Brad Ramsey: Born October 16th, 1950? Died September 25th 2012: An Appreciation
I didn’t know what year Brad was born so I Googled him to see if there was any information available concerning his date of birth. Seventeenth in a list of a variety of different Brad Ramseys –from art designers to baseball coaches—I found the Brad Ramsey I was looking for. I was referred to ashtangayogacenter.com, my own website, where Brad is mentioned briefly in a short history of ashtanga yoga in Encinitas. Brad was a very private guy, to the extent that he became a recluse over the last 25 years of his life, living in Maui for most of that time. He was certainly not someone who drew undue attention to himself—no facebook page or blog for Brad. Still, it is sad to see that someone who made such a valuable contribution to the development of ashtanga yoga in the West has gotten so little recognition. Brad was my teacher for the first three years of practice. Over that time he taught me primary, intermediate and advanced A and B asana sequences, all the six pranayamas, many Sanskrit slokas and devotional songs. In addition, he advised me wisely in terms of diet and guided me sagely into the realm of sacred Indian literature—Bhagavad Gita, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Srimad Bhagavattam, Upanishads etc. He was a teacher of great commitment, depth and sincerity. He was always kind, patient and compassionate. Brad gave me the tools to become a better architect of my own destiny—asana to purify, strengthen and stretch the body; pranyama to still the mind; and mantra and bhajan to open the heart. He was a wonderful singer and guitarist and led kirtans where he would bring us deeply into the heart of Bhakti, which he always said was the quickest path to God in Kali Yuga.
As an asana practitioner Brad was very stiff and incredibly strong. It was amazing to watch him doing the advanced asanas, just through sheer determination. Brad and Gary Lopedota, his co-teacher, were always coming up with ways of doing things to make them much more challenging, yet, at the same time, cultivating great strength. One of the things Brad and Gary came up with was: while doing the seven headstands at the end of second series, instead of returning to tripod position into chatuari, between each of them, we would press ourselves into a handstand between each of the headstands, lower back down lightly on the head and do the next headstand variation. Brad could also do Viparita Chakrasana (flip flops) even though his back was very stiff, through sheer strength of Will.
From the late 1970’s through the late 1980’s Brad was one of the best and most important ashtanga yoga teachers in the West and one of Guruji’s favorite students. If you read Brad’s chapter in the book, Guruji, you get a good sense of Brad’s brilliance and insight into the deeper dimensions of yoga. He also relates the hilarious story of being initiated into the practice of sutra neti, inserting a string into the nose made of bicycle valve tubing attached to a thin, braided linen strip that Brad said felt likesandpaper going through. The Indian boy ahead of him in line vomited on the neti string. Guruji scolded the boy then calmly wiped the neti string with his fingers in preparation for Brad’s turn. Brad didn’t flinch--he was that kind of fearless warrior. Brad was kind enough to make me a neti string and initiate me in the practice under much more hygienic conditions when he returned from India. Before Brad left for India I asked who would be teaching in his absence. “You,” he said. Thanks for all you gave me, Brad, you will always be in my heart.