I thought I was pretty good at reading people, until I met someone who really had a gift, for just that.
When you speak with others about their memories of something you shared it can often be two totally different experiences. Everyone will have their own thoughts and memories but these are what I’m thinking of, since hearing of Dave’s passing.
Innumerable people have spent many months and years with Dave Oliver. I had 2, maybe 3 weeks or so over the same number of years. Regardless, he made an impact on my life. I can only imagine it was much, much more for so many others that knew him well.
Dave Oliver was my (yoga) teacher’s teacher. Here, a lineage is found, something uncommon in today’s way of practice, teaching and learning yoga. When we begin the Astanga practice by chanting ‘Vande Gurunam…’ it is at times both their voices I hear in my head. Actually, it is can be as many as three, as I recall when both David and Cheryl Oliver were helping us to learn and practice it over and over, honoring teachers that came before us.
Astanga was my beginning in yoga. It is not my favorite practice. It is not most suitable for me personally, my age, my body, my aspirations. But it is what I know. When I practice at home which is most of what I do these days, it forms a large portion of what I do. Not the exact sequence, but parts of it. The breath, the count, the language, the intention, form the background of this thing I do.
This comes first and foremost from my teacher, who was initially a student of Dave’s many years ago. But it was strengthened by two visits Dave made to Qatar. The first, during my teacher training, he was on his own. The second time, Cheryl by his side.
For me, Dave was a master in assisting. One by one he made his way up and down the rows of practitioners, spending precious time with each of us. Intuitively sensing and feeling his way to support, strengthen and expand upon whatever it was we were doing at the moment. It was this extraordinary experience of being with you on the journey, to know yourself.
He would take time with each of us, always being sure to help us on each side. Letting us know when he was approaching, letting us know when he was stepping aside, trusting that we would be okay on our own. Helping us to learn how we could acknowledge and give thanks for the help of our teachers and fellow practitioners. How we could show gratitude, silently, but noticeably. For all of us who attended these classes, we know the signals. We know the ‘pat-pat’, or the palms together in gratitude. Those simple signals that fostered connection, trust and gratitude we find in this practice – together.
We also received opportunity to connect with the words he spoke, falling softly like snow. Interwoven between movement, sweat and breath, are the stories. When I move from Vira 1 to Vira 2, I recall the story of the Warrior Virhabhadra and his swords. Working to extend in Hanumanasana my mind follows my breath, my hamstrings, as they try to replicate that giant leap of Hanuman!
As mentioned, Dave came to Doha alone during the year of my teacher training. Most of my Sanskrit training was with him and it formed the basis of my teaching language. I appreciate the time he (and Cheryl) spent relaying the language to me and originally to my teacher, Valerie, so I can relay it to others in an appropriate way. The long drawn out ……..aaaaaaasana!
Though it’s not often I find myself thinking or speaking aloud the Astanga chant, when I do, it is primarily the voice of my teacher in my head. I can probably say there are many others who have Dave’s voice come to mind, or Cheryl’s or perhaps it is their own teacher, or their own as they too, stepped into Dave’s Astanga studio.
There are particular words, voices, people who remain with us, always. I am thankful for the short time I had with Dave as he will always be close to my heart and to my practice. And teaching.
Let’s continue riding the waves all together. And for my practice this evening, I dedicate it to you, Dave Oliver.