Friday, 17 September 2010

Kino in London - part 2

You can almost see me in this...I'm behind my friend in the white!
At long last! I knew that writing just half of my thoughts up was a mistake, I should have written the whole thing and posted it in parts (seeing as I can’t seem to edit to shorter posts... Later edit - this post is now broken up into two parts which follow immediately on from one another). Anyway I luckily had the foresight to scribble down some overall impressions on the tube journey home at the end of the weekend, so hopefully everything will come flooding back to me as I write. So here goes...

Saturday morning began with a led full primary. As it was kicking off at 10am and scheduled to last until 12.30, I decided to get up early enough to eat before I left home. I wouldn’t normally ever eat before practice, but having had hotel porridge at 8am when I practiced with Kino in Edinburgh with no obvious ill effects, I decided to do the same at home (though I think it was 7am!). And it’s a good job I did really, these full workshops days really leave no time where it’s feasible to eat...
I arrived and immediately saw my friends S and A (who were there Friday night) and although the Mysore room was already packed, they had sweetly saved me a spot beside them – right at the front where I like it! And by luck they were immediately next to my twitter friend from Brighton & his girlfriend. Friends Jen & Helen were in my line of sight in the back row, so in downward dog I could see them, all of which made me happy. Kino arrived and, although I had expected her to open with some sort of chanting, or introductory conversation, she instead walked to the front of the room and simply said “Samisthiti” before opening the chant. I had begun the day feeling anxious, for no good reason, but as we chanted and began surya namaskar A there was good energy in the room (with around 75 people practicing). As we moved onto B I found that with bent legs I was having a huge attack of the shakes – which has never before happened right at the start of my practice. What a good start, I thought!! But generally the class was excellent – strong, challenging yes but it was amazing to feel the difference from the last time with her, when I had only ever taken led full primary 4 or 5 times. Now, despite finishing my self-practice at garbha pindasana, I do led full primary once a week so it doesn’t feel like such a terrific challenge. After my shakes in surya B, unsurprisingly the warrior sequence was a huge challenge. In utkatasana the shakes were pretty severe, as was the mental battle, and after the first few breaths of Vira 1 I was really struggling. In vira 2 I had to straighten the bent leg and completely back off the pose (on/off, on/off) as Kino’s relentless count went on, and my brain played crazy crazy games. But generally I felt like I could keep up without any trouble, and reaching supta kurmasana I was able to bind my hands securely (which happens somedays, but it’s certainly not a given) and I was even able to cross my feet, keeping my hands together – which I have NEVER done on my own before! I don’t know whether to put it down to the bath I had in the morning, the extra hours of being awake before practice, the longer kurmasana hold, Kino’s magical presence, or a combination of all of these! Garbha was mentally tough as I was going through my backing off phase due to my by-now ludicrous arm bruises, and in the space of those 5 breaths holding my hands around my lotus instead of through, my chitta vritta were SCREAMING at me (“you cheater! Look at you, hanging out here in the easy version! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU???”) but I sat with it, let the voices scream (I’m not schizophrenic, really I’m not) and got on with it. Supta padangusthasana was fun as S and I pulled faces at each other (yoga can be silly too!) and there were plenty of giggles in the room, especially in the second half of the practice which was obviously not familiar to everyone in the room (I include myself in this!). But the really exciting stuff happened when we got to backbends. Now I knew this was coming, I had even warned my mat neighbour that she does loads of backbending...and in Edinburgh my main memory of it was that there was too much, and I couldn’t do it, so I just lay on my mat. Well, what a difference 6 months and a newly daily practice makes! We warmed up with some little bridges, but as Kino encouraged us to walk the feet in until we could clasp them I realised that I could bring my legs in much closer, even at this stage. Then we did 3 urdhva dhanurasana, with Kino warning that we were doing lots, and to take it easy. But as she talked us through a second set of three, offering explanation and anatomical focus, something magical happened. I found the connection between backbending and my legs. As we neared the end (but we still weren’t finished, she warned us), we came up onto our heads to walk our hands in as close as we possibly could. Now I have tried walking my hands in the past, but all that happened was I’d walk them in a little, then as soon as I pushed up they effectively slid back to where they’d started. But somehow this time it was different. Inhaling up onto my head, my hands walked in, and not just a few millimetres, and we pushed up in a final effort...I have no doubt that I made some noise about it, but the difference was UNBELIEVABLE. I’ll add here that since then, my backbends have felt utterly transformed. Whereas before they were just something to do quickly as I felt I didn’t have much energy or strength left for them (I go through phases...), since Kino’s workshop I have found and maintained that connection with the legs. And I feel the hips pushing up towards the ceiling (I don’t think I EVER noticed them before!), and the hands can come in...I can’t exaggerate how much this posture has changed for me since that workshop, it’s really incredible.

Chanting to open the space - that's me in blue!
After an all too brief break for lunch (I had some raisin bread and a coffee...good job I’d had that porridge!) it was back for the afternoon’s workshop which focused on arm balances and inversions. Expecting the same workshop I’d done in Edinburgh I wasn’t hugely looking forward to it, but this was actually a different one. And although I’d been dreading doing partner-work, having Jen there meant at least I had one I liked & trusted! I scribbled down some notes at the start of this workshop, so here’s what Kino had to say...
·        Strength: first it comes from within. The first thing that gives up is usually our mind which means we often don’t reach the physical limit of our strength before our brain tells us that we’ve had enough.
·        Doubt – there are two kinds. First: reason and rational based doubt – this comes from our super ego, we can come up with ten reasons why this posture will never be possible for us to do. Second: emotional. Kino said this is characterised by a noise (which I can’t spell...) like “Owwwwww!”. Fundamentally, whining!
The latter is slightly easier to deal with as we have less belief in the reliability of our emotions. But for the former...
·        Talking ourselves out of this doubt takes a strong mind. “I will do whatever it takes” to whittle away the treatise of emotional doubt so that we can learn to control our lives from a place of peace. You have to find that strength and steadiness of mind to cross the bridge from doubt to a place of certainty.
·        The ego says “it should be immediately available to me just because I want it” (talking about difficult asana, but also this point cane be generalised!). Follow the 4 steps (see part 1) and don’t try to achieve something so far from where we are now in reality. Aim for a 1-2% change. Say to yourself, I am humbly willing to stay with the body no matter how long it takes, 2% by 2%.
·        If you never touch your physical limit you’re never get 2% stronger. The perfect demonstration of this is in utupluthi. When do we really ever stick with this until we reach our physical limit? I know I don’ brain links my limit to the count. “Oh maybe just ten today” or “Wow 14, I feel OK but I can probably stop at 15”. Sound familiar?
·        Bandhas: not physical places – they are energetic expressions – but when things connect on a deep level there is the ability to access muscles over which we normally have no conscious control. Bringing consciousness into the pelvic region, beginning to wake up the pelvis, eventually one day you will have access to the Tan tien centre. This comes from a sense of total integration in the body – solid structural foundation.
·        I asked her a question about shaking (as I was experiencing even more earth-moving shakes in this workshop than I did in the morning!) and said that in an exercise class for example, shaking muscles mean you have overworked them. It seems wrong to be shaking in yoga...But she explained what I have actually heard somewhere before, that the shaking indicates samskaras leaving your body. I’d like to believe this is true, because if it is, I did some wicked cleansing through the course of Kino’s workshops!

Continued in Part 3....

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