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.