Interview: digital coffee with Ty Landrum
Ty Landrum is the director of the Yoga Workshop in Boulder, Colorado. He teaches Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in the traditional, contemplative and experimental style of his mentors, Mary Taylor and Richard Freeman. With a PhD in Philosophy, Ty has a special touch for explaining the theory of yoga with color and creativity.
His passion as a teacher is to share the brilliance of yoga with anyone who wants to learn. And now, Ty is coming to Bucharest, at Wellness Festival, and hopefully he will teach us how to breathe, feel, practice and live as a real yogi. We discovered his story on Youtube, a couple of years ago, and since then we had the curiosity to follow his teachings online and of course, someday, offline. It seems now is the time to meet Ty because we all have this great opportunity to practice under his guidance on the 28th, 29th and 30th of September at Wellness Festival.
Ty has been an Ashtanga practitioner since 2005. He was introduced to the method at Ashtanga Yoga Charlottesville, where he practiced for seven years. In 2012, after completing a doctoral degree in Philosophy from the University of Virginia, Ty moved to Boulder to study with Mary and Richard. Since then, under their guidance, he has learned some unspeakably wonderful things about the art of yoga. He now travels the world teaching workshops, intensives and retreats.
We had the opportunity to interview Ty and we’re inviting you all to get a cup of tea, sit down, put your daily worries aways and read our amazing and inspiring conversation.
Name one unorganised thing in your life: my passions.
If you had a super power, what would it be and what would you do with it: The capacity for unconditional love and forgiveness is a superpower. All of us have that capacity, but we are mostly disconnected from it. For me, yoga practice is about trying to awaken that power, and so to bring more light into the world.
The place where you drink your coffee: in my kitchen in the dark at 3:15 AM.
Your place to study and read: anywhere.
A corner of the world you like: Mallorca.
How does your browser look like: always evolving.
A thing you learned from your parents and you have used for today: resilience.
The ritual that defines you: early morning yoga practice.
1. We like to start these talks like this: why do you practice yoga? For any yoga teacher, the practice is something that happens each day, but we don't want to talk about Ty the teacher, but more about Ty the man with all the daily challenges a modern life brings about.
When I first started practice, it was simply to calm my restless and creative mind. But with each passing year, the practice has become more interesting, and my reasons for practicing have deepened. Now my practice is about relating more intimately and authentically to the internal forces that shape my experiences. This has been completely exhilarating. And it also helps me relate more intimately and authentically to other beings as well, including my wife, my children, my students, and everyone else.
2. And because we were talking earlier about the regular challenges of day to day life, I want to invite you to talk about the seventh series of the Ashtanga practice: “The Yoga of relationship” which can be more demanding than anything in the practice. Can you share your thoughts about this? What does it really mean?
Yoga is about learning to relate openly to otherness. We start with the otherness of our own minds. That is, we start by recognizing all of the marginalized thoughts, feelings and memories that quietly impact our experiences, but which do not fit comfortably inside of our presiding ideas about who we are. We allow those those parts of ourselves to spill out over the projected boundaries of our selves, so that our sense of ourselves becomes more porous, more malleable, and more expansive. When we learn this crucial skill of openness, then we can bring it into our relationships with other beings. And it is through openness in our relationships with other beings that we can experience our actual continuity and interconnectedness. That is the yoga of the seventh series. That is the yoga of loving relationship.
3. Tell us about your first journey to India, how was Ty then, what did he learn? Or, in other words, what did you bring back with you when you returned home to Colorado?
The first time I went to India, I was alone. I spent one month there, in Mysore. And I spent a lot of time wandering by myself on the outskirts of the city, filled with wonder at the richness, the complexity, the confusion, the darkness, the devotion, and the bliss. Its such a magnificent and unsettling and inspiring place. I don’t know that I brought anything back with me, but of course something shifted during my time there. And that is always the case.
4. “There is always infinitely more to our experience that we can comprehend, a hidden excess that words cannot reach, yoga is about opening ourselves for that excess”. This is what you said in a different material we discovered online. How can yoga help us open this excess to a new world inside of us?
Yoga is a technology for stilling the mind, even the face of tumult. It teaches to breath deeply, and to relax into the confusion of embodied existence. And when we breath deeply and relax into ourselves, surrendering our delusions and conceits, we open ourselves up to new dimensions of experience. Its really just that simple. And unfathomably profound.
5. “Practice with softness, sweetness and an open mind”. This is what we learn from one of your online workshops. In the eyes of a beginner and even in the perception of more experienced student, Ashtanga Yoga seems to be a tough and demanding practice. How can we "sweeten" the practice when each position seems to be so difficult and not at all gentle?
The more we practice, the more we learn to settle and soften into difficult postures, and that teaches us to do the same with the difficulties of life. The really wonderful thing about yoga is that we can cultivate this ability directly, by working with something as tangible as posture and breath. The more we soften, the sweeter our experience eventually becomes.
6. “Pranayama is the practice of giving space to the breath” is what you tell us. In Bucharest we have very few workshops or classes that talk about the importance of breathing in yoga. Can you share with us more on this topic?
The breath is the medium of sensation. When we focus on the movement of the breath through the body, we begin to touch into subconscious reserves of unprocessed emotion. These come up the surface of our minds, and instead of acting them out, or getting caught up in whatever story they might invoke, we simply allow them to pass through the space of our awareness, and we admire them with the same mix of wonder and awe that we might admire a storm unfolding on the distant horizon. Those unprocessed emotions then release their psychical force back into the emptiness of our awareness, so we can use it for more creative purposes. The process of assimilating the psychical force of unprocessed emotions back into the subtle body is called the “alangrasa.” It is an exhilarating and enlivening experience, which we can access readily through pranayama.
7. Your advice: what should a beginner pay attention to and what are the most common mistakes? What is your advice for beginners?
A beginner is the best position to do yoga, because yoga requires little more than an open mind, and a readiness to experiment with the body. The most common mistakes that we make in yoga are to project certain ideas onto our experience about the nature of accomplishment. There is really nothing to accomplish. The nectar of yoga is simply the incomparable bliss of opening ourselves completely to the fullness of the present moment. And that is something that anyone can do at anytime.