Sweeney Week: First impressions

As I'm sure most of you know, I am in the midst of a week of study with Matthew Sweeney. I fully intend to share some of this experience, but don't get too excited. Though I have taken some notes for myself, I do not intend to publish any of my detailed workshop notes, as seems to be the trend. I consider this sort of thing not only misguided because of the context of the teachings that are lost, but also disrespectful to the teachers (including Sharath, in reference to the transcripts of his conferences that get passed around). However, I also believe in freedom of information, so I am open to discussion on this topic. If you feel differently, I'd like to hear about it.

This morning was the second round of Mysore practice with Sweeney. After a weekend of workshops, we are getting down to business. Matthew is blunt, enthusiastic, and direct in his teaching, but has a wonderfully soft presence in the Mysore room. His adjustments are unique, effective, and surprisingly gentle.

An example, for the purpose of comparison: When practicing with David Swenson last summer, the first time I attempted Kapo in his room, he swooped upon me out of nowhere, took my wrists, and in a single motion, brought my hands to heels. It was an unprecedented moment. All I could do was exhale. Without trust, it wouldn't have worked.

In contrast, this morning Sweeney came by for Kapo and, rather than pulling or pushing in any way, he let me hang back for a bit. Then stood over me, placed his hands on my triceps and softly shook my arms, telling me to "release the shoulders," until I was able to grab the heels easily on my own. The grip I achieved was awkward, but the adjustment was quite pleasant and the fact that I took my heels from the air without strain was amazing.

Needless to say, I am really enjoying Sweeney's teaching, and not just because he is easy on the eyes (a fact that he is clearly well aware of. Apparently, Matthew used to do "a bit of modeling.")

 His presentation of Ashtanga is unconventional but respectful and his methods have given me much to think about. I have been inspired to allow my breath to extend and explore more stillness in practice. Yesterday afternoon, I was astounded by how fantastic my body felt, especially my knees and shoulders, which can sometimes feel quite stiff later in the day. Then this morning after practice, as I shuffled to my car happily soaked in sweat from head to toe, I did not feel exhausted, overstretched, or depleted in any way. A bit thirsty, perhaps, but mostly clean, soft, energized, and open -- exactly the way I'd like my practice to make me feel.

Two more days to go.


  1. Sounds like a pretty awesome time. I wish I lived closer to places that hosted workshops like this. Guess that's the price I pay for living out in the middle of the sticks. I'll have to find the closest workshop and sign up. Good luck in the next two days. I'm sure the information your getting is quite amazing :)

  2. As far as passing information, many people don't have access to authorized and certified yoga teachers, even much Sharath. Transcripts, blogs, books, youtube videos and the like are their only way of getting any information on Ashtanga.

    Yes misinformation can occur, but that was occurring before the internet when people were just passing Guruji's teachings around via word of mouth.

    I think the benefit of passing along the information outweighs the risks.

    1. Hi Shanna,

      Thanks for weighing in. My concern is not with the information that is shared, but with the way that information is shared. I am entirely supportive of students studying with their teacher, processing that information, and then sharing in their own words -- that seems to be the nature of the student-teacher-student-teacher chain -- but as far as lifting entire lectures or workshops and posting them verbatim or close to it just doesn't feel right.

      As for videos, that's a different story. In the case of video footage, it is the teacher's face with the teacher's exact words, so far less of the context or intent of the teachings is lost.