Talking Shop with David SwensonDavid Swenson tours internationally as one of the world's leading Ashtanga Yoga teachers. He has written several books, including Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual, and produced a series of instructional yoga videos as well as a series of audiocassettes. We caught up with Swenson in Houston, Texas, where he lives.
Yoga Journal: How did you discover Ashtanga Yoga?
YJ: You eventually went to India to study with Pattabhi Jois. What was that like?
YJ: Home to Texas?
I looked everywhere, including astrology, parapsychology, palmistry—you name it. Then I ran into some folks from the Krishna temple. They had answers. I shaved my head and became a Hare Krishna on April Fools' Day, 1982. For the next five years, I lived as a celibate, gave up asanas, memorized the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit, and traveled the world giving lectures and raising money. Until one day, as I stood hawking the Gita on a street corner in Houston, my mom happened by. She saw that nobody was buying books from me, so she walked up and said, "Oh honey, no one will take one from you. Give me one."
A Texas mother's worst nightmare. But she showered me with unconditional love. When I got back to the temple, they chastised me for not raising enough money. I'd had enough. It was time to move on, so I quit.
YJ: And went back to yoga?
Fortunately, my life has a life of its own. I happened to be in Hawaii in 1989 when Pattabhi Jois came to teach on his American tour. I attended; he didn't remember me. Ten years had passed. I looked completely different. But at one point in the workshop, Jois put his hands against my spine to adjust my back and called out, "Oh, David Swenson," then burst into laughter, and started chanting "Hare Krishna, Hare Ram."
He had recognized me from touch! And he seemed so happy to see me that I suddenly felt my whole journey come to an end. I was home again. I had found the answer to all my questions.
YJ: How so?
YJ: In one sentence, what did you realize about the meaning of life?
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