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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Yoga guru says adherents shouldn’t suffer from the bends

Yoga guru says adherents shouldn’t suffer from the bends

Yogi David Williams, credited by many for bringing Ashtanga yoga to the west, will come to town in November to run a workshop at Navutu Dreams Resort and Spa.

Williams’ visit to Siem Reap came about in a fortuitous way. While trekking in Machu Picchu he remarked to his fellow hiker that he would love to visit the temples of Angkor one day. His companion happened to be a friend of Siem Reap yoga teacher Jennifer O’Sullivan, who put him in touch with Maddalena Morandi, one of the owners of Navutu and herself a long-time yoga enthusiast.

David Williams demonstrating the lotus position. PHOTO SUPPLIED
David Williams demonstrating the lotus position. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Williams’ arrival is perfect timing, Morandi says, coinciding as it does with the unveiling of Navutu’s new expanded yoga studio due to open in a few weeks. Private yoga classes are now only available on request and Navutu plans to change this, leaning towards becoming more of a healthy retreat resort.

“We really want to move in that direction, having yoga as much as possible,” she says, “We’d like to find a resident teacher to have yoga every day.”

Williams, 64, who has practiced Ashtanga daily for 40 years, is legendary in the yoga world , having travelled to Mysore, India, in 1973 to study with the great K. Pattabhi Jois, the father of Ashtanga yoga. Jois popularised the practice and established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute – now the Shri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute – in 1948.

Morandi said David Williams studied with Pattabhi Jois for three years, and David was the one who bought Ashtanga out of India.

She adds that most master yoga teachers – including John Scott who taught Madonna and Sting, and David Swenson – trained with David Williams.

“The top, top yoga teachers are all David Williams’ students,” says Morandi. “I would think he’s the top guru in the world.”

The workshop, Ashtanga Yoga for the Rest of Your Life, will run over two days and cost $90. There is room for 40 students, with ten places sold already and some people coming from Phnom Penh.

In an open letter to Cambodia yoga students, Williams says, “In my workshop, I want to show each of you how you can do the Ashtanga yoga series in a lifelong practice that is a totally pleasant experience. The key is being able to continue practicing yoga for the rest of your life… It is my goal to do everything I can to inspire you to establish your yoga practice not just for the few days we are together, but for the rest of your life.”

Giovanna and Maddalena Morandi, two of the owners of Navutu Dreams Resort and  Spa, in front of the new yoga studio. MIRANDA GLASSER
Giovanna and Maddalena Morandi, two of the owners of Navutu Dreams Resort and Spa, in front of the new yoga studio. MIRANDA GLASSER

Williams says the ultimate goal of yoga is not increased strength or flexibility, but “self-realisation and keeping oneself balanced and healthy on a daily basis.”

He adds that his workshop is for all levels, and not about people “competing with their yoga practice.”

He says, “My goal is to convey the idea that the greatest yogi is the one who enjoys his or her yoga practice the most, not the one who can achieve the ultimate pretzel position.”

Morandi and her team are excited about Williams coming to Siem Reap, a place not yet on the yoga map.

“Once a month David has a retreat, but in places that are very famous for yoga,” she says, “So this is something very new and good for Siem Reap because we don’t get many foreign teachers – and now we get the best one.”

David Williams will be running the workshop at Navutu Dreams Resort & Spa from November 22- 23.

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