Finding a Mentor


By YJ Editor  |  

Read David Swenson’s reply:


Dear Shari,

There is no set method of finding a mentor. It is best to find a teacher that you like and respect, and then train with them as much as you can. Then you may divulge your interest in some type of mentoring program and see if the teacher offers any such opportunity. If not, it can be more of an informal relationship.

A mentor can also be a person who inspires us, and we can develop our skills by observing them as well as studying with them. If possible, you may eventually work toward assisting them in some capacity.

I have had the fortune to study with many wonderful teachers. I began yoga in 1969 when I was 13 years old, and it was my older brother, Doug, who inspired me to practice. We were living in Texas at the time, and he had been surfing in Southern California and became interested in yoga. When he came home, he shared what he had learned with me and we began to dive deep into whatever books we could find. We practiced outdoors under a tree in a small park near our home. So Doug was my first yoga mentor.

In 1973 I met David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff in Encinitas, California, and they introduced me to Ashtanga Yoga and became a great inspiration for me. Two years later, they brought K. Pattabhi Jois and his son Manju for their first visit to the U.S., and I began my studies directly with Jois at that time.

The mentoring process tends to unfold in a natural and informal way. We may even find that mentoring can take place without actually meeting the teacher in person. This can develop from reading inspirational writings by a teacher or author and applying what we learn to our own lives. We find that our lives are enhanced by the knowledge we gained from their teachings, without our even having been in their physical presence.

Be patient and determined in your quest for knowledge. As your journey progresses, the appropriate pathways will naturally unfold.


David Swenson made his first trip to Mysore in 1977, learning the full Ashtanga system as originally taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. He is one of the world’s foremost instructors of Ashtanga Yoga and has produced numerous videos and DVDs. He is the author of the book Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual.