Sunday, June 19, 2011

An Audio Interview with Matthew Sweeney (and my thoughts on it)

In order to prepare for my upcoming workshop with Matthew Sweeney in Minneapolis in July, I have been trying to find out as much as I can about him (Yes, I so totally fit into the stereotype of a Type-A-Ashtangi...).Yesterday, I ordered his book, Ashtanga Yoga As It Is on Amazon. Earlier today, I also stumbled upon this really amazing audio interview with him on yoga peeps.

I should probably just sign off, and let you listen to the interview itself. But being a type A person who loves to editorialize :-), I can't resist sharing a couple of things Sweeney says in this interview that really speak to me:

(1) The Qualities needed to be a yoga teacher are: (i) having a genuine desire to teach, and (ii) having the capacity to be with the student and give unconditionally without judgment. 

(ii) really jumps out at me. I may be generalizing here, but I really think that anybody who has ever tried teaching anything to anybody (not just yoga) will have had certain expectations of their student; along with these expectations comes a desire for the student to be more like this or like that (desiring that the student master this or that technique, or become "better" at doing this or that thing). And I think there is a very delicate balance between having healthy expectations of the student and imposing one's ego on one's student, and wanting to remake the student in our image, without being mindful of where the student is in his or her own learning and practice. I, at least, experience this in my own teaching (both yoga teaching and academic teaching). And I think Sweeney does a really good job of addressing this dilemma.

(2) The secret to being injury-free lies in "...being able to allow yourself to rest when you need to, and yet also being able to get yourself to practice even when you don't feel like doing it." 

I think this is a very timely thought, in light of the conversations that have sprung up recently in the blogosphere about this issue of striking a balance between being lazy and pushing too hard.

(3) To think, "I need to be non-violent" is in itself an act of violence. 

This doesn't just apply to non-violence. Anytime we say to ourselves, "I need to not be X", or "I need to stop being so X", we are trying to become something other than what we are in the present. When we do this, we are not able to accept ourselves as we are right now. And this gives rise to more inner tension and strife, and ironically, makes it even more difficult for us to overcome our negative tendencies. The key, according to Sweeney, is to first accept whatever you are right now (being angry, being violent, being X) without judgment. The funny thing is, once you do this, you will find that the negative tendency in question actually lessens in intensity and ceases to have such a powerful grip over you. The idea is to find a way to strike a balance between being unconscious and ignoring the negative tendency, and fighting the tendency and not accepting it.

Alright, I need to stop editorializing (uh oh, am I failing to practice self-acceptance here?), and let you enjoy the interview. Well... enjoy!    


  1. I really like Matthew Sweeney (based on his books) and hope to practice with him one day. #3 is helpful - thanks for editorializing ;)

  2. Yes, savasanaaddict, I find #3 very insightful too. I feel that #3 actually explains the problem behind much of organized religion: People try too hard to consciously change something or to be someone else; in the process, they do more violence to themselves.

  3. Wonderful interview with yoha expert Matthew Sweeney.. This was an excellent interview.. Thnaks for sharing this...
    Interview transcription