Last weekend, on a whim, I booked a flight to Toronto...Kino workshop! On Friday night, I headed to AYC Toronto for the demo, chanting and discussion. I haven't visited many shalas, but I immediately felt right at home in this one. It was cozy and had nice natural light...reminds me of my usual practice space.
Day 1 - demo...breathtaking. She did deep backbends, arm balances, LBH, twists...everything. Stunning!
After the demo was done, she wrapped herself in a shawl and proceeded to tell us that strength had always been her biggest challenge. I don't know why, but that made me feel relieved. There is hope! Strength was a theme we came back to again and again through the workshop.
"Strength is a decision you make"...every time you phone it in, you miss an opportunity to build strength. Every time you back away from an edge, you stand still. When you stay stuck in your comfort, you stop moving.
At first glance that might seem pretty darn close to "progress" and "linear" and "goal-oriented" but that's not the point she was making at all...or not the point I interpreted. She said when you encounter new, difficult, challenging, sometimes frightening situations on the mat, it's like a "laboratory" for life. Your response here will mirror your response in the real world. If you choose to acknowledge your discomfort, set it aside and move into the new/scary/challenging territory, you're building strength of character and not just strength in the body. It's not always supposed to feel good and warm and fuzzy and pretty...yeah doing your practice should make you FEEL GOOD, but working on yourSELF and your flaws and your deeply ingrained behavioral traits is not always going to be a walk in the park. Loved it, loved it as a metaphor for life and also as something I will be taking with me into my practice.
She mentioned that from early on asana demonstrates to us that the impossible is possible. So the very thing that looks insane to us in the beginning, we're doing it before we know it. Simply by facing it every day. The physical transformation in asana opens us to the personal transformation in yoga.
Day 2 - Mysore class. This was a large group so we were asked to stagger our times a bit. She also said we should practice the "series you want me to help you with". I was relieved. Because my background is a little different from many, I was a bit nervous about what to do for mysore - cognizant of the fact that a couple of my trouble spots would be where many others would be stopping and working, not moving on.
I did my 2nd and I'm glad I did. Despite the size of the crowd, I was adjusted in pretty near everything I had really hoped to get some help on. For a few asanas I waited quite a long time but I didn't even mind. There was an incredibly adept yogi in front of me and I was treated to an amazing display when I was waiting for an adjustment for several minutes! Turns out it was a teacher at AYCT, the hosting studio. Unreal!
On my last assisted backbend, she asked "Do you touch your heels?" and I said no but I went back and she asked me to walk them in and I touched. I could hardly believe it. So cool!
The afternoon session was all about strength so we worked on the foundation of a strong torso in a plank or other inversion...fingers, hands, chest, shoulders, abs, pelvis...and jumping back and through. We were given the same instruction as was given in ArkieYogini's blog, to bend the arms and walk the feet back. For the toe-tappers out there! I put it to work right away. Then we paired up and worked on floating up in sirsasana and piking to handstand (assisted).
Day 3 - Led primary. Two hours. Stick a fork in me, I am DEAD. Dropped my own ass in kukkutasana AND utpluthi. I was TOASTITOS.
Afternoon was all about backbending. We worked through the foundation of a supported backbend, with tucked pelvis, firm abs sucked in to spread the organs and make the waist small. Ribs up and out (serratus anterior?) with supporting muscles at work. Sternum up then raise arms...we paired up for assisted UDs and dropbacks.
Highlights, for me, were:
- the jumpback tips (hopefully one day the shuffleback will be a true jumpback)
- the surprising backbend assist she gave me
- the idea of strength as a choice I will make each time I practice