The Yoga Podcast Ep# 5 David Garrigues: The Devotional Aspect Of Yoga

Last Spring I had a chance to take a workshop with David Garrigues at his institute in Philadelphia.

I was impressed by his enthusiastic, expressive movements, the passion in his way of teaching, and the softness (I cried like a baby) of the chanting part.
[If you can’t see the photo of David with the PLAY button to listen, click here, alternatively go to I-Tunes for all of The Yoga Podcast]

David touches a nerve with the devotional side of yoga because when you sit through a chanting session and he is playing the harmonium and singing mantras you “feel things”.   
It would be very hard not to.  In my case I cry like a sissy…
It’s really embarrassing for me.  We talk about it in the podcast, but I still wish I could hide when my emotions go raw like that.
He is easy to approach even if dead-serious about the practice, because he has a great sense of humor, which is necessary, wouldn’t you say?
The ONE THING I really got from David was to use support for the shoulder stand.  
I don’t buy into the no-props anymore. Not after his workshop, because I can see, and feel the difference when I do it with two blankets underneath me.  
The “gesture” or the full expression of the pose can be accessed much better when there is support because the body gets help in getting straight and there is a lot less strain in the neck.
Another thing that David had me see differently is that a pose, an asana, is a lot more than just a pose…
It is a GESTURE. A symbol, a yantra, a work of art…
That simple definition “GESTURE” made me look at the whole practice differently… 
Even as I am getting into a pose, any pose, I feel like I am gesturing in, forming something, co-creating together with the space around me.

[Click here to start listening]
And I know that this can sound vague… 
But the more we do asanas, the more we begin to see the profound inner world they take us into, and that is what fascinates me about David’s special way of teaching.


  • What brought David to the practice almost 35 years ago
  • In the Summer of 2013 David survived a pretty intense car accident, what he experienced.
  • Why is it that in our 30s we might want more poses but at 40 more pranayama?
  • David recently wrote about the practice of yoga being only for spiritual purposes, not emotional or physical healing, I asked him how is that so
  • What was the inspiration behind writing Vayu Sidhi
  • Why did he call it Vayu Sidhi?  
  • The role of devotion, and why is it that I always cry when people chant?
  • The surprising short poem that took David a long time to understand – I have to say, the poem stayed with me for a long time… simple and so very real, so no b/s.

Books and DVDs by David Garrigues

Download of The Primary Series (Class lead by David) 
Upcoming Book Edited By Joy:
This is what Joy says about it:

Maps and Musings is a book of yoga based off of David’s journal entries, finalized articles he’s written, interviews he’s done with me, brilliant notes of struggle and inspiration written on envelopes or pieces of scratch paper, poems and sutras he identifies with, and of course his drawings that redefine yantra and asana. The book will be released this May.

Books / Authors that David Recommends

Mind Over Back Pain by John Sarno 


Claudia Altucher:    So hello, and welcome to the Yoga Podcast.  I am thrilled to have with me today David Garrigues.  David is the director of the Ashtanga Yoga School of Philadelphia.  He’s one of a few teachers in the United States to be certified to teach the ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga System by the late Pattabhi Jois who is the founder of this system.  He teaches workshops all over the world and he has several instructional DVDs on the primary and the intermediate series of ashtanga yoga, as well as a book that comes together with the DVD on the fourth limb pranayama, the branch of breathing.  And he has also recorded two devotional or kirtan CDs called Jaya Sat Guru and Bad Man Bhakti. 
                                David, welcome.  Thank you for joining us today in the Yoga Podcast.
David Garrigues:       Thank you for having me, Claudia.
Claudia Altucher:     So let me ask you a question right off the bat.  Is Garrigues a Spanish name?  Do you have any Spanish connection?
David Garrigues:       [Laughs] It’s a Basque name.  So right near – it’s in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, but I think it’s on the French side.
Claudia Altucher:        So we’re not related.  Not a chance [Laughs].
David Garrigues:      I don’t think so.  But I had a bass teacher once that he insisted it was Garrigues.  So who knows?
Claudia Altucher:        Who knows?
David Garrigues:      Yeah [Laughs].
Claudia Altucher:      So David, you started practicing yoga about 25 years ago.  Is that fair to say?
David Garrigues:          Well, even more.
Claudia Altucher:        Even more.
David Garrigues:         Yeah.
Claudia Altucher:      Can you remember what brought you into it?  What was it that – why yoga?  What happened?
David Garrigues:      I can remember it perfectly because it was a very amazing thing happened.  I was young.  I was sixteen.  So that was 30 – more than 35 years ago.  A friend, he – I was a dishwasher.  That was my first job when I was sixteen years old at a restaurant.And there’s always an eccentric dishwasher that’s, like, older, they – ’cause it’s just kind of a job you can do.  And so there was another guy, a dishwasher, an older guy, and he was into all kinds of crazy stuff, but he was into yoga.  And he took me out to a park and taught me the Surya Namaskara, the Sun Salutation outside.  I just – I loved it.  I thought it was incredible and I started doing it by myself outside on the beach every morning.
Claudia Altucher:   Where were you then?
David Garrigues:    I was in West Seattle.  I lived – I’m from Seattle and I lived on Alki Beach in West Seattle, and I would go out in this little park and do it.  And I even wrote a paper about it in – for my school and I called it “The World Is A Sacrament”.  So I got – it was very devotional and it took – me, right away I took to it and was just sixteen years old and didn’t know anything about it.  And I actually continued to practice the Sun Salutation without knowing anything else about yoga for some years, actually.
Claudia Altucher:   So there was a devotional component that got you right away?  You sensed there was something in it for you?
David Garrigues:     Yeah.  Yeah.
Claudia Altucher:    That’s very interesting. 
David Garrigues:     Yeah.
Claudia Altucher:     Now, if I may fast forward, you had this story recently.  In the summer of 2013 you were driving in New Mexico and you had a pretty intense car accident. 
David Garrigues:     Yeah.  Yeah.  Yep.
Claudia Altucher:     And what happened?  Tell me.
David Garrigues:     Well, it was a real freak thing because it was in the middle of summer in New Mexico on the highway and was going reasonably fast and all of a sudden we came across something I’d never encountered ’cause I’m not from there, but an unbelievable hail storm.  Radical.  Giant balls of hail and a torrential downpour.  Unbelievable.  It went from clear to like that to you couldn’t see twenty feet in front of you.  And it was just – the cacophony of weather.  Whoa.  And I tried to stop, tried to put on the brakes, and it totally didn’t work.  We started swerving totally out of control at 75 miles an hour.  Totally out of control.
                                And so we were – fishtail to one side, and Joy’s there next to me.  She’s going, “We’re okay.”  Then we swerved to the other side.  Three times.  Just all the way across the road, completely thinking –
Claudia Altucher:   Oh, my gosh.
David Garrigues:    – the thing was gonna – if it would have – it could have rolled.  It could have easily just caught and rolled.  And then there was other cars too that were off – that had already spun off to the – off the road.  And so finally it slowed down enough that it righted and we – and then – but I ended up off of the road going really fast on the grass.
Claudia Altucher:        Wow.  Jeez.
David Garrigues:   [Laughs]  And then finally it came to a stop and that wasn’t over then because there was, like, three feet of water.  The car started sinking in the water.  And I tried to open it and it was like water started coming in the car.  So I – somehow I managed to back up and get out of it and drove off and nothing happened.  Not a scratch or anything, but…
Claudia Altucher:   That’s almost a miracle ’cause when you go into water and mud backing off doesn’t just happen.
David Garrigues:    No, I know.  It was [laughs]
Claudia Altucher:   That’s incredible.  And I just want to say Joy [Marzec] is your partner who’s also an amazing yogi,  movie director, and an amazing person.  But what I got from your newsletter is that when this was happening, which is terrifying, you had some insights –
David Garrigues:    Yeah.
Claudia Altucher:     in this because you kind of confronted death right there.
David Garrigues:      Yes
Claudia Altucher:   And you said here, I have it, “In those few lucid moments, I saw my shadow clearly and I saw that my shadow contributed to me being in this dire situation.  I saw the wrongness of my impatience, my continual dissatisfaction, the kind that hinders, not helps.”  And that’s an eye-opening moment there.  When you’re confronted with death, you…
David Garrigues:    Yeah.
Claudia Altucher:    It really puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
David Garrigues:    Yeah.
Claudia Altucher:        Well, I’m glad you’re here. 
David Garrigues:   Yes.  And it’s amazing when that veil gets ripped out like that and how lucid that is.  And then when I talk to other people about it, it’s so hard because when the danger’s over, you remember and you take something with you, but then also, I don’t know, it’s so strange how that work, the maya, the illusion.  It’s so easily comes back that you get impatient again.  But I definitely learned from that and it stuck what me, some of that.
Claudia Altucher:   I guess that’s why we call it a daily practice, having to come back to what’s real.  “Okay, I’m still facing death.  There’s no need to rush [Laughs].”  It’s very hard for me.
David Garrigues:     Right. And the practice exactly brings you back to that.  Every day.
Claudia Altucher:   You also said something recently that caught my attention.  When it comes to the difference in practice through age, you say, “At 30 I want more and more Asanas, I want more practice.  At 40, I want my pranayama.”  What happens as we age with the yoga practice as we grow older?
David Garrigues:    It’s not as much as I want my pranayama.  It’s more I definitely explored the Asana in a different way and I’m not as drawn to the transitions.  I’m drawn to the Asana itself and to what – and to being there in that place.  And so – and that, to me, was, I guess, unexpected because of how physical I am and how athletic I’ve been and just how much I love movement and dynamism and how much – that’s one of the reasons I really love ashtanga is the flow and the real amazing transitions that link everything together.
                               But certainly, aging has just made that less important, the flow and  the movement, and made the stillness and the breathing and the exploration of the position – this is different than pranayama.  It’s actually like I’m interested in the very basic shapes like triangle and shoulder stand and what they reveal meditatively within internal awareness and consciousness and breathing.  And it’s something very different than a sitting practice or even a pranayama practice because it is still a shape, and it’s something – and there’s variety involved in it.  When you do inversions, that’s really different than a seated type of work.  And so it’s just coming to love that more.  And fewer Asanas. 
Claudia Altucher:   I feel the same way.  I’m 46 right now and I find that the more I step on the mat and the pranayama practice grows, the breathing practice grows, then it – I don’t even need to do so many postures because you start to get kind of more juice out of each of the postures.  You identify new things happening in the body.  So I guess would you say the Asana has enough in it to bring you inwards from being totally out there and thinking about where the next paycheck comes from to going really to that central axis that you talk about and to focus your energy within you?
David Garrigues:   I do.  I say, for me, there’s – because it’s combining so many important elements that – ’cause there is a seated kind of meditation type of aspect that would not require Asana that – other than sitting, but it’s more than that because it is physically expressive.  And I also liken – I think Asana is yantra.
Claudia Altucher:   What is yantra?  What does that mean?
David Garrigues:    Yantra is like mantra, but it’s – so mantra is mind instrument, so it’s a corolla of the mind, a sacred sound that you utter. And yantra is a – it has to do with form and order and a physical device for meditation or shape.  And so Asana is that.  It’s a shape or a form, a certain ordered-pattern form and there’s an aesthetic quality to it to.  That it has something compelling to the eye or to the senses.  And so for me, that’s why the Asana can do what you’re saying.  It draws you in completely because it has so much interest for somebody that – I don’t know.  There’s an aesthetic aspect to it, right?
Claudia Altucher:    Yes.
David Garrigues:   And that’s included in movement and posture that is particularly compelling to me.
Claudia Altucher:  I was lucky enough to participate in one of your workshops earlier this year and you were calling it a gesture.  It’s not just a pose that you’re doing.  It’s a gesture. 
David Garrigues:   Yeah.
Claudia Altucher:  And you said the difference between a beginner student and an intermediate student – do you remember what you said?  You said it’s the gesture.
David Garrigues:    It’s the…
Claudia Altucher:    You said is that you maintain these – I guess the yantra, we could say.  Would that be fair to say?
David Garrigues:   Yeah.  And that the yantra – to make a yantra, a skillful yantra, is to make a gesture.  And that gesture has – like mudra, the word mudra, which is an important…
Claudia Altucher:   What does that mean, mudra?
David Garrigues:    Mudra is – well, it means seal or it has many meanings, actually, but it means like a stamp.  So you – like a king when he signs his thing, he leaves his stamp.  That’s a mudra.  But it’s also a gesture, like a hand gesture they have.  The classic mudras are like dancers.  Indian dancers do all the hand gestures or all mudras.  And then in yoga they have those – the classic ones too for meditation and things.  But it’s a broader term that any – all the transitions between the postures in the ashtanga system they’re gestures.  So you gesture  between the posture.  And they’re alternating, opposing patterns, those gestures, that they’re – so your gestures reveals one pattern when you inhale and another pattern when you exhale, and those are opposing patterns.
                                But then the Asana itself is a gesture.  And in that way, it can be a kind of very slow unfolding gesture.  It could take ten minutes to complete this gesture that is headstand or whatever you’re working on.
Claudia Altucher:   And then these opposing forces that happen, say, for example in the down dog where your heels are going to the ground and the seat bones are aiming towards the ceiling or even in the headstand where you’re inverted and everything is upside down, learning to breathe in the face of these opposing forces, I guess that’s part of what yoga is all about, right?  Even when you step off the mat –
David Garrigues:    Yeah.  Yes.
Claudia Altucher:        – maintaining that equanimity.  I think you talk about equanimity in your book as well. 
David Garrigues:    Yeah.  And so that – and it’s a very curious thing, opposing forces, because they – in one sense, if you get – go right to the root of it, of yoga, the source of all that is you is completely equanimous.  In fact, it seemed as, like, all equal, everything, like there’s a unity that exists.  And then what actually starts kind of creation or manifestation is imbalance.  So form is based on imperfection and in that sense, like ignorance in a way.  And so those – and the opposing forces are the quintessential pair that come right from that equanimity.  And that – and so all the forms get created from just those two original forms like the yin and yang.
                                And so what’s interesting is you have to use those opposing forces to get to the unity, to get back to it, to kind of return to this source that we’ve forgotten.  And so the – that’s how you do it, with breathing, with the inhalation and the exhalation.  And like what you’re saying, by stamping the heels down and lifting the sitting bones up or pushing the thigh bones back as you resist.  They’re everywhere, those.  And then you learn how to use those to get, to find that center line, that elusive middle that is dynamic. 
Claudia Altucher:   and I suppose when you add all of these elements and you just go to regular practice, you step on the mat.  But with this kind of knowledge, then it becomes a whole exploration trip into just the Sun Salutation [Laughs].  It’s amazing how much can go into it, right?
David Garrigues:    Totally.  Yes.
Claudia Altucher:   It’s incredible.  You said that in the book “Vayu Siddhi”, by the way, that you wrote, and which to to me is total poetry.  I find you to be a poet because the descriptions are very vivid, there’s a lot of – the way you write is just very – it’s very well written.  And you said that the inspiration for this book came to you during a period of immobilization.
David Garrigues:    Yes.
Claudia Altucher:   What happened to you?  How did this book come to life?
David Garrigues:    You won’t believe this.  So we – it was after Guruji [Patthabhi Jois] passed away, my teacher.  And the next time I went to India after he passed away, I was supposed to go to Mysore and Joy and I got to Bangalore, that’s the city that you fly into to go to Mysore, and we – for some reason I couldn’t go there.   I got totally – just I couldn’t go.  And so we decided – I started looking for other places we could go and we ended up going to this place really remote.  It’s called the Andaman Islands.  So it’s a set of islands that are off the coast of – the East Coast of India and they’re completely remote.  There’s Aboriginal tribes living on some of the islands.  It’s just crazy wild and you have to get – you fly in a plane and then you go in a boat.
                                And finally we – so we went there and I was gonna focus on my practice and we ended up staying at this place where there was a yoga shala up – you walked up these stairs and it overlooked the jungle and everything.  And so I was amazingly stoked for this kind of time just to retreat and do that.  And then I also – there was surfing there [Laughs].  So I got a little bit distracted with some surfing.  And for some reason, a really – I don’t know, within one week, less than a week, I was working on Twist, the stand – 
Claudia Altucher:   I’m not even gonna ask what that is.  I’m not sure I want to know [Laughs].
David Garrigues:    Well, it’s a twist, but I trenched my back, tweaked it really bad. 
Claudia Altucher:     Oh.
David Garrigues:     I could barely walk.

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