Photo: Detail, David Life ©Martin Brading
Master Class with David Life
Relaxed, creative, artistic approach to teaching beautifully and with relevance
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST ASHLEY HUNT
Related Article Jivamukti Flight Check: Is this class for you?
Website Jivamukti Yoga School
The 841 Broadway street doors of Jivamukti open to a wide range of students, men, women, artists, celebrities, college students, all ages and races. Students slip off their shoes in a “fur free zone”, and quickly turning the corner to the three large studios, head into the studio a few minutes early to claim their space and arrange their mat and props.
The downtown studio that I frequent is a picturesque scene of yoga in North America. Jivamukti is a thriving business: every class is filled, and yoga is offered almost every hour of the day. The karma yogis (the volunteers who check you into your class) who greet you at the desk remember to ask if you would like to renew your class package.
Sharon Gannon and David Life, the founders of Jivamukti Yoga, have always been on my radar. I enjoy the rigorous vinyasa classes offered at the downtown studio, and last summer I lived in Woodstock, NY, where the American gurus call their yoga ranch home.
This January was the first time I had ever taken a master class from the founders of the Jivamukti method.
Hype gets in your eyes: letting go of preconceptions
My thought is, we meet a teacher when the time is right in both of our lives. At that point our karmic attributes have met on a plane of equilibrium. I have something to learn from that teacher, or from my own experience of the teacher’s teaching.
Before entering the master class with David Life, I knew I was carrying previous ideas and baggage about, what is Jivamukti yoga. I clearly had formulated these assumptions about the practice, and the studio, I often attend when I become unmotivated in my own self-study.
My clever and tricky mind immediately imposed these concepts I had formed about the downtown studio, and the Jivamukti method, upon its founders before I had even taken a class with David Life himself. As I looked around at the other yogis in the class, most of them wearing yoga culture Jivamukti logo tanktops, chatting and rubbing china gel on their necks, thoughts swirling around in my head.
He must be very charismatic to have this much of a following!
Maybe he and Sharon aren’t charismatic at all, just brilliant business minds.
I thought Gurus had to be enlightened beings, and here I am in a group of over 100 people that are calling this man their guru, or have taken him as their teacher.
Is he enlightened?!?!? No, I do not think so, he doesn’t look like it. WOULD I EVEN KNOW?
He looks like Steven Tyler hopped up on pranyama.
Look around Ash, see what everyone else is doing, do you even feel comfortable here?
I was very disoriented for the first twenty minutes of the three hour class. As I began to tune into my own practice, acknowledge my mental state, and focus on my ujayii rhythm I began to more honestly interpret my experience, and the teachings of David Life.
Inhale upward facing dog, exhale downward facing dog. David’s raspy rock star voice and thumbing reggae beats were passing through my physical form and I no longer was looking around frantically trying to answer what seemed to be a pressing mental dialogue.
The asana class was basic and beautifully focused. Often Jivamukti teachers instruct a fast paced, intricate flow of inversions, arm balances, binds, challenging standing poses, followed by a series of heart openers.
David’s class, centered and challenging. He encouraged each of us to explore our alignment, right down to the pinky toe. He was not directing the class in terms of right and wrongs but rather encouraging adjustment that deepens one’s own understanding of their body and mind in the posture. He emphasized the subjectivity of practice, each body has a different expression of an asana, that facilitates one’s own well being and self-transformation.
After the consecutive sequence of asanas ending with a music filled savasana and a warming heart meditation, we all gathered around the center podium, where David called upon students with differing body types to demonstrate the same posture.
As he pointed out points of resistance in his students bodies, minds, and psyches he kept a light-hearted, engaging, occasionally ironic dialogue with the entire group. Laughter and learning weaved itself in and out of the visual demonstration of asana.
Taking time to refine
With the time remaining, David opened the floor for questions and discussion.
It always baffles me when students get up and leave class right before svasana. To me that’s the culmination of the class. Here we all are open, receptive and inquisitive and David has opened the floor for us as students to engage in a conversation with the man thousands of American yogis call their “teacher.”
A little under a half of the master class began to pack up their mats and props and headed out. That is like walking out on svasana! Who wants to miss utter relaxation, or a heart to heart conversation with a teacher?
On the upside it left a more intimate group to engage with David.
This is the point where I truly saw David Life communicate and live the teachings I have heard being communicated at the downtown Jivamukti studio. I had seen him talk the talk through advertisement, kirtan recordings, teachings, the studio itself, other Jivamukti teachers, word of mouth and so on.
Here I was observing the yoga mogul in person and my scrutinizing eye, and limited perception was OPENED.
David Life walks the talk
And he walked the walk. The manner in which David spoke with his students removed the Jivamukti method, and David Life from the limited box I had created and labeled Jivamukti Yoga.
Many questions were asked of David, everything from confronting attachment, veganism, his take on yoga and its newfound popularity, to dropping acid and celibacy.
David’s responses were heavy with the vibrations of calm and humble. Yoga scripture and philosophy can appear to be very strict and confining. His is a relaxed, creative and artistic approach to teaching beautifully translated yogic ideas into a relevant sphere. He answered from a deep place in his own heart, from example and years of practice.
David Life empowers his students by exemplifying the relevance of these teachings. The progressive and inspired message he conveyed in that January NYC master class prompted his students to deepen their level of self-inquiry, while living responsibly.
You can travel with Ashley’s determination to stay with herself in stability and clarity on her blog Reflect Light and Love. Watch for more of Ash’s New York columns in our new Class Consciousness feature, where our columnists take their practice to class and break down the experience for you.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.