Archive for the ‘workshops’ 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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The art of hands-on adjustments with David Keil

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

A hands-on adjustment workshop with David Keil at Stillpoint Yoga London

The Shard building LondonLast Saturday I was up in London doing a workshop with none other than Mr Yoganatomy.com himself: David Keil or as we call him in this house: DK.

Stillpoint Yoga London is nestled in the shade of London’s greatest modern landmark: the jaw droppingly impressive, Shard. The weather was lovely as I departed Brighton station and only improved by the time we arrived at London Bridge.

I bumped into DK at an evil coffee shop who’s name I won’t mention here for Search Engine Optimisation reasons where we collected caffeinated fuel for the day ahead. He’d just completed teaching 5 days of early morning Mysore practice at Stillpoint.

He structures his Mysore classes into 3 morning sessions with a group of 12 students in each session. This seems like a great way to teach for both practitioner and teacher alike. As practitioner you get loads of attention and as a teacher you get to preserve your energy and don’t miss out on what you have to give students. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to make it.

Yoganatomy volume 1 & 2 DVD coverYoganatomy Hands-On Adjustments DVD coverOver the years I’ve been lucky enough to do a week-long intensive with David and attend several of his workshops on anatomy and hands on adjustments. He’s a brilliant teacher and lovely guy too. DK is not a man who does things by half measures, he’s released a double DVD set titled Yoganatomy Volumes 1 & 2 and more recently a double DVD set called Hands-On Adjustments. The quality, depth and knowledge of both DVD sets is truly impressive and they’re considered authoritative on the subject. Don’t just take my word for it though: Read some of the customer reviews on Amazon!

He’s also been running Yoganatomy.com for about 10 years – it’s the go-to place for anatomy relating to yoga. His website articles are great and thought provoking reads on the topic too.

Unsurprisingly DK has also written a book on the subject, called: Functional Anatomy of Yoga. The book is due to be available at the end of August 2014. In the meantime you can sign up to find out more about the book on his website: yoganatomy.com – just fill out the sign-up form on the right and tick the box next to Anatomy Book.

The hands-on adjustments workshop

The workshop had a really simple format and DK had only a whiteboard as presentation aide and he kicked off by asking the group two questions: What does a good adjustment feel like or achieve and how does a bad adjustment feel? He captured the words up on the whiteboard. He went on to introduce the concepts of assisted and unassisted Range of Movement (ROM).

David Keil Adjusting TrikonasanaThen it was time for us to team up and start using our hands (and legs!). As an icebreaker we started off with a great ROM exercise – in this exercise we physically explored the concepts of unassisted ROM (using just your own muscles to move) and assisted ROM (where someone assists your range of movement). You could physically feel the end of unassisted ROM in the hamstring as you move past it towards the edge of the range of movement. At the edge of assisted ROM is an area that David describes as the therapeutic edge. Pushing beyond the therapeutic edge results in injury. over time and with skillful adjustments the therapeutic edge and the end of assisted ROM can both be increased.

After this hands-on icebreaker we worked our way through the standing sequence of the Ashtanga practice. There were a few non-ashtangis amongst the attendees so we got to adjust Natarajasana or dancer which is not a posture I’ve even attempted before, never mind adjusted (it comes at the end of Advanced A). David would first introduce a posture and then demo. The picture above shows David Keens receiving receiving an adjustment in parivrtta trikonasana.

Instead of giving a blow by blow account of each pose I thought I’d share some of my own thoughts and insights on hands-on adjustments that came up for me during the workshop.

Receiving hands-on adjustments

As a practitioner I’ve mostly enjoyed being adjusted. It’s helped me break patterns of movement and considerably increased my ROM. It’s also an important way to build trust between teacher and student, early on. This is much needed as one goes deeper into the practice.

I’ve also been injured by teachers adjusting me. In fact it’s taken me years to recover from the injuries. Yet, I still allowed teachers who had injured me to adjust me. Why? Well our relationship was based on trust and surrender. I trust them and I surrender to the adjustments – which were mostly beneficial. I take some responsibility for my injuries and I also see them as part of a healing process that needed to occur in my spine.

3 years later my back is stronger than it’s ever been and I have much less pain than I’ve ever had. When I’m practicing strongly and don’t get enough rest then I do get back ache, but in my book that’s perfectly normal – considering the intenstity of the Ashtanga practice. You might ask why I do a practice that is so intense, but that’s a topic for another day. The short answer is: I need it.

When I was in Mysore last year two of my friends were injured by forceful adjustments. Neither of them seemed to blame the teacher or the assistant. I feel ambivalent about this. On one hand I feel it’s a teacher’s job to help the practitioner bring about deep physical or even psychic change, and this includes challenging a students beliefs about their own limits, but I draw the line at injury.

On the other hand, practitioners are responsible for allowing themselves to be adjusted and for not confronting teachers in the event of an injury. I myself also never confronted the teachers concerned. This culture of silent submission worries me and I don’t think it helps teachers or practitioners. My experience has led me to the following resolve: As a practitioner, I will always surrender to whoever is teaching, until the point where I no longer feel safe. If I’m injured in future by a teacher I’ll let them know and give them feedback.

Giving hands-on adjustments

As a teacher, I enjoy adjusting students and having a clear intention is fundamental to giving great adjustments. If you’re not clear on what you’re trying to achieve by adjusting a student then how will you be able to communicate this to them? David places a strong emphasis on a clear intention or a purpose to any given adjustment.

In order to make a good decision about what the student needs you first need to spend some time observing them. This is the first thing I was taught when first learning to adjust.

Here are the some great tips from the inside sleeve of David Keil’s Hands-On Adjustments DVD:

  • Observe the student
  • Be aware of your own bias
  • Create a clear intention
  • Ground the student
  • Feel and sense
  • Adapt to the student
  • Move into adjustments slowly
  • Create space and length
  • Use good body mechanics
  • Don’t over adjust or adjust poses you don’t do.

When I adjust students I’m looking for signs during an adjustment that give me cues as to how it’s going. I’m particularly feeling for increasing tension or release in the body and changes in breathing. David describes this as a two way conversation between the student and teacher.

I also like to think of an adjustment as a journey with 3 parts (with a space theme of course):

1. Lift off

space shuttle lifting offOnce a clear intention is set, getting into position efficiently and quickly (without rushing) is important to build confidence in the student and also clearly communicate the intention of the adjustment. It’s best to not to reposition yourself too many times. David allows ‘one chance’ when repositioning.

2. Orbit

space shuttle in orbitOn a good day this is where the magic happens and there’s a lot that can be going on as you and the student journey towards the therapeutic edge. It normally takes a couple of breaths for the student to settle and relax before going deeper. This is very much a two-way conversation: listening, feeling and responding to what’s going on with the student in the adjustment.

3. Touch down

Space shuttle touching down safelyIt’s important not to linger. Be decisive and leave the adjustment cleanly. Efficiency is key and it’s important not to interrupt the benefits of the adjustment. I find it can also be nice to offer a word of encouragement like: ‘Well done’ or if I’m feeling cheeky ‘better luck next time’.

Thoughts on adjusting for new teachers:

It’s easy to overlook the benefits of using verbal cues when adjusting. Something simple like ‘drop your shoulders’, ‘navel in’ or ‘relax your mouth’ can also act as a useful reminder to other students in the room.

It’s common when first learning to adjust, to over adjust or under adjust. It can be tricky to get the balance right. The more you adjust the better you’ll get at it. I still find it useful to ask students how the adjustment felt if I’m not sure.

Finally

If you’ve been adjusted poorly I highly recommend having a word with your teacher, you’ll be doing them a service by giving them constructive feedback. I plan on doing this in future myself. Choosing the right moment to do this is also important, and in class, or by text might not be it. Think about an appropriate way to communicate with your teacher.

If you’re learning to adjust and are finding it challenging as many do, try not be too concerned about not getting it right. Always take the time to reflect on feedback you’re given and allow yourself to keep making mistakes. It gets easier as you practice the same adjustment over and over again on different body types and students of different ability and temperament – Just keep listening and try to relax.

I enjoy receiving and giving adjustments and in our modern world I feel that therapeutic touch can be a great tool for building trust between the same and opposite sexes, teachers and students. It reminds us all that we’re on the healing journey of yoga together.

John Scott Brighton workshop

Friday, January 31st, 2014

john-scott-2013Some exciting news for us Brightonian practitioners: the legendary Ashtanga teacher and practitioner, John Scott will be in town doing a 2 day workshop organised by the Brighton Natural Health Centre. The workshop will take place at the end of March.

John has been practicing for over 24 years and is a direct student of Guruji. He was certified by Guruji in 1995. He’s the author of a book titled Ashtanga Yoga and an excellent Ashtanga Yoga DVD, both covering the primary series.

For details of the workshop and to book, please contact the BNHC.

R Sharath Jois in Europe

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

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

reJois!

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Summer is workshop season in the UK and there are loads of great teachers visiting. Notably Tim Miller is teaching an interesting series of workshops at Triyoga in early July, while David Keil jets into London for a weekend anatomy workshop followed by 5 days Mysore style classes at Stillpoint Yoga London. Certified teacher Philippa Asher also returns to Triyoga for a week’s Mysore residency at their Chelsea studio. In mid August Kino Macgregor will also be teaching at Triyoga.

Sharath, Guruji and ManjuBoth Sharath and Manju will be visiting the UK as part of their 2013 teaching tours.

Sharath’s European tour

Sharath will be teaching in London for a week at the usual venue in Kings Cross. You can check out the details on the our workshops page and book on the Astanga yoga London website. Is there anyone going from Brighton who’d like to organise a lift share? Drop me an email.

Manju returns to Brighton

We’re fortunate to have Manju back in Brighton this year for a weekend workshop in September being held at the BNHC. You can check out the details on the our workshops page and book through the BNHC website.

There are a lot of other workshops around and about too. Joey Miles will be back in Brighton later this year for another weekend workshop. The only thing you have to work out now is how much time and money you have to spend on workshops! I’m booked on Sharath’s London week and will also be doing Manju’s Brighton workshop and of course I’m organising Joey’s next Brighton workshop. Hope to see you at one of these.

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