Archive for the ‘mysore style’ Category

Letting go with Kino in Dubai

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Laurene Anstee and Kino MacGregor“Ashtanga yoga is powerful because it’s humbling. It asks the strong to become flexible, the weak to become strong, the bored to become inspired, the excited to relax. It is the perfect balance of yin and yang, and the equalisation of the two opposing forces of sun and moon” – Kino MacGregor

 

I arrive in Dubai late evening and after a quick walk along the marina boardwalk I head to bed with butterflies in my stomach. I’m here for a 2-day workshop with the one and only Kino MacGregor. If you haven’t heard of Kino then I have no idea where you’ve been! She’s all over YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

In case you’ve been in hiding, Kino MacGregor is an international yoga teacher, author, blogger, vlogger, Producer of DVDs and co-founder of Miami Life Center. She is one of the few people in the world to have gained her certification direct from Sri K Pattabhi Jois himself and is currently working her way through the Fourth Series of Ashtanga Yoga with her teacher Sharath Jois in Mysore.

The fact that sheyoga mats laid out for Kino workshop blends the traditional yoga practice with modern social media makes her really accessible and approachable as a teacher and practitioner.

I don’t normally jet off across the world for a 2-day workshop, but seeing as I have a friend who also practises Ashtanga and lives in Dubai, this seemed like the perfect time to head out for some sun, friend and yoga time!

We arrive on Friday morning (the weekend starts on Friday in Dubai) at the Yoga Room. The Yoga Room is an Ashtanga school run by Joumana Saber, a student and teacher of the traditional Ashtanga method. The room is bright yellow, light and spacious. Well, spacious until 50 of us fill it up completely – you can’t even see the floor there are so many mats!

Kino walks in and the energy in the room changes. Nerves disappear and her presence is soothing and exciting at the same time.

We start the workshop with a guided primary series. The energy is immense and the heat we generate quickly fills the room. This is such a new experience for me – I’m used to morning practice in a Brighton studio where leg warmers are a must and the heating is always on to help soften the muscles and joints. But here the 24°C at 10am certainly brings the practice to a new level. I love every moment of it. My mat is a mess, my hair is indescribable, but the smile on my face as I lay resting at the end says it all.

After a lunch break in the sun (bliss) we come back for some backbending work.

Kino MacGregor teaching yogaThe word backbend makes most people shudder with fear but Kino has her own way of approaching this. She makes us all giggle with stories about crying over lemons after deep backbending, which releases emotions in all of us. She keeps everything lighthearted and approachable; she’s so down to earth and we can all relate to her. All 50 of us sit around her, laughing and crying, as she describes the emotional and physical journey that is backbending.

I thought I understood backbends, but after an afternoon of breaking them down and working with them deeply, I realise there’s a whole lot more to learn. I get back to the flat and collapse on the sofa, falling into a deep sleep. The next morning I wake up with cramps – something only us ladies really know the meaning of – but something I had not experienced in a long time.

“Backbending is a journey into the emotional self” – Kino MacGregor

In 2012 I had a couple of miscarriages and completely shut down emotionally. I never wanted to feel the pain of being a woman, particularly an expectant mother in that kind of pain, ever again. I stopped having a menstrual cycle and in the last 2 years have only had about 2 periods. Both times happened after an Ashtanga class, and the second one was the day after the emotional backbending session. I had let go, I had let the journey happen and stopped forcing it. It was amazing and still to this moment just thinking about it brings me to tears.

Kino MacGregor and Laurene AnsteeThat’s how powerful a session with Kino can be. She surrounds you with a light, a glimmer of hope in everything you do, and when she said “let it go and surrender” I truly believe for the first time in my yoga practice that I understood and just let it happen.

The second day was filled with hip work and handstands – breaking down the anatomy of each posture to really understand where the work should go and where the ego must be left behind. The emphasis was on how you felt in the posture as opposed to how the posture looked. I think this had a profound effect on each of us in that studio, as the excitement of wanting to look good in front of such a great teacher melted away with the sweat.

“The goal is to feel everything, the pose doesn’t matter. If you can feel the subtle movements of the inner body by simply lifting your arms up on Ekam, inhale then this is your yoga. The purpose of yoga is to feel the physical sensations that take you deeper through the emotional geography of the body. More postures don’t make you a good person” – Kino MacGregor

Laurene practising Ashtanga yogaBy the end of that second day I honestly felt my body and mind were truly opened and I finally understood what I was doing and why. Ashtanga yoga has changed my life; it’s a journey I look forward to every day when I step on my mat at home or in a class. This workshop with Kino affected me in a way I never thought it would; I found peace with myself and with my body.

After the workshop I had a day to myself to hit the beach of Dubai. I was alone with only my thoughts and, as I walked into the blue sea, I remember saying to myself “I let it go, I am happy and I am at peace” and plunged my head beneath the crystal water. I emerged out of the sea and suddenly felt like I was right where I needed to be. The right place in my life, in my practice, in my mind and in my body.

Kino and LaureneThe key word that covered the whole workshop when facing fears and anxieties is to remain equanimous. To keep a balance in the mind, a place between joy and fear, pleasure and pain. To remain calm in all situations – on or off the mat.

If you ever get the chance to practice with Kino, do it! You won’t regret it and you’ll never look at your practice the same way again.

Namaste!

– Laurene Anstee

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Mysore self-practice demystified

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

mad-hatter-mysore-roomTaking the plunge from your weekly Ashtanga class into Mysore self-practice can be daunting. Once experienced, the beauty of the Mysore room can be felt for oneself but for some of us it can take many years to try it out for the first time. I’d therefore like to answer some of the burning questions self-practice newcomers may have.

What on earth does ‘Mysore self-practice’ mean?!

Mysore is the city in Southern India where Ashtanga Yoga and its founder the late Sri K Pattabhi Jois hale. Self-practice is the method in which yoga was originally taught, directly from teacher to student. This would have been in small groups with each student practicing something different according to their experience and ability. This means each students practice is tailored specifically to them and the teacher is on hand to assist the student as and when they need help. And this is how a Mysore self-practice class is taught today.

Why should I come to a ‘Mysore Self Practice’ class over my regular yoga class?

By committing to a regular self practice  you are much more likely to deepen your understanding of your existing yoga practice, it will become more personal to you. And you can work on the things that are relevant to you and not be dictated to by a large group class.

The class runs from 7am-9am… thats a really long class! Do I have to stay the entire 2 hours?

The beauty of a Mysore self-practice class is you can come and go according to the time you have available and the length of your practice. You may start at 7am and finish at 8am. Or start at 7.30am or 8am. Its totally up to you as long as you are finished by 9am. This means its easy to fit into your morning schedule..a bit like going to the gym (but better!).

Do I need to know the whole sequence in order to join a Mysore self-practice class?

No… by coming to a Mysore self-practice class you will begin to memorise the sequence and commit it to ‘body memory’. Over weeks and months, through repetition it will become second nature, just like breathing.

I’m a complete beginner. Can I join a Mysore self-practice class?

Yes! As a beginner you will be taught step by step. To start with your practice will be short, around 30-40 minutes. You will start by learning the Sun Salutations and then begin to add the standing poses. It is very gradual, but still challenging! As you add poses your practice time increases.

What do you mean by the word ‘practice’?

As yoga ‘practitioners’ we aim to keep the yoga as a ‘practice’ rather than something we at some point ‘perfect’.  So this way we keep exploring  and learning rather than aiming to be perfect! As Shri K Pattabhi Jois said, ‘Practice, practice and all is coming’.

How many times a week should I come?

As many as your circumstances allow, although ideally start with two or three classes a week if you can.

Can you recommend a good video that explains further?

I love this interview with Eddie Stern by the New York Times

Sophie runs Ashtanga classes in Reading and Brighton. She is also one half of Ashtanga Brighton along with Guy Anderson.

Sounds great! What now?

Why not try one of Guy’s Mysore style self-practice classes held upstairs at the Mad Hatter’s Cafe? There’s an introductory drop-in price of £5/class until the end of April.

 

new Mysore classes in Brighton

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Mysore classes flyerI’m very excited to announce that I’ll be teaching early morning Mysore classes on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 7am – 9am upstairs at the Mad Hatter’s Cafe starting on Monday 31st of March. UPDATE: Our Mysore group now practices at Revitalise Brighton (123A Western Road, BN3 1DB) from 06:30 – 08:30 Mon, Wed and Fri.

If you read my previous post Big Changes you’ll know that 2014 is bringing big changes to both my personal and work life. I’ve been teaching evening classes for a few years now but my great love is morning Mysore style practice, the very same that I’ve committed to since 2006.

An introduction to Mysore style practice

If you’re new to Ashtanga yoga then it’s worth explaining what Mysore style practice is. It originates from Mysore India, where it is still practiced today in the traditional way. A Mysore class is unique because it’s not a led class with the teacher standing at the front of the room conducting the class. Instead each practitioner works at their own pace through a set series of postures.

In India it’s tradition that spiritual practice is undertaken at day break before one’s other duties. So it’s common for people to practice as early as 4:30am. Most Mysore style classes around the world start from around 6am onwards.

The Ashtanga series

There are 4 distinct sequences/series in Ashtanga Yoga. The primary series which is learned first can take anything from 9 months to 5 years to complete. Each series gets progressively more advanced and challenging. The keys to progression is patience, humility and daily practice.

The teacher

I will be on hand to assist students offering hands-on adjustments and verbal instruction explaining the next posture when appropriate. Adjustments enable the student to go more deeply into each posture and also assist with alignment. Complete beginners start right at the beginning with a series of postures known as the sun salutation or Surya Namaskara. Each practitioner slowly memorises the sequence which they practice each day. But don’t worry it all builds up gradually.

Breathing, dristi and vinyasa

Other unique aspects of Ashtanga yoga is the focus on developing a deep, even and steady breath as well as specific gazing points (called dristis) to focus on in each posture. In fact each posture has a set number of prescribed breaths – but that’s a bit too much detail at this point.

The postures are linked together by a series of movements called a vinyasa. This give Ashtanga Yoga it’s flowing quality and increases the heat and intensity of the practice.

What to expect

  • The room will be quiet and warm but not hot.
  • You should hear the sounds of people beathing deeply.
  • People will be moving and breathing as they go through their practice at their own pace.
  • I will be assisting practitioners with their practice either verbally or with hands on adjustments.
  • At 7:30am I’ll stop the class and together we’ll all do the opening chant. Don’t worry if you don’t know this. I’ll be leading this sanskrit chant or mantra in call and response. If you’d like to know what the opening mantra means check out this blog post.
  • After the opening mantra everyone will continue where they left off.

Beginners

Please let me know you intend on coming the night before by text. If you’re a complete beginner it would be ideal for us to have a chat first. My number is below, so please feel free to ring me.

Your first time

  • When you arrive find a spot near the back of the room and unroll your mat and stand at the front of it.
  • I’ll come over and talk you through your first sequence of movements.
  • Once you’ve finished all your postures you can lie down and close your eyes and take rest.
  • Allow your body and your breathing to completely relax for 5 – 10 minutes as your schedule allows.
  • Don’t forget to pay on your way out.

As you attend regularly (3 times/week) I’ll introduce you to new postures gradually as you build up your strength and flexibility safely.

Etiquette

Yoga is a practice of drawing your attention inwards focusing on the sound of your own breath.
It’s considered inpolite to stare at other practitioners while they are practicing.

Eye contact

Generally other practitioners will not make eye contact with you. Don’t be put off by this, they’re not being unfriendly, It’s just that their focus is on their practice.

Talking

Discussion or chatting is discouraged. Keeping the space quieter allows us to go deeper into our own practice, encouraging reflection and a sacred space.

Got any questions?

Just give me a ring on 07971 558 067 or drop me an email at guy@ashtangabrighton.com

Emotions are held in the body. Fact.

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

open-your-heartI’ve always believed that we hold emotions in our bodies. And there’s no greater proof than having a daily Ashtanga practice. When you’re on the mat doing your thing, there’s literally nowhere to hide. It’s just you and your emotions. And the practice of course.

As any experienced practitioner knows, a morning Mysore room can be a hotbed of emotion. There can be tears, grunts, screams, heavy sighs and even howls of laughter rippling through the shala at any given moment.

And it’s hardly surprising. As we move through our practice and begin to open our bodies, all the emotions that are held within our joints, muscles and cells are going to be released. But better out than in as the saying goes!

It’s long been known that our bodies are closely linked to our thoughts and feelings and this is fundamental to many complementary therapies. From personal experience I know that both craniosacral therapy and sensorimotor therapy are both based on ‘reading’ the body to give an indication of what’s going on at a deeper level.

Our bodies also have cellular memory and I’ve experienced this myself many times, both during my Ashtanga practice and when I used to play the sax. There I am, moving through the asanas or the musical notes and suddenly I realise I have no idea what I’m doing! My brain has disengaged and my body appears literally to be moving by itself. It can remember what posture or fingering movement comes next, but as soon as I engage my brain again I lose it! It’s like my mind is trying to take control but to a large extent this doesn’t work – I just need to let go and trust my body to make the right movements.

These last few weeks have been very difficult as I’ve been dealing with various family issues, career issues, relationship issues and general life issues! This has been reflected in my practice which came to a head a couple of days after my grandmother’s funeral. It had been a stressful and emotional couple of weeks watching her decline and fade away and then helping to organise the funeral. I’ve had days of feeling very tired, drained and heavy – like a sack of potatoes on the mat!

On this particular day I got to the end of my practice and went to do my dropbacks as usual. Now, anyone familiar with dropbacks will know that they’re a heart opening posture. As well as bending your back, you also need to open across your whole chest and shoulders, whilst at the same time keeping a strong foundation through your thighs and rooting through your feet. As I started to bend backward, and hence open my chest, I felt suddenly very fragile, very vulnerable and very weak. I pulled up immediately, instinctively bringing my arms around my chest, as if to protect my heart, and the tears started to flow.

I knew I couldn’t push my body that day and just had to surrender. Luckily my teacher could see that too and (after I’d been to the loo to sort myself out!) he gave me a reassuringly strong forward press. Although it’s tough going through things like this, I’m a firm believer that they only make us stronger and it’s a great reminder to stop and listen to our bodies every now and then, in case we lose sight of what’s really going on.

– Hannah Moss

R Sharath Jois in Europe

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Check out this promo video for Sharath’s 2013 European tour by Digital Dristi

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