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Clifford Sweatte - Personal Biography

Clifford Sweatte Clifford Sweatte

In 1974, Clifford Sweatte met David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff in Encinitas, California and began studying Ashtanga yoga. A small group contributed funds for their Indian teacher to travel to the U.S., and in the fall of 1975, Guruji (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois) and his son Manju arrived in San Diego to teach daily classes to the group in Cardiff-by-the Sea, California. In addition to Guruji's asana classes, several of the students were taught pranayama and in the evenings attended theory classes.

After several months, Guruji left for Mysore while Manju stayed behind to teach Ashtanga yoga in the traditional method, as he continues to do today. Clifford was fortunate enough to study very closely with Manju during his early days in the U.S. and credits him with many of the understandings and nuances he came to learn about Ashtanga yoga. David and Nancy left California to teach in Maui, and in the summer of 1976, were gracious enough to host him at their home for a month. It was during that month that he learned the advanced A series (now referred to as third and fourth series). The following year he returned to Maui to learn advanced B (now referred to as fifth and sixth series). He alternated the advanced A and B series with pranayama as a daily practice for the next three years. Guruji returned to California for his second visit in 1978, and in 1980 Clifford traveled to Mysore, India to study with Guruji. During that visit, Guruji adjusted then confirmed his practice of the Ashtanga yoga syllabus, including pranayama, as correct and graced him with a dhyana (meditation) ceremony, teaching him the seventh limb of Ashtanga yoga.

During his stay in Mysore, Clifford asked Guruji what postures came next—were there more postures to learn? He responded, "Why? You're now doing primary, intermediate, all advanced asanas, pranayama and dhyana—more asanas, not necessary!" Guruji then prescribed that Clifford modify his daily practice to include only ten postures for fifty breaths each. The method was to build a series with the first ten postures, then drop the first posture and add the next in the series. According to Guruji, "Then you are knowing what is paschimottanasa," which meant that Clifford would then understand the essence of each posture he was practicing. Over the next few years, Clifford took his guru's instructions to heart as he always had and performed the syllabus as prescribed, rotating the postures and holding them in sequence for fifty breaths. Clifford continued to study with Guruji until 1989 on all of his tours in the U.S. and talked with him until his death.

Clifford's practice continues daily as it has for nearly forty years. He is still in close communication with his teacher, David Williams, and attends his workshops on a regular basis. More about Clifford, along with amazing photos and videos, can be found at Prana Airways.


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