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!