Tomorrow I get to be with my teacher and I’m pretty darn excited about it! It’s an awesome thing to have someone in your life that helps guide the way on the path of yoga. For me, getting to David Garrigues has been a fantastic journey. One that started back in 2002 when I first stepped foot into Jivamukti Yoga School in NYC. David Life, Sharon Gannon and Ruth Lauer-Manenti were my first teachers and they kicked my butt and woke me up in a big way. I’ll never forget being in Ruth’s class with 80 other people, many of us sweating buckets, and hearing her say “Cory, straighten your leg!” or being in child’s pose in Sharon’s class and bursting into tears for no apparent reason, or David stopping class to workshop ardha matsyendrasana (seated spinal twist) and looking over at me, tilting his head lightheartedly remarking on the challenge presented by my sizable arms (I lifted weights daily back then). For whatever reason, these moments stuck and let me know that they were watching, that they cared. I always left there feeling like I knew myself just a little bit better and they remain strong influences in my life to this day.
During my FDA years, I spent a good deal of time on the road, traveling all over the world and practicing in hotel rooms or the occasional random yoga shala. I developed quite a love for the quiet solitude of self practice. David, Sharon and Ruth had planted the seeds of the Ashtanga lineage and something in me yearned to connect more deeply with Guruji Sri K Pattabhi Jois. Then several years ago, through fellow yoga teachers at Flow, I heard about this Ashtanga teacher in Philadelphia who had a YouTube series called “Asana Kitchen”. The name resonated because the kitchen is the place where things come together – ingredients, food, friends and family (you know how when you have people over and everyone ends up hanging out in the kitchen all night?!). And that’s kinda how I look at asanas – the various components of the body coming together to build a posture. So, I started watching. And I kept watching. So much great stuff! And this man’s passion for yoga was contagious – it grabbed me. I wanted to meet him and I had a gut feeling he was my teacher, but I was nervous about it. One, because I didn’t want to betray my Jivamukti teachers, two because I hadn’t committed myself to Mysore practice, and three because I’d be disappointed if I was wrong.
Committing to Mysore was something I’d been considering for years, but I was hesitant because, already being a teacher, I thought I’d look stupid going in and starting from scratch (see my last blog for more on that insecurity…). Plus, to be completely transparent, I had labeled the practice as too physically intense and somehow less spiritual, which I now know to be incorrect. And it was one of those things, the longer I waited, the more impossible it seemed or the more reasons I conjured up to avoid it. What a dope….
Also, regarding the possibility of betrayal or disappointment, I hold the teacher-student relationship in very high regard. Ever since the first day I stepped foot in elementary school I have had great respect for my teachers and wanted to make them proud. In this case it’s about something so much more than academics – it’s about living liberated. When it comes to yoga and its teachings, I’m what you might call a liberal traditionalist. I strive to be open minded and accepting and at the same time I place great importance on discipline, faith, devotion, humility, learning, and tradition. It’s just the way I’m built (a vasana maybe…). Parampara is a Sanskrit term that means “uninterrupted succession” and denotes the direct and unbroken transmission of knowledge from teacher to student. Ashtanga is founded on parampara and a commitment to its practice and instruction.
Fortunately, I got over my reservations and joined the Mysore program at Flow, which, thanks to Jen René and crew, has been awesome. After some time passed, I booked a trip to study with David. That first morning in Philly I was filled with hope. Immediately upon entering the shala, which sits on the 3rd floor of an old building on Jeweler’s Row, I felt at home. There’s an energy of devotion, reverence, work ethic, and love there that envelopes the space. Right up my alley. I went into the practice room, rolled out my mat and got to it. David wasn’t there yet, but I sensed it when he entered. I was in utthita parśvakonāsana (extended side angle) when he first adjusted me. He said, “Welcome Cory” and I just kinda knew, this is my teacher. But, I wanted to be cautious, this was not a relationship I took lightly. On the 5th and final day of the intensive, David approached me in a posture and spoke to me about finding dhyana (the 7th limb – meditation). That sealed the deal for me. After that final session I approached David and asked him to by my teacher. He graciously accepted. Since then I’ve spent many hundreds of hours studying with him and each time I walk away feeling more devoted to my practice and teaching.
There’s a Buddhist tale about a teacher who is approached by a student requesting to be taught. The student presents himself by listing all his accomplishments. While he’s doing so, the teacher doesn’t speak, but simply begins to pour tea into the student’s tea cup. When the cup begins to overflow the student exclaims, “stop! the cup is overflowing!”, to which the teacher replies, “If you truly seek understanding, then first, empty your cup!“. Today I’m emptying my cup….
To learn more about David, visit davidgarrigues.com.