About David Swenson

David Swenson began practicing yoga in 1969 at the age of thirteen. His older brother Doug was his first teacher. They practiced hatha yoga from whatever books they could find. David’s introduction to Ashtanga came in 1973 when he met David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff in Encinitas, California. In 1975 David and Nancy brought K. Pattabhi Jois to the U.S. for the first time and Swenson was fortunate enough to be there. Swenson made his first trip to Mysore in 1977. He is one of a very small number of people that have learned the full Ashtanga system as it was originally taught by K. Pattabhi Jois. David Swenson is recognized today as one of the world’s foremost practitioners and instructors of Ashtanga Yoga. David has produced 5 DVD’s and is the author of the highly popular and best selling yoga book, Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual, which has been printed in 10 different languages and sold internationally.

What does “the power of a yoga mat” mean to you personally?

A yoga mat has some practical applications. The cotton variety absorbs sweat produced from the energetic flows of prana in our body. The rubber versions add some amount of padding beneath to act as a buffer between our body parts and the hard surface beneath. Beyond those practical applications the yoga mat has a deeper and more symbolic representation. Regardless of the brand or material from which it is derived, the yoga mat is a place of sanctuary and healing. It is a laboratory for exploring the inner realms of our being. The yoga mat is where we come to strip away the stresses that cling to us from our daily interactions in a challenging world. The mat itself is an inanimate object yet when stood upon it we enter a realm of unlimited possibilities for personal growth and potential.

How has a yoga mat inspired or challenged you?

The greatest challenge presented by a yoga mat is to stand upon it. A student once told me that her formula for a successful practice was to take her mat from the shelf, stand on it and take one breath. She could then roll it up and place it back upon the shelf, success! The beauty of her approach is that never did she take only one breath. Once there, she figured she may raise her arms while inhaling and then follow that with an exhale and fold forward. This may lead to a couple of sun salutations and a few minutes of breathing and moving that may not have been possible if the mat on the shelf represented 90 minutes of challenge and struggle. My wife, Shelley, once said that she saw her mat as her mother who always welcomed her with open arms and a loving smile. The mat will not judge us if we miss a day or more of practice. It is simply waiting for us to come and stand upon it to fulfill its purpose which is to facilitate our practice. The mat is a happy place.

How have you witnessed the impact of a yoga mat on the lives of your students and/or fellow practitioners?

I donated mats to a friend that worked with incarcerated men. He volunteered his time to teach yoga to the inmates at the local jail. If someone committed to practice for at least a month and demonstrated commitment they were given their own personal mat. I received multiple letters from the recipients of the mats that I provided for his program. Their words touched my heart. One of them told me that he was sitting on the mat as he wrote the letter to me. He said that in his life he’d only ever been given things for doing bad deeds. He’d been given punishments and abuse. He said that the mat he sat upon was the first thing he’d ever been given for doing something positive. His words still resound within me. The simple rectangular material provided this man with a sense of hope and positive achievement. He went on to say that he’d been through 12 step programs and spoken with counselors and priests, yet the yoga was providing him with an inner strength and positivity he’d not felt before. A yoga mat has the potential to change someone’s life. In this instance it changed two lives: the recipient’s, and mine as well.

David Swenson
Beryl Bender Birch

Join David Swenson & Beryl Bender for a one-of-a-kind class on January 23rd.

All funds raised through this special donation-based class will help provide free yoga mats for classes in schools, prisons, hospitals, and communities in-need.
Register now