Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Yoga Podcast Episode 5 with David Garrigues: The Devotional Side Of Yoga

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Presenter:                   Welcome to the Yoga Podcast.  Keeping it real, with your host Claudia Azula Altucher. 

[Music Ends]

Claudia Altucher:    So hello, and welcome to the Yoga Podcast.  I am thrilled to have with me today David Garrigues.  David is the director of the Ashtanga Yoga School of Philadelphia.  He's one of a few teachers in the United States to be certified to teach the ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga System by the late Pattabhi Jois who is the founder of this system.  He teaches workshops all over the world and he has several instructional DVDs on the primary and the intermediate series of ashtanga yoga, as well as a book that comes together with the DVD on the fourth limb pranayama, the branch of breathing.  And he has also recorded two devotional or kirtan CDs called Jaya Sat Guru and Bad Man Bhakti. 

                                    David, welcome.  Thank you for joining us today in the Yoga Podcast.

David Garrigues:       Thank you for having me, Claudia.

Claudia Altucher:        So let me ask you a question right off the bat.  Is Garrigues a Spanish name?  Do you have any Spanish connection?

David Garrigues:                [Laughs] It's a Basque name.  So right near – it's in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, but I think it's on the French side.

Claudia Altucher:        Oh, I see.

David Garrigues:        Yeah [Laughs].

Claudia Altucher:        So we're not related.  Not a chance [Laughs].

David Garrigues:        I don't think so.  But I had a bass teacher once that he insisted it was Garrigues.  So who knows?

Claudia Altucher:        Who knows?

David Garrigues:      Yeah [Laughs].

Claudia Altucher:        Yeah [Laughs].  So David, you started practicing yoga about 25 years ago.  Is that fair to say?

David Garrigues:          Well, even more.

Claudia Altucher:        Even more.

David Garrigues:         Yeah.

Claudia Altucher:        Can you remember what brought you into it?  What was it that – why yoga?  What happened?

David Garrigues:         I can remember it perfectly because it was a very amazing thing happened.  I was young.  I was sixteen.  So that was 30 – more than 35 years ago.  A friend, he – I was a dishwasher.  That was my first job when I was sixteen years old at a restaurant.And there's always an eccentric dishwasher that's, like, older, they – 'cause it's just kind of a job you can do.  And so there was another guy, a dishwasher, an older guy, and he was into all kinds of crazy stuff, but he was into yoga.  And he took me out to a park and taught me the Surya Namaskara, the Sun Salutation outside.  I just – I loved it.  I thought it was incredible and I started doing it by myself outside on the beach every morning.

Claudia Altucher:   Where were you then?

David Garrigues:    I was in West Seattle.  I lived – I'm from Seattle and I lived on Alki Beach in West Seattle, and I would go out in this little park and do it.  And I even wrote a paper about it in – for my school and I called it "The World Is A Sacrament".  So I got – it was very devotional and it took – me, right away I took to it and was just sixteen years old and didn't know anything about it.  And I actually continued to practice the Sun Salutation without knowing anything else about yoga for some years, actually.

Claudia Altucher:   So there was a devotional component that got you right away?  You sensed there was something in it for you?

David Garrigues:    Yeah.  Yeah.

Claudia Altucher:  That's very interesting. 

David Garrigues:    Yeah.

Claudia Altucher:   Now, if I may fast forward, you had this story recently.  In the summer of 2013 you were driving in New Mexico and you had a pretty intense car accident. 

David Garrigues:     Yeah.  Yeah.  Yep.

Claudia Altucher:     And what happened?  Tell me.

David Garrigues:    Well, it was a real freak thing because it was in the middle of summer in New Mexico on the highway and was going reasonably fast and all of a sudden we came across something I'd never encountered 'cause I'm not from there, but an unbelievable hail storm.  Radical.  Giant balls of hail and a torrential downpour.  Unbelievable.  It went from clear to like that to you couldn't see twenty feet in front of you.  And it was just – the cacophony of weather.  Whoa.  And I tried to stop, tried to put on the brakes, and it totally didn't work.  We started swerving totally out of control at 75 miles an hour.  Totally out of control.

                                And so we were – fishtail to one side, and Joy's there next to me.  She's going, "We're okay."  Then we swerved to the other side.  Three times.  Just all the way across the road, completely thinking –

Claudia Altucher:   Oh, my gosh.

David Garrigues:    – the thing was gonna – if it would have – it could have rolled.  It could have easily just caught and rolled.  And then there was other cars too that were off – that had already spun off to the – off the road.  And so finally it slowed down enough that it righted and we – and then – but I ended up off of the road going really fast on the grass.

Claudia Altucher:        Wow.  Jeez.

David Garrigues:   [Laughs]  And then finally it came to a stop and that wasn't over then because there was, like, three feet of water.  The car started sinking in the water.  And I tried to open it and it was like water started coming in the car.  So I – somehow I managed to back up and get out of it and drove off and nothing happened.  Not a scratch or anything, but…

Claudia Altucher:   That's almost a miracle 'cause when you go into water and mud backing off doesn't just happen.

David Garrigues:    No, I know.  It was [laughs]

Claudia Altucher:   That's incredible.  And I just want to say Joy [Marzec] is your partner who's also an amazing yogi,  movie director, and an amazing person.  But what I got from your newsletter is that when this was happening, which is terrifying, you had some insights –

David Garrigues:    Yeah.

Claudia Altucher:     in this because you kind of confronted death right there.

David Garrigues:      Yeah.  Yeah.

Claudia Altucher:   And you said here, I have it, "In those few lucid moments, I saw my shadow clearly and I saw that my shadow contributed to me being in this dire situation.  I saw the wrongness of my impatience, my continual dissatisfaction, the kind that hinders, not helps."  And that's an eye-opening moment there.  When you're confronted with death, you…

David Garrigues:    Yeah.

Claudia Altucher:    It really puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

David Garrigues:    Yeah.

Claudia Altucher:        Well, I'm glad you're here. 

David Garrigues:   Yes.  And it's amazing when that veil gets ripped out like that and how lucid that is.  And then when I talk to other people about it, it's so hard because when the danger's over, you remember and you take something with you, but then also, I don't know, it's so strange how that work, the maya, the illusion.  It's so easily comes back that you get impatient again.  But I definitely learned from that and it stuck what me, some of that.

Claudia Altucher:   I guess that's why we call it a daily practice, having to come back to what's real.  "Okay, I'm still facing death.  There's no need to rush [Laughs]."  It's very hard for me.

David Garrigues:     Right. And the practice exactly brings you back to that.  Every day.

Claudia Altucher:   You also said something recently that caught my attention.  When it comes to the difference in practice through age, you say, "At 30 I want more and more Asanas, I want more practice.  At 40, I want my pranayama."  What happens as we age with the yoga practice as we grow older?

David Garrigues:    It's not as much as I want my pranayama.  It's more I definitely explored the Asana in a different way and I'm not as drawn to the transitions.  I'm drawn to the Asana itself and to what – and to being there in that place.  And so – and that, to me, was, I guess, unexpected because of how physical I am and how athletic I've been and just how much I love movement and dynamism and how much – that's one of the reasons I really love ashtanga is the flow and the real amazing transitions that link everything together.

                               But certainly, aging has just made that less important, the flow and  the movement, and made the stillness and the breathing and the exploration of the position – this is different than pranayama.  It's actually like I'm interested in the very basic shapes like triangle and shoulder stand and what they reveal meditatively within internal awareness and consciousness and breathing.  And it's something very different than a sitting practice or even a pranayama practice because it is still a shape, and it's something – and there's variety involved in it.  When you do inversions, that's really different than a seated type of work.  And so it's just coming to love that more.  And fewer Asanas. 

Claudia Altucher:   I feel the same way.  I'm 46 right now and I find that the more I step on the mat and the pranayama practice grows, the breathing practice grows, then it – I don't even need to do so many postures because you start to get kind of more juice out of each of the postures.  You identify new things happening in the body.  So I guess would you say the Asana has enough in it to bring you inwards from being totally out there and thinking about where the next paycheck comes from to going really to that central axis that you talk about and to focus your energy within you?

David Garrigues:   I do.  I say, for me, there's – because it's combining so many important elements that – 'cause there is a seated kind of meditation type of aspect that would not require Asana that – other than sitting, but it's more than that because it is physically expressive.  And I also liken – I think Asana is yantra.

Claudia Altucher:   What is yantra?  What does that mean?

David Garrigues:    Yantra is like mantra, but it's – so mantra is mind instrument, so it's a corolla of the mind, a sacred sound that you utter. And yantra is a – it has to do with form and order and a physical device for meditation or shape.  And so Asana is that.  It's a shape or a form, a certain ordered-pattern form and there's an aesthetic quality to it to.  That it has something compelling to the eye or to the senses.  And so for me, that's why the Asana can do what you're saying.  It draws you in completely because it has so much interest for somebody that – I don't know.  There's an aesthetic aspect to it, right?

Claudia Altucher:    Yes.

David Garrigues:   And that's included in movement and posture that is particularly compelling to me.

Claudia Altucher:  I was lucky enough to participate in one of your workshops earlier this year and you were calling it a gesture.  It's not just a pose that you're doing.  It's a gesture. 

David Garrigues:   Yeah.

Claudia Altucher:  And you said the difference between a beginner student and an intermediate student – do you remember what you said?  You said it's the gesture.

David Garrigues:    It's the…

Claudia Altucher:    You said is that you maintain these – I guess the yantra, we could say.  Would that be fair to say?

David Garrigues:   Yeah.  And that the yantra – to make a yantra, a skillful yantra, is to make a gesture.  And that gesture has – like mudra, the word mudra, which is an important…

Claudia Altucher:   What does that mean, mudra?

David Garrigues:    Mudra is – well, it means seal or it has many meanings, actually, but it means like a stamp.  So you – like a king when he signs his thing, he leaves his stamp.  That's a mudra.  But it's also a gesture, like a hand gesture they have.  The classic mudras are like dancers.  Indian dancers do all the hand gestures or all mudras.  And then in yoga they have those – the classic ones too for meditation and things.  But it's a broader term that any – all the transitions between the postures in the ashtanga system they're gestures.  So you gesture  between the posture.  And they're alternating, opposing patterns, those gestures, that they're – so your gestures reveals one pattern when you inhale and another pattern when you exhale, and those are opposing patterns.

                                But then the Asana itself is a gesture.  And in that way, it can be a kind of very slow unfolding gesture.  It could take ten minutes to complete this gesture that is headstand or whatever you're working on.

Claudia Altucher:   And then these opposing forces that happen, say, for example in the down dog where your heels are going to the ground and the seat bones are aiming towards the ceiling or even in the headstand where you're inverted and everything is upside down, learning to breathe in the face of these opposing forces, I guess that's part of what yoga is all about, right?  Even when you step off the mat –

David Garrigues:    Yeah.  Yes.

Claudia Altucher:        – maintaining that equanimity.  I think you talk about equanimity in your book as well. 

David Garrigues:    Yeah.  And so that – and it's a very curious thing, opposing forces, because they – in one sense, if you get – go right to the root of it, of yoga, the source of all that is you is completely equanimous.  In fact, it seemed as, like, all equal, everything, like there's a unity that exists.  And then what actually starts kind of creation or manifestation is imbalance.  So form is based on imperfection and in that sense, like ignorance in a way.  And so those – and the opposing forces are the quintessential pair that come right from that equanimity.  And that – and so all the forms get created from just those two original forms like the yin and yang.

                                And so what's interesting is you have to use those opposing forces to get to the unity, to get back to it, to kind of return to this source that we've forgotten.  And so the – that's how you do it, with breathing, with the inhalation and the exhalation.  And like what you're saying, by stamping the heels down and lifting the sitting bones up or pushing the thigh bones back as you resist.  They're everywhere, those.  And then you learn how to use those to get, to find that center line, that elusive middle that is dynamic. 

Claudia Altucher:   and I suppose when you add all of these elements and you just go to regular practice, you step on the mat.  But with this kind of knowledge, then it becomes a whole exploration trip into just the Sun Salutation [Laughs].  It's amazing how much can go into it, right?

David Garrigues:    Totally.  Yes.

Claudia Altucher:   It's incredible.  You said that in the book "Vayu Siddhi", by the way, that you wrote, and which to to me is total poetry.  I find you to be a poet because the descriptions are very vivid, there's a lot of – the way you write is just very – it's very well written.  And you said that the inspiration for this book came to you during a period of immobilization.

David Garrigues:    Yes.

Claudia Altucher:   What happened to you?  How did this book come to life?

David Garrigues:    =You won't believe this.  So we – it was after Guruji [Patthabhi Jois] passed away, my teacher.  And the next time I went to India after he passed away, I was supposed to go to Mysore and Joy and I got to Bangalore, that's the city that you fly into to go to Mysore, and we – for some reason I couldn't go there.   I got totally – just I couldn't go.  And so we decided – I started looking for other places we could go and we ended up going to this place really remote.  It's called the Andaman Islands.  So it's a set of islands that are off the coast of – the East Coast of India and they're completely remote.  There's Aboriginal tribes living on some of the islands.  It's just crazy wild and you have to get – you fly in a plane and then you go in a boat.

                                And finally we – so we went there and I was gonna focus on my practice and we ended up staying at this place where there was a yoga shala up – you walked up these stairs and it overlooked the jungle and everything.  And so I was amazingly stoked for this kind of time just to retreat and do that.  And then I also – there was surfing there [Laughs].  So I got a little bit distracted with some surfing.  And for some reason, a really – I don't know, within one week, less than a week, I was working on Twist, the stand – 

Claudia Altucher:   I'm not even gonna ask what that is.  I'm not sure I want to know [Laughs].

David Garrigues:    Well, it's a twist, but I trenched my back, tweaked it really bad. 

Claudia Altucher:     Oh.

David Garrigues:     I could barely walk.

Claudia Altucher:     Wow.

David Garrigues:    And there we were stuck.  There was nowhere we were gonna go for one month.  There's no…

Claudia Altucher:     Was there Internet?

David Garrigues:     There was Internet if you drove to the other side of the island.

Claudia Altucher:       Oh, wow.  It was really remote.

David Garrigues:      Yeah.  Really remote.

Claudia Altucher:       And you were on your back laying down?

David Garrigues:      I was on my back.  I could not walk up to that yoga shala. And for one month with no Internet, no nothing.  And I had planned – I had arranged it all to practice.  That was my whole thing.  And so what I did, though, is I practiced on my back, breathing and sitting in dandasana with my feet on at the wall and…

Claudia Altucher:     That's sitting up with the legs straight out, right?

David Garrigues:       Straight.

Claudia Altucher:      With your feet on the wall.

David Garrigues:       Yep. 

Claudia Altucher:      And did you also visualize the Asana practice?  Some people talk about visualizing your practice.  Is this something you do or…

David Garrigues:       I don't think so.  Not too much. No.  I did – I approximated kind of – in a way I visualized it, but not in a literal way.  Not like going through the practice in my mind. 

Claudia Altucher:        Then you had an opportunity to go in the breathing limb, the fourth limb of yoga, and to really – I guess you had a whole month to…

David Garrigues:                I couldn't move.  So that got eliminated.  "Sorry, David.  No more Asana.  What are you gonna do now?"  Well, I'm gonna breathe.  And then in that DVD, there's two disks and one disk is a preparation for the second disk, which is the ashtanga-pranayama sequence.  But all of those preparation things came from that month.  That's the kind of thing I was exploring doing it.  And no, it was an amazing – it changed my whole world from that intensive month.

Claudia Altucher:        I wonder if you had  – an opportunity to really kind of achieve the fifth limb of yoga where the senses really withdraw by having so much time, no Internet.  Did that somewhat happen?  Can you tell us?  I don't even know if it's okay to ask that [Laughs].

David Garrigues:    I don't know.  I don't know about that.  I feel – yeah, I'm not sure.

Claudia Altucher:    Not sure.  But however, we did get "Vayu Siddhi" out of this, which is an incredible book.  And I read it twice now.  I particularly –like it not only for the descriptions of the ways in which you do pranayama, but I like the stories at the end.  You have some stories about the gods fighting.  And you have some stories about – personal stories about you with Pattahbi Jois that are very interesting on the tradition.  But my question to you is what does Vayu Siddhi mean?

David Garrigues:    Well, for one, so Siddhi, that means power or – so if you're a siddha, it means you're a master, you've got – you have power.  And Siddhis are kind of classic in yoga.  There's like the eight – they're kind of magical powers, they're thought of, like being able to grow small or become invisible or materialize things. 

Claudia Altucher:    I like that one.  Become invisible.  I love it.  I want it [Laughs].

David Garrigues:    Yeah [Laughs].  But also there's a lot of different Siddhis and like one of my favorites is that Mula Bandha, it gives you – it's said "Dardura Siddhi", which is…

Claudia Altucher:  Translate that.  What?

David Garrigues:     Yeah.  So if you practice Mula Bandha, remember, that's…

Claudia Altucher:    What's Mula Bandha?  Because some of my audience may not have heard all these terms before.

David Garrigues:     Yeah.  So it's called the root lock.  It means root lock.  So it's an internal energetic lock that you seal off the pelvic area.  You kind of energetically contain energy within your body.  And that…

Claudia Altucher:     In more gross forms, you can feel it perhaps by tightening the perineum slightly.  I know it's not the perfect definition, but it's –

David Garrigues:     Well, that's...In the physical way, it's a contraction of the pelvic floor, but in an energetic way, it's a kind of sealing in of life force and it gives you – and physically, movement wise, it gives you this kind of dynamism, a dynamic center to move from and to be supported by.  And so what a perfect – well, actually, I'm sorry.  One other thing.  That it's also thought of as a kind of rebound power.  So the force of gravity hat goes downwards and there's a kind of downward energy, they call it apana.  And that is in the body. 

                                    And so the lock Bandha, the lock is a redirection of downward force up.  So it has this rebounding quality or a geyser going up, an energetic kind of up-flowing against down-flowing energy.
And so the Dardura Siddhi is the result of Mula Bandha.  You get this power called the frog leap power [Laughs]. Like it's a leaping of a frog. 

Claudia Altucher:        Internally?  You mean I would start leaping like a frog externally or do you mean…

David Garrigues:       In the energy.

Claudia Altucher:        Energy.

David Garrigues:         Power.

Claudia Altucher:        Yeah.  So the Vayu Siddhi is using this sort of rebounding of the lower energies, the energies that want to go out, that maybe when misconstrued, it would be sort of sexual energy used wrong or earthy things and sort of taking it up.  Am I getting this right?

David Garrigues:         No.  No. 

Claudia Altucher:        No.

David Garrigues:                Just wait 'cause I haven't even actually said that Vayu Siddhi is yet.

Claudia Altucher:        I'm sorry.  I'm sorry. 

David Garrigues:                We're still talking about this funny – it's a funny one to me 'cause to me, the ones – I kind of laugh because the Siddhis normally – to become invisible, come on.  Or to material things.  And it's not real.  Like, they're – and there's a lot of Charlatans, actually, yogis that do that.  They have a trick for materializing something, but it's not real.  And so I just love – but it doesn't take away from that Siddhis are real.  That this power is very real and important.  And that's why I like the frog leap power, that it's very humble.  It's just humble.  But I'm sorry.  I've kind of gotten off track.  So the Vayu Siddhi, what it means, though, Vayu – prana, the word prana, it means life force.  All right?  And it's a big word.  It's very kind of hard to translate into English, but it's the energy behind everything in the universe.  Everything that takes a form that has a birth, a life and a death, the energy that is the source of that is called prana. 

                                    And then inside the body when prana gets inside the body so from the layer of skin inwards, they call it – it gets named Vayu.  All right?  And Vayu is – the word means to blow.  And it's the name for the Vedic god.  And the Vedics were the most ancient sacred texts of the Aryan tribes that brought the kind of Hindu religion to India.  And they were element-worshipping people.  So that the gods of the Vedas were like elemental forces.  And Vayu's the wind.  And so – and then all of those elemental forces get internalized, so inside the body it becomes breath.  So Vayu's a symbol of breath.  Ah, it's such a beautiful image.  And of that elemental force. 

                                    And so in yoga, by breathing and by working with those internal locks, you learn to direct that internal life force, to direct it.  And like what you were saying, that sexual energy like libido, it can be used so wrong, so unconsciously and un-directly.  And so that – but yoga is partly learning how to direct your life force and particularly to create consciousness and a spiritual identity and awareness.  And so Vayu Siddhis is to master the Vayus, to master those – the prana inside you and particularly through breathing.  And so that's the title of that book.  To me, I just love the idea of mastering that life force for a spiritual realization.

Claudia Altucher:        And it's very profound the way you describe it because there's so many layers to it.  Accessing it, realizing where perhaps you're wasting the energy and harnessing it through the breath, which is what the fourth limb  proposes.  But my question is – and perhaps – why did you choose to call the book this and not something like, for example, "Master The Energy Of The Breath" or something in English, say, for example?

David Garrigues:    I don't know.  I know the reason why is because – it wasn't a good  marketing decision.  I still have several boxes of that book in my basement.

Claudia Altucher:   Well, hopefully people will get interested now.  I'm really hoping 'cause it's a great book.

David Garrigues:      Yeah.  And because the content of the book is very…

Claudia Altucher:      Amazing.

David Garrigues:   Yes.  And so useful.  And it's just a nice volume.  It's packed with information.  But the reason that I did it was because I love that word, those words, and they describe what that book is helping you to become.  And there really is – to me, every Sanskrit word is a – it's a mantra.  Remember what that – it's a mind instrument.  And the corresponding English word does not do it justice.  It's not the same.  And just by repeating – if you think of it as Vayu Siddhi, eventually you won't even want to translate it into English.  It'll just – Vayu is Vayu.  Just like when you speak English, you don't think – or your native language, you don't think of what the word means.  You know what it means.  And so if you use Sanskrit enough, that happens to you too.  And then you have a different reference for what it is.

Claudia Altucher:        I have to say I love the sound of Sanskrit.  It definitely has something really magical in it.  I think it's one of the oldest languages of the world.  And so I like the title.  I just thought maybe it would leave some people out of the wonderful contents of the book.  So I'm glad we clarified that and hopefully…

David Garrigues:                I do think about making another edition of it and changing it into English just to make it more accessible to people 'cause I am – it is a concern of mine that it doesn't reach as many people as it could simply because of things like that, like a title that they won't necessarily relate to.  But I will say, Claudia, that I really – it's important to me that we don't leave behind the language of yoga in trying to make things accessible because it really will not be the same world the day it's triangle pose instead of Utthita Trikonasana or – exactly.  Mastery of breathing or mastery of energy instead of Vayu Siddhi.  That's an important thing that should never happen.  That it really needs to – the language of yoga is so important. 

Claudia Altucher:        Yes, I agree.  I agree.  And it takes on a whole different meaning and ring to it.  I agree.  I've been getting into the Sanskrit slowly, I'm not quite there, and I'm loving it, especially the repetitions of mantras is very interesting.  Now, you have – talking of the repetition of mantras and Sanskrit, you are a very devoted yogi.  You chant and you do kirtan or devotional singing.  You play instruments.  You're a full-blown musician.  And I have to say I couldn't sit in one of your sessions without crying.  Is it because I'm a sissy?  'Cause no one else was crying.  I just couldn't help it. Someone takes over me and I get really – it sends me to places and sadness and things.  Why is that?

David Garrigues:                Oh, man.  You're not alone in that.  No.  And that is part of the reason that I was attracted to the chanting and to kirtan and this – there's something so – it  takes you to this emotional place.

Claudia Altucher:        It does.

David Garrigues:                And it opens you up.  And that's partly its design too that it's meant to work on you that way, to open you up and to – it has both.  It has all this sadness, this kind of deep grief that's inside that doesn't get let out and that needs that, needs release, but it's also the incredible joy too and some kind of – for lack – of like a finding of home or something very deep and important and meaningful to you and the happiness that comes with that.

Claudia Altucher:        That's very interesting.  I haven't gotten to the joy part.  I'm hoping I will.  For me it seems to be just [laughs] sadness and tears, but I'm glad to know there is another side to it, that you can get to a joyful place.  That's –

David Garrigues:                Yeah.

Claudia Altucher:        – [laughs] very interesting.

David Garrigues:    Yeah.  And to me – I've also spent a lot of time in India and the classical vocal music is just some of the most beautiful music.  Period.  And the most kind of emotionally evocative music that I've – by far that I've ever encountered.  And in the whole range of emotions.  If you – I've gotten – seen many concerts and they're – it's just amazing what emotion comes and is expressed.

Claudia Altucher:        Yes.  And  one thing I would say on that is that I find it's very different, for me at least, when I hear a recording, which are great, as opposed to hearing it live.  So when you're with a group of people and, say, you're playing that wonderful instrument you play, it looks like a piano with an accordion, and it's a different state that you go when you ______ a live sort of devotional chanting. 

David Garrigues:                Yeah.  No question.  Yeah.

Claudia Altucher:        Totally.  Another shocking thing that you said recently, shocking to me, you came out – Joy apparently goes out for walks with you in Philadelphia and she asks you questions and then she writes about them, and I'm very grateful for her for doing that because then we get another access into a great teacher's mind.  And you were talking about how yoga really is not meant to heal people physically or  psychically.  It's really a spiritual practice.  And then you clarify that's kind of after a couple of years, not necessarily in the – but do you care to comment on that?  How do you mean?  Because for me it was very healing at the body level, for example.

David Garrigues:                Yeah.  Well, no, I know.  It's a very incomplete discussion on that piece, and it's hard to have a complete discussion about it, but really what I'm saying is, for one, you can't separate those.  That's an arbitrary mind distinction that – the body, the mind, the spirit.  So we got to be clear that it's not really distinguishable like that, but it's more for a conversation  purpose and it's really saying – what I'm saying is that you have to be clear about your intention.  And it's not – and it's true that when you – especially when you start something, you're not – you're gonna be clear later, maybe more clear about why you're doing it or what it's for.  And so you just see a lot of people attempting to – I don't know.  To use yoga like a sport, for instance, and it's not a sport. 

                                    And you will – and I'm just saying that you can harm yourself if you treat it that way, if you treat it like an athletic exercise, like a –

Claudia Altucher:        Yeah, you definitely – especially in the ashtanga yoga system, right?  Because it's so intense.

David Garrigues:    So intense.  And it's just not – but that really isn't what it was meant for.  And that doesn't mean – you can always use things different than they were meant for.  I think a lot of invention actually comes from that successful invention or applying one thing in a new way.  But the best part – and maybe it's a personal opinion to me.  It's just that the best part of yoga is the spiritual part, the part that – you do the Asanas because – to realize internal truth about yourself.  You don't do it because you want – the same way you would do it, I don't know, to run for a time or to – I don't know. 

                                    Even like gymnastics, like to win a meet or something.  It's not really about that.  But also, it's more than that.  I don't know.  It's a hard – it's interesting you're bringing this one up because I looked at that again.  Just yesterday I had started to and I was like, "No, this doesn't quite get at it."  And it's more about your intension.

Claudia Altucher:        Yeah.  I think that's the point of it.

David Garrigues:                Yeah.

Claudia Altucher:        Because it had me thinking long and hard, and I believe in the beginning, we don't really know what we're doing that much in yoga.  You start for whatever reason.  I started 'cause I wanted to meet a cute guy.  Ridiculous.  But then it gets to you and then you start seeing things.  And so I can see how what you say is true.  It gets you to the center of you. 

David Garrigues:                Yeah.  And I was also saying that – just, for instance, take the psychology part.  If you've got really deep psychological things going on that could be triggered by many things, by your past, by something that's happened more recently, but – and then there's a lot of unconscious things going on and like neuroses or compulsion, addiction, things like that and then you try to get to your mat to work that out every day.  And to me, I'm just saying that that – it can do something, but it's not really the purpose of yoga and it's probably not as effective as going to a therapist or working on it in a more verbal way or in a more behavioral way.  And so that's the kinda thing I was talking about in that.

                                    And that – but I was also saying, though, that if you do go to your practice as devotion, as prayer, then – I don't know.  You got me on this.  This one we would actually have to have a separate podcast 'cause it's a big one.

Claudia Altucher:  It's a big one.  I agree with that.  Absolutely [Laughs].  Yes.

David Garrigues:    But it's a very interesting one.  It's one of the most interesting topics because it really is about like what you're saying.  You got healed from yoga and…

Claudia Altucher:        But it happened sort of – there were other things too.  I did go to – I had psychological trauma.  I come from one of the most traumatic situations – well, not really.  Ninety-nine percent of the people do, but – and yoga helped me, but it wasn't the only thing.  I also went to a therapist, I also – you still have to do the work.  You can't expect really the practice of yoga to fix everything [Laughs].  _______.  And it's true that the purpose is integration or finding – going in into the Vayu and into the center of you, the silence, things that…

David Garrigues:                Yeah.

Claudia Altucher:        – come in after you practice.  But I'll definitely take you up on another podcast to talk more about this.  I would love that [Laughs].

David Garrigues:                Yeah.  Because it can heal – it can be a physically-healing practice, but it also cannot.  Think about it.  Lotus, taking your leg behind your head, extreme backbends.  They're not necessarily the best thing that the basic person is going to do for their health.  And on one hand, they increase range of motion and bring strength and flexibility, but when you apply ego to it and then you get – you start to get a lot of ambition about that this is really important to do and competition, then you have a recipe for problems.  And that's not physical healing. That is danger. 

Claudia Altucher:        I think you got to the core there.  It's like when the ego comes in and then the intention gets – it switches.

David Garrigues:        Yes

Claudia Altucher:        Suddenly it's not about finding center.  Suddenly it's about can I show off?

David Garrigues:    And also, can I compensate.  Can I be like – if I can do this, then I'm good.  If I could do lotus, then I would be okay.  But it's like, no, that's wrong thing.  That's not what lotus is for [Laughs]

Claudia Altucher:        Absolutely.

David Garrigues:    But it's true that lotus can bring wellbeing, but only if all the conditions are right or if your body is ready and all this. 

Claudia Altucher:    It takes time, it takes practice, but yes, it's a very interesting topic.  Let me ask you about another book you have coming up.  I read you're writing a book on the Sun Salutations and Surya Namaskara. 

David Garrigues:    It's kind of part of a bigger book that is going to be about the – well, it's going through the series.  So it will be – it starts with the Surya Namaskara and it's gonna have standing poses, et cetera into the primary and the finishing and then hopefully second.  And, yeah, it's kind of ambitious in a way because you've – when you were – did we do that real breakdown of Surya Namaskara in the class that you came?  You didn't –

Claudia Altucher:        No. 

David Garrigues:        – we didn't do that ______ [Crosstalk]

Claudia Altucher:        I wasn't in that one. 

David Garrigues:      Well, so I do a real analysis of  Surya Namaskara. 

Claudia Altucher:        And there is that much to it as to make a book?  You look at it from different perspectives or…

David Garrigues:                Well, you look at it from the – what I call it is the position.  So there's nine positions in the ashtanga Surya Namaskara.  And each one of those positions is an Asana, it's a yantra all in its own.  So we – I break that down.  We explore what is that shape?  And what are the problems?  And what are the objectives and things?  And then there's the transition into and out of and the gesture that takes you into the position or brings you out.  And then – so how to go about those.  And it's formidable.  It's definitely a book.  And it also kinda has the setup – because the Surya Namasakara is the kind of prototype.  It sets up the work for all of the series.

Claudia Altucher:        And it has a lot in it, doesn't it?

David Garrigues:   It has a lot in it.  And it has everything.  So it has the breathing, it has those opposing patterns that I talk about that arise on the breath, which become the positions.  And so it has the zero position, which is the reference for all of the Asanas, and that's the central axis that's revealed just in standing.  And then it has – it introduces you to the art of forward bending, so that's a whole category of Asanas.  And the art of back bending with the upward facing dog.  So it really does have everything in it.

Claudia Altucher:        For someone who's starting yoga right now, say they're listening to this podcast and they're getting excited about the idea, is the Sun Salutations the place to start?

David Garrigues:       I think it is. I started there way back, I don't –

Claudia Altucher:        That's true.

David Garrigues:     I really do think it's amazing.  And it's a great way to start for many reasons, but one is that if you were to do no other yoga besides that, that's what I would recommend.  Even ten minutes, fifteen minutes a day of Sun Salutations is an incredible regime for your body, for both strength and flexibility, for your breathing, for your – focusing your mind and even it's a devotional thing.  That's what – Surya is the Sun God and it's the light of consciousness.  And Namaskara is a bowing to that.  And so it's just very complete.

Claudia Altucher:        Both physically and symbolically.  I like that.  I like what you just said there.  That's very interesting.  So I want to ask you a bit of a deep question here, so hashtag deep, here we go [Laughs].  In your many years of practice, what would you say is one thing that took you the longest to understand?

David Garrigues:                Whew.  Wow.  I don't know. 

Claudia Altucher:        To me, for example, understanding that the poses, contained within them, the intelligence took me a long time.  I thought it was just exercise.  And to finally get a glimpse of how powerful they are was a big insight. 

David Garrigues:                Gosh.  I don't know.  I'm getting stumped here, Claudia.  What's taken the longest to learn?  I came across this  poem recently that's kind of scary how dismal it is, but it speaks to something really honest to me about it, about the practice of yoga, and basically, the guy says, "I went ahead and I dove into the waters seeking the fish of faith."  So seeking faith.  "And my net was devotion and that net got torn to shreds and all I found was some shells and some petty jealousies and some obscure dirt."  That was the poem.

Claudia Altucher:   That's amazing. 

David Garrigues:    Yes. And it was so honest.  And this is a yogi poet, somebody that's really devoted and feeling he applied all of his devotion and he still came up with not – he didn't catch the fish of faith.  And it's easy to – faith can come like a shallow faith or a kind of – one that doesn't have a lot of backup of behavior.  But to back it up with behavior, real faith of what is this yoga for real and living that and your behavior shows how much faith you have.  Not your – how much talk you have.  And so I still think that's the hardest lesson is to know intellectually.  And it becomes clearer and clearer as you practice and then as a teacher, but then to live it and to be it, to just be there and behave that way.  That near-death car experience, in that moment, you're just so close, you know what's important.  It's so clear.  But then two hours later it's dimmer.

                                    And so to keep – to really – gosh, it's so hard to – it's so hard.  And it's worse being all involved in yoga and still know that it's not – it hasn't taken root to the degree that it can or want to. 

Claudia Altucher:        That's beautiful.  That's really, really nice.  So, David, where can people find your workshops coming up and your book?

David Garrigues:   Well, my website – I'm trying to launch a new website.  That has been trying to happen for about a year and it's right – gonna happen.  And so – but it'll be the same URL.  It's  And the one – the present website has been there for a long time and it's possibly a little bit hard to navigate.  And the new one's going to be much easier.  But the old one will be there 'til the new one's up, which should be within – I would – hopefully within two weeks or a month, but that's where you can find my workshops and there's a store with the products .  And I also have another book that's coming sooner than the one that you were referring to.

Claudia Altucher:   Oh, how did that go past me?  What is that?  Tell me.

David Garrigues:   That one Joy has really put together.  She's edited a collection of my writings that have been on my blog and also with some new interviews that – one is this kind of series that we're doing of what's it like to practice in your 20s and your 30s.  And the 20s and the 30s are in this book.  And then later there will be the 40s and 50s.  And it doesn't mean that somebody that's 50 can't benefit from reading the 20s. 

Claudia Altucher:   Of course.

David Garrigues:    Yeah.  And so it's kind of a collection of writings.  It's called  "Ashtanga Yoga Maps And Musings". 

Claudia Altucher:        Oh, in English.

David Garrigues:    In English.  That one will be within one month.  Before Christmas that will be – that one's done.  It's all arranged and just kind of headed to the final…[Note From The Editor It will Be Coming Up Soon - March or April 2015]

Claudia Altucher:    That's wonderful.  Will we be able to find that in Amazon?  Or is that through  your website as well?

David Garrigues:   Probably – you will be able to find it in Amazon, but not right away.  I would think that it – at first it'll be on my website and then as soon as we get all those kind of channels downloadable and stuff available, then it'll be available there too.

Claudia Altucher:   Excellent because this will probably come out in January or so, I'm thinking, the way it's coming.  So then it will be there for people to go ahead and just look at it.

David Garrigues:     Yes

Claudia Altucher:   Which is wonderful.  And you're on Twitter as well  @DavidGarrigues?

David Garrigues:     Yep.  I'm not sure of my – Joy does all of this.  Sorry [Laughs]. [Note: Yes he is @DavidGarrigues]

Claudia Altucher:       Thank God for Joy [Laughs].

David Garrigues:       Thank God for Joy [Laughs].  That's right. 

Claudia Altucher:   Well, I really appreciate that you took an hour.  I know you're incredibly busy.  You're jumping from workshop to workshop.  So I'm very grateful that you came to the workshop – to the podcast, David.

David Garrigues:    Yes. Thank you for having me, Claudia.  It was a pleasure.  And any time.  I'll do it again if you're ever interested _______.

Claudia Altucher:    Oh, you're in for it.  Wonderful [Laughs].  
[Music Begins]

Presenter:                           That's all for the Yoga Podcast.  If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a review in iTunes and visit the for more interviews. Until next time, keep it real. 


  1. I love your pod cast with David Garrigues. You asked him great questions & he gave you in depth answers.
    Debbie Wilcox

  2. Thanks Debbie, he was great indeed, open and funny and went really deep into some areas that are not always highlighted. I am very grateful you took the time to tell me you liked it.