Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A good foundation

“Forget asana, all of our bodies fall apart anyway. Pranayama is where it’s at!”
~Richard Freeman today

This is my first time meeting Richard in person – wow! I was struck by how grounded, funny, knowledgeable, articulate, humble, self-deprecating, and patient he is.

41 students packed into the shala here - literally mat to mat. A surprising number flew in from other countries (Sweden, Japan, England, Russia, Croatia, Brazil, Mexico, Italy, Egypt)… amazing!

We each got a notebook with the syllabus/readings, plus these five books:

The day started with a two-hour asana practice but we only made it to the second standing pose – there is an incredible amount to say about the tiniest movements! Then we had chanting and philosophy talk.

We are starting slowly and laying the foundations because as Richard says, “A good foundation will give you a sense of humor to your own folly” (and folly is inevitable because ego always eventually gets in the way).

We have A LOT of reading to do. Tonight’s assignment includes:
  • Kena Upanisad (this is what Pattabhi Jois would tell people to read if they asked him what Ashtanga yoga is about)
  • Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, Ch 4, 5th Brahmana
  • Ch 1 and 2 of The Bhagavad Gita
  • Introductory essay to The Principle Upanisads (this is 140 pages, hah) 
So excited to finally be reading these, but these texts are HARD and I’m struggling through slowly. Thinking about some things Richard said today:

“Those who don’t understand understand. Those who understand don’t understand.”

“Practice all day. All day every day, all night every night."

“The questioning mind is the open mind. Only beginning students come up with answers.”

“Intelligence is questioning.”

“Keep the mind open, focus the mind through questioning. That is yoga.” 


  1. Loving hearing about your experiences. I'm also getting a bigger wish list on amazon, I love books! The Kena Upanishad sounds interesting, not read any of the upanishads yet and was unsure where to start. Does Richard recommend a specific translation?

  2. Hey Helen! The one we're using for the course is edited and translated by S. Radhakrishnan and it's great!