on the breath, making it easier to sustain focus and ultimately enter states of deep concentration and meditation.

 2. How did you come up with the drum beat?

David: Drums and liberation techniques go hand in hand. There were probably drums playing in history’s first yoga class: “Power Flow with Urg.” I can see the cave painting now: “Join Urg for an evening of drumming and moving and breathing around the big fire near the cave.” You know what I mean. Drums were playing when the first inklings of ritual started to pop up. I’m just going with an idea that’s been around since the dawn of time.

 3. How has it impacted your practice?

Photo courtesy: David Robson

David: The steady beat has revealed so much to me about my breath. When I have that external, unbiased rythmn, it becomes very plain to see where my breath moves off the count. And I’ve found that the drumbeat tends to echo in my practice for weeks after I’ve used it. My breath is steadier, and I am more committed to staying with the vinyasa.

That said, I also see the limitations of working with such a rigid metronome. The reality is that our breath probably does need to change with the practice, slightly speeding up and slowing down according to the different sections of the series.

 4. The practice of Ashtanga is quite traditional—did you feel you were expanding/breaking any unspoken rules? 

David: I didn’t make the drum track to break any rules. It’s a prop, and I meant for the track to be used like a workshop, to educate and inform our daily practice. I identify as a traditional practitioner of Ashtanga, and that means that I don’t use props in my daily practice, or in my teaching. In my community, that actually makes me a bit of rebel. Most of the studios and practices in my city don’t follow a tradition.

The traditional practice of Ashtanga is much less marketable than a vinyasa class with music, for the simple reason that it’s harder. It’s hard to do this practice everyday, with nothing but my breath and my thoughts and my ugly monkey mind for company. Some days it’s starkly apparent that I’m a crazy rebel for doing Ashtanga as it has been taught to me by Sharath.

Read more:

Guaranteed Transformation, If You Want It.

Correct Vinyasa: It’s Really, Really F*cking Hard.

Yoga DVD Review: Learn to Float.

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

This article was originally published on Rebelle Society.

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About Tanya Lee Markul

Luring the magic of what is natural back into our daily lives, Tanya Markul is a freer of creativity, of inner beauty + power, and an enthusiastic igniter of the wild spirit! She re-writing the wild flower sutras, and offers a refreshing & badass view on spirituality, wellness & authentic living. Sensitivity is her tree trunk, flower stem, and nucleus. It is her belly, and her heart. Tanya is an artist of life, a faery of trees, a wanderer of the dark, a writer of heart, a misfit yogini, and an Urban Priestess apprentice. She believes in the power of your personal weird, quirky, magic, and that only path toward inner freedom & light, is through the dark — eyes closed, heart open. Tanya is the creator of The Urban Howl, Yoga Write Now & Waking Wild. Join her free forum for monthly yoga & writing practices here. Join her free forum for 30 days of exercise for 30 days here. Join her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & get her free weekly & quirky newsletter here.


6 Responses to “Ashtanga Yoga’s Primary Series (& David Robson) to the Steady Beat of a Drum.”

  1. […] Ashtanga Yoga’s Primary Series to the Steady Beat of a Drum. […]

  2. Thaddeus1 says:

    This is awesome Tanya. I always love your discussions with David and I always admire his candidness and nuanced perspective. Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to actually practice with him. Until then, I will just continue to rely on you. Thanks.

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

  3. Tanya Markul says:

    Thank you Thaddeus! 🙂 I agree with you completely — his candidness is admirable. 🙂

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