Category Archives: Teachers

Vancouver Inspiration: John Scott’s June Workshop

Like most American ashtangi’s I had heard stories about John Scott for years. One of my teachers in the Bay Area had practiced with John when he lived in London many years ago. But when I asked about the John Scott-style, I didn’t get much of a clue. People would tell you little things about his practice style. John says,

“Save your knees and hamstrings, leave a slight bend in your knees when you enter a standing pose.”

“Keep your hands firmly on the ground as you breathe through trini position in Suryanamaskar.”

“Ground yourself”

But, I couldn’t get a sense of what to expect of John as a teacher. When the Ashtanga community in Vancouver succeeded in getting John to come to North America in June 2007 (June 9th through the 13th), it was a unique chance to see for myself.

Inspiration

What John teaches is inspiration as much as anything else. If you are looking for an in-depth training to help you understand the linkages between anatomy and the practice, this is probably not the workshop for you [David Roche comes to mind here -Ed]. But if, like me, you run into periods when getting on the mat and then heaving yourself through poses and vinyasas is a little strenuous, then go. Go to New Zealand where John lives, find a workshop and go. The workshop really focused on loving the practice and approaching the practice with an attitude that will allow you to practice for life.

I have taken a few workshops and there is almost always a focus on asana and then vinyasa – the mechanics of practice. These are always great and extremely helpful when you are just getting into primary series. You want the formula to practice. What is the cheat? What’s the recipe? We all want to look like Richard Freeman’s or John Scott’s DVD – airborne. John focuses on the practice as a whole. We are trained to think of practice as asanas linked by “jump-backs”. You learn a posture and then your teacher gives you a new posture. So of course that is how we think of practice. In this workshop, the practice is the unit, one flowing movement from Samasthiti to Savasana, from one’s first stance in Samasthiti to one’s closing death in Savasana. A little microscopic life lived out each morning.

0707-john-lucy-scott-ashtanga-yoga.jpg

John and his wife Lucy

The Vancouver workshop was about how to get there. So, the three elements we focused on were breath, bandhas, and dristi, not asana, not jump backs. The same three things that are the focus of most meditation practices – breathing, grounding/lifting of one’s posture, and the gaze. Morning practice focused progressively on these three elements over the course of the workshop. Try practicing one morning and stopping when you have lost the breath. You’ll be surprised at the results. John did talk about some asanas and technique, but I think almost exclusively as a response to student questions.

In the afternoons John shared technique (but always related to the three elements of the practice), stories of his experience of yoga, stories of Mysore, observations on the state of the world. John’s general style was laid back. Everything was delivered with a “give it a try and see what you think” attitude.

The workshop was large (50 plus people), but I think the size actually helped us focus on the practice and not get too bogged down in poses and the inevitable problem of did you get adjusted or not. The organization was great , despite a few issues with the venue. And Vancouver is a fantastic summer getaway, beautiful, clean, not too hot, not too cool. If I had one suggestion for the organizers for next year (I am hoping that John puts this on his travel schedule), is find a venue in Kitsalano, a nicer neighborhood than the downtown venue that we used this year.

A review has to have stars or thumbs to make it easy to grasp. So here you go. I give John Scott’s Vancouver Workshop two thumbs up. Suggestions for next year would be longer maybe a full week or even two, and maybe in a more laid-back location than downtown Vancouver. Anyone else that attended please add any other thoughts in the comment sections below.

Saraswathi’s New Website

A stiff body has a good potential for learning Yoga. A flexible body is usually more caught up in Bhoga [over-indulgence].

Saraswathi Rangaswamy, daughter of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Sharath Rangaswamy’s mother, launched her own website this month, Saraswathi Ashtanga.

saraswathi-home-page.gif

The Home Page of SaraswatiAshtanga.com

She has many insights into Ashtanga, women and family responsibility from a feminine point of view. Each page of Saraswathi’s site is well-worth reading. Her site is infused with the gentle wisdom, kindness and humor of the Jois family.

saraswathi-headstand.gif

Saraswathi in action

It took me ten years to learn the asanas well, then two children to forget about it, but the Yogic experience I got from that was more than any asana could ever give me.

Sharath was a real weakling in his early years, he did not like going to school and would be home for months on lying sick in his bed.

The main subjects are:

  • Saraswathi – describing her life with yoga intertwined throughout. She has been teaching since 1971 and in 1986 was criticized for teaching women and men together.
  • Insights – wisdom from Saraswathi, like “Everybody speaks about the greatness of my father. Yes now he is great, but does anybody know what sufferings he went through in order to come to where he’s at today?”
  • Feminine Perspective – wisdom specifically related to women’s traditional responsibilities, like:

Men are stronger than women physically, but women are more talented yogis.

saraswathi-hands.gif

Saraswathi’s Hands

The site also lists Saraswathi’s teaching schedule and contact information. It specifically states that Saraswathi welcomes beginning Ashtanga students. She teaches her own class every day after assisting her father, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. She has an ever increasing dedicated following.

Plus it’s a beautifully designed site with plenty of great photos (the photos here are from the site).

As a side note, of all the photos tagged Ashtanga on Flickr, I found so very, very few of this beautiful woman…so please, can some of you capture some photos when you go to Islamorada or Mysore next? :)

(Thanks to Ashtanga.com for this tipoff.)