Thursday, 5 September 2013

Notes Part II: Kino and Tim in Copenhagen

This is the second part from my notes from Kino and Tim's weekend workshop in Copenhagen. The notes concern the Guided Class (≠Led Class) on Saturday morning. This means Tim guided us through Primary Series (up to Navasana) in a slow pace, with detailed instructions and sometimes pauses in which a part of an asana was broken down for us.

  • Trikonasana: we should try to pull back the side of the hip over which we tilt forward so much that we feel like we'd pop back up to standing if we weren't holding on to the big toe.
  • Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (reversed side angle pose): we should be very aware of the connection ('bind') of the shoulder and the knee and never lose it while in this asana (some people tend to have their shoulder almost in front of their knee instead of next to it). To increase the rotation of the spine press the hand into the floor as much as possible without losing alignment.
  • Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana: in this asana (and actually all asanas, especially the standing ones) we should try to think of the foundation of Samastithi. We should keep our upper body as much in this foundation as possible, which means we shouldn't sacrifice its alignment for the position of the leg. If we cannot yet stretch the leg fully without tilting our upper body to one side it's better to bend the knee a little and stand very straight. Even when we fold forward over the leg in front of us we should think of the upper body as in Samastithi, just in a different angle to the floor.
  • Half-Handstand after Virabhadrasana A and B: we always take the energy to kick up from the right leg, no matter if it feels like it's the 'wrong leg' in the beginning. When we kick up we should try to not think of safe and unsafe zones (you know, the higher you kick up the less 'safe' you feel because you get closer to maybe falling over to the other side). Instead we should try to change that thinking pattern to heavy versus light. We don't wan't to be in the heavy zone, right? We want to perform a short handstand. So we aim for the light zone. We try to find it and be in it for a short moment. In that moment, 'Guruji wants us to tap the right foot onto the left leg, because it looks pretty' (that's what Tim said). Then the straight legs go down again and hit the floor slightly staggered. Tim explained it like 'Tap-Tu-Duck'  or 'foot to leg-foot 1 down-foot 2 down' :)
  • Janu Sirsasana B: we should find the most uncomfortable spot to sit down with our anus on the heel, so that we might even raise our eyebrows in surprise (oh, Tim!). This is the best asana to really find Mula Bandha and engage it.
  • Halasana: we should try to put as little weight as possible on the toes, so that just the toenails come to the floor. We should try to keep our backs straight with the core, so the pelvis lifts a bit back and upwards.
  • Uth Pluthi: just before we lift up we should focus all of the kinetic energy of the whole practice we just did and all the stirring of the mind into this pose and JUST - DON'T - COME - DOWN - BEFORE - TEN - COUNTS - ARE - OVER! :)
I hope some of the notes are helpful for you and if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask!

Personally I found it very helpful to try and change the emotion of safe vs. unsafe to the sensation of heavy vs. light in the handstand after the warriors. It was the best advice of the day. We tried out kicking up into it several times then and there. Some times before he gave the advice and then some more after he gave it. The difference was really big and for the first time in my life I stayed up steadily in some sort of handstand, for 2 or 3 seconds, and felt all the lightness he described. It was wonderful!

The next part of the notes will concern twisting and there will definitely be some really helpful things in that. Stay tuned!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Notes Part I: Kino and Tim in Copenhagen

I haven't posted in a while, I know. I also didn't read too many Ashtanga blogs the past few weeks and therefore didn't comment a lot. There are two reasons for my absence from the Ashtanga blogosphere:

a) I've been traveling quite a bit.
b) I lived a bit after the 1% theory, 99% practice philosophy (for the first time since I encountered Ashtanga last December).

The past weekend I made a dream of mine come true and that was to go to the Ashtanga workshop with Kino and Tim in Copenhagen. It was really nice seeing them in real life after having collected a lot of information about them online (especially Kino of course because of her YouTube channel). They are very lovely people and while Kino gave off a sort of stern Guruji vibe to make you work hard, Tim was joking a lot and bringing in light elements. The Ashtanga geek I am, I brought along my notebook and tried to take notes of all the things I didn't know before (and also some I already knew but were explained in a nice way). There are too many notes for one post so I'm going to make a series five, because we had five workshop units:

On Friday, late afternoon, the theme was the standing postures and how to strengthen and deepen this important foundation. Kino was leading the workshop.

On Saturday morning we had a guided class, not 'led class'. This means Tim guided us through Primary Series (up to Navasana) in a slow pace, with detailed instructions and sometimes pauses in which a part of an asana was broken down for us.

On Saturday afternoon Kino led a workshop on twisting postures that was extremely helpful.

On Sunday morning we had a full led Primary Series by Kino. It was SUPER exhausting. She was strict. I loved it.

On Sunday afternoon Tim held the last workshop on inversions and arm balances that involved a lot of partner work and was really interesting because we got to try a few asanas from Second Series in a safe environment (many people there were somewhere in Primary or even beginners). We even explored the first asana of Third Series which is a side plank where you grab the toe of the upper leg and extend the arm and leg towards the sky.

Today I'm writing down the notes from the first unit, the standing postures:
  • To be able to light the inner fire, you need to have a sattvic (yogic) state of mind. The goal of the standing postures is to ground the inner fire/the heat that we generate with the sun salutations which build the start of every Ashtanga practice.
  • The closing postures that come at the end of every Ashtanga practice shouldn't be confused with the physical cool down after an athletic activity (in the gym etc.). Obviously it serves as such, but in the closing postures you also work on another level. You incorporate the heat from the previous asanas into your meditative state, especially during the three postures with lotus legs.
  • There are four important things for a strong execution of the standing postures:
    a) Balancing begins in the mind. A calm mind is necessary for a calm body.
    b) Control over the pelvic floor, your center of gravity. This area of the body is also called Kanda-Center (origination point of all the prana) and consists of Mula and Uddiyana Bandha. By engaging them well we are able to draw back in the energy from the gazillion nadis in the body into the Kanda-Center.
    c) Each foot is a tripod, consisting of the base of the big toe, little toe and the base of the heel.
    d) To ground ourselves perfectly it's great to imagine the gravitational energy we receive from the center of the earth (sounds weird, I know).
  • Padahastasana is the essential foundation of every inversion (head-, hand-, forearmstand, Bakasana etc.). Why? Because there you can learn to play around with the tilting moment of the pelvis (Kino calls the controlled pelvic floor 'stirring wheel'). While in Padahastasana, one should always try to put the weight from the heels into the toes by leaning forward, pivoting forward with the pelvis. It's kinda scary at first but you will gain so much control over the 'stirring wheel' of the pelvic floor after some time.
  • The same applies for the Prasaritas. Try to bring the weight to the front of the feet. Also, Prasarita Padottanasana A is the standing preparation for Kurmasana.
  • There are two main things Kino urged us to do in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana.
    The first is to never try to lift and extend the leg that we're holding by reaching forward with the toes/foot, but by pulling back the femur into the hip socket and engaging the quadriceps. This will create an 'automatic' lift ;)
    The second thing is to fold forward by aligning your sternum and the knee. You should do this by moving the leg a bit inward into the center line of the body so there's actually a little twist happening like in Janu Sirsasana A.
  • In Utkatasana we should always transition into the following movement by keeping the knees bent. This means in Sun Sal B we fold down completely before straightening the legs and look up for Trini. This deepens the movement. In Utkatasana the arms should always be fully engaged, shoulders drawn down the back and the elbows should squeeze and be turned towards each other.
  • In Virabhadrasana A the femur from the front leg should be drawn deeply into the hip socket and you should always go as low as possible (90 degree angle). The hip of the back leg should be very open (I always thought I had to square my hips for Warrior I!). The arm position is the same as in Utkatasana. This asana is the basic foundation for deep backbends.
While some information might be obvious, I hope you also could pick up something new. There's more to come, so stay tuned!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Hot, Humid, Tiny Space

Yay, I could practice again today :)
It wasn’t as pleasant as it could’ve been because it’s been damn humid and hot the past few days and I had to practice at home because the shala is closed. I really dislike practicing at home because I have to do it in my room that only offers a tiny space. It’s so tiny, I have to move around a lot of the time because when I jump through, I can’t extend my legs (or they’d reach under my bed so folding forward wouldn’t work anyway, ugh).
If I’d practice in the living room, where there’s more space but the parquet has a worse quality, I’d make a hell of a noise with all the jumping and the floor is very notably uneven.
So, practice in my hot, humid room today. I practiced up to Bhujapidasana and moved slowly because my back is not fully healed yet and I didn’t want to overdo it. I was happy I could do shoulder stand again which wasn’t even close to an option on Wednesday.
Hope you all had a lovely day and practice :)

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

I Really Need To Wail Right Meow

Fuck. I haven’t felt so much pain in my body for a long time. The part a little right to the small of my back that I injured (or whatever it was that happened there) on Sunday: It. Hurts. So. Much.
I went to the shala anyways but already in Surya Namaskara A I knew it would be one of the hardest practices ever. I could literally bend forward as much as a 90 year old lady who’s never done yoga or stretching in her life.
I had to modify everything. I left out the Vinyasas between sides in the seated postures and on the right side I could mostly just sit in whatever position my foot was for five breaths. On the left side I could bend forward somehow but obviously not as deep as usual.
I moved so slowly.
I stopped after Baddha Konasana and did three half Urdhva Dhanurasanas. Then I lay there, considering shoulder stand but in the blink of an eye I knew that it didn’t make sense. I skipped to the Padmasana positions and Uth Pluthi was barely off the floor.
Several times I almost started crying because of the pain. Today’s practice was a lot about self-control.
After 15 minutes of final relaxation (I usually lie there 10 minutes max) where I also almost started to cry I got up and my teacher told me I’d done so well. That I will learn so much from this injury. Then I really started crying and she hugged me closely and comforted me. The crying was really quick and silent but it needed to come out.
Now I also belong to those people who’ve had to cry because of Ashtanga.

Pain, Massage & New Perspectives For My Dream

Pain: on Sunday morning in Mysore style class, something happened to my back. When I started rolling in Garbha Pindasana, a little right to the small of my back, something all of a sudden hurt. Not too hard but it's not something you can just ignore. I still finished my practice because it only hurts when my back is in certain angles or when pressure is directly put on that point that hurts.

Monday was a moon day so good for me and my back! It was well spent, first writing on my seminar paper, later visiting a friend and doing stupid, fun stuff in his pool with a few people. When it started getting dark we watched movies in the garden. I'm the one in pink :)

Yesterday I practiced again at it was kinda okay, but very slow and I didn't do jump backs and jump throughs because I didn't want to disturb my back/spine too much in this condition. I could do all the asanas in Primary except for Garbha which hurt like hell when I tried to see if it was possible and the one after Matsyasana (sorry, don't know all the names by heart yet).

Massage: in about 30 minutes I have an appointment for a PROFESSIONAL MASSAGE! :) It was a birthday present that I got last October so I need to use the gift coupon anyways anytime soon and now is the perfect time that my back feels messed up and stiff.

New Perspectives: A couple of weeks ago my teacher said she was thinking about training some assistants to help adjusting people during her classes (not teach lessons) because her shala is getting more and more popular (she only opened it in February)!
I made a joke about being interested in doing that in 5 years when my practice is steady and experienced. She then said that I should definitely come to the training when it takes place and I was flabbergasted. Me? An Ashtanga baby? No way...
But yesterday she mentioned to me that she's been wanting to talk about it to me but she's still not certain when it takes place. Probably sometime in September when school/university are back in business and working adults aren't on holiday anymore. She said she could imagine me doing this very well and thinks I'm well suited.
I feel so... I don't even know... just so honoured! Even if I'm not going to be her assistant the training alone will have so many benefits. So many new things to learn. The most important thing is that it is a step forward towards my dream of becoming a yoga teacher one day :)


Thursday, 18 July 2013

4 Consecutive Days Of Practice & Some Pain

It's the first time ever that I've practiced Ashtanga four days in a row! Yay! Today's practice was even 'better' than the one yesterday and I think my rug soaked up at least 2 litres (67 oz) of my sweat as it was a hot and humid day. My hair was so soaked that it literally looked the same as if I came out of the shower. I have eye-witnesses :D

Practicing full Primary Series is nice. I feel more fulfilled after practice, simply because the Primary Series seems to make so much more sense to the body when completed, instead of stopping somewhere after Bhujapidasana.

My Kurmasana is really flat now, I only need to manage to get my heels off the floor.

Drop-backs are also coming on quite nicely. Still assisted, of course but this afternoon I warmed up my back at home and tried dropping back onto an elevated surface (my bed, about 40 cm tall (15.7 in)). It worked! :) I didn't try to stand up though but let myself fall onto my bed instead.

The result of these four days is a couple of bruises, one on my shoulder, one on my elbow and the ones on my wrist you can see in the photo above. I think they are there because sometimes when I try my amateur jump-throughs my toes smack against the wrists. Oh, dear.

At least bruises are the kind of pain everyone agrees is normal part of Ashtanga and I can take it. All my joints are feeling fine, that's what matters to me :)

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Saucha: How Do You Tend To Your Skin & Hair?

Fellow Ashtangis, now that I am practicing 4-5 days a week on a regular basis instead of 3-4 I have to shower even more often and wash my yoga clothes and towel quite frequently as well. Therefore, a question arose in me, concerning the care of your skin and hair.

All my life I've learned that it's not recommended to wash the skin with soap too often (as in daily or even twice a day) because it disrupts the ph-value of the skin. Shampooing your hair every day is going to do some damage to your hair eventually, it will most likely dry out at the ends while the hairline gets greasy quite quickly.

But in Ashtanga it's recommended to wash before and after practice. So how should I understand that? Is it sufficient to wash with water only before practice when I've showered with soap after the last practice about 19 hours ago? Do you wet your hair when you shower before practice? Mine takes hours to dry, y'know!

Still, using soap and shampoo only once everyday is, in my opinion, very often (before Ashtanga I showered every 2nd day and sometimes I only used conditioner and no shampoo for the hair because I have dry curls). So what products do you use to tend to your skin (probably ph-adjusted soap) and care for your hair?

I know this question might be directed more towards female Ashtangis because I imagine as a man with very short hair there's no problem. But I'm thankful for every suggestion :)