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  • Writer's pictureSpira

How I found my teacher. David Swenson in Seattle at Spira March 9-10 2013

Dora as a young gymnast

More years ago than I care to admit my budding curiosity for yoga was fueled by a shopping spree for VHS tapes. OK, OK, I may have just given away how very long ago all this may have been… It was before yoga was something that people talked about. Before there were any fancy yoga conferences, yoga journal and certainly before commercial festivals sponsored by SmartWater  like Wanderlust.

Yoga was something that some folks viewed as mysterious and even weird. I felt there was something to this art. After my Rhythmic Gymnastics ‘career’, my exercise routine was “reduced” to trail running. I loved the trails, I still do love the trails, love nature, but I was missing the multidimensional movement of gymnastic. I missed the feeling that every muscle in my body got worked, got attention.

My shopping binge resulted in a lot of funny purchases. Right away I knew that there was a type of yoga for everyone. Every yoga style is very much valid and good. But just like not every shoe fits all feet, not every teacher is for everyone.

David Swenson

I am spiritual, but also very much scientifically minded. I am Easter European and the New Age “love language”, and the moon and the stars stuff just did not resonate with me. I also felt that for my mind to rest and come into the moment, I needed movement. Even today after so many years of yoga, I do my seated meditation after a rigorous practice. It does not work for me the other way around.  Physical exercise releases chemicals- endorphins in our brain. These endorphins have been proven in laboratories to reduce stress, and create an elated mind. We all know instinctively that it is true, that is why we feel so good after a rigorous walk in the woods. Yoga styles that focused on stillness did very little to bring me into peace.

So there I was on a search for a style of yoga that moved, that was physically challenging.  I was looking for a teacher that spoke with straight up tone of voice, with an intellectual curiosity and a sense of humor. I was looking for someone who spoke of the philosophy of yoga, but reflected love and support in the way of being instead of showering me with lots of fluffy words.

David Swenson

And thus I found Ashtanga….And David Swenson. I right away bought all his VHS tapes. I still have them even though I don’t have a player anymore.  It was a momentous occasion in my life. I would pop in either “Short Forms” or the “Primary Series” and magic happened. His being, his tone of voice right away transported me to a peaceful place in my mind. I started the sun salutations with him on my little bulky television set in my tiny room and just marveled of what unfolded inside my body and mind. It was truly an experience of elevation. Similar to what believers in a church talk about when singing in a choir. It was spiritual, but somehow the rhythm of the breath and the movement placed this rather mystical experience into the physical.

It was like moving and breathing in peace.

With the commercialization of yoga, something did indeed get lost in the translation at least that is my perception. I have attended many fancy yoga conferences, teacher trainings and festivals, but they all came up far-far second compare to David’s tapes.

So it was time to see him in person…I was nervous.  There is this human tendency to put people on a pedestal when they are in your television set. But David was David even in person. He is approachable, down to earth, funny, humble and inspirational. I didn’t feel that he was out there to be a “guru”, I didn’t feel he was out there to “grow his yoga business” and find followers. He was just a nice man practicing yoga, he just happened to have practiced much longer than I have. He was out there to share his love of practice and teach us how to be our own teacher. As David said in class: “ Ashtanga yoga is there to wean you off of a need for a teacher, and to teach you to practice on your own daily.”

I found my teacher, my version of yoga.

When I asked him if he would come and teach at Spira, I really did not think that I had a chance. I have looked at David’s schedule; he was booked for years in Europe, Asia and the Americas. What on Earth would he be doing at my neighborhood studio? But he said yes. Wow…..

These are demo sequences for your jaw muscles, not the stuff that we will be practicing. J Please note though that you don’t have to be super advanced yogi to study with David.  Ashtanga like every yoga type can be modified to fit your needs. It is enough to be present and breathe.

David Swenson will be at Spira on March 9-10. For more info click here:


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