Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Final Ashtanga Workshop, Bendy Backs, and Hugs

NacogYogis with Ricky Tran
I can honestly say that I had fun and learned a lot at each of the three Ricky Tran Ashtanga workshops that we went to, but this last one was by far the most fun. We didn't make an entire weekend out of it like the second one, but it was still pretty great.

We left at 4:30am on Sunday morning from Nacogdoches to head to Dallas. Sleep-wise, I was already at a disadvantage because my family had a crawfish boil for me and Christy's birthdays on Saturday evening. I didn't get back to Nac until after midnight. Since I was already awake, I decided I might as well get my run in for the day. There's always time. No excuses. After two hours of sleep, it was time to head to Dallas.

Chip and Amy learning
new headstands
The Ashtanga class started at 8am and lasted until 10am. I'm only beginning to learn the order of the poses, and I have a long way to go before I even learn just the standing sequences let alone the rest of it. I recently looked for a studio in VA that offers Ashtanga, but there aren't any studios that offer it unless I want to drive about three and a half hours away.

This workshop broke down the poses of the intermediate series of the practice which includes a ton of backbends and headstands. Backbends are my favorite. Apparently, I was decent enough at the backbends to demonstrate them all in class (with Ricky's direction of course). Needless to say, my back is still slightly tight. But it's just the kind of soreness that comes from a hard workout. No damage.

Bhekasana "Frog Posture"
In this class, we learned about the nadis of the body. Basically, it's all the tubes in the body to include arteries, veins, capillaries, lymph nodes, intestines, the stomach, the spinal cord, and any other tube where things run through. When there is a blockage in any tube, there is disease. The idea is to keep energy moving through all the tubes. Despite a somewhat science-y, nurse-y mind, I can greatly appreciate the simplicity of this concept, and Ricky did a great job at explaining it.

Chakras of the body
Fortunately I don't, but if I had to pick what I thought was the most important thing that I learned from the workshop, it would have to be the importance of backbends and opening the shoulders. If you have never practiced yoga before, this may sound like a bunch of idealistic, hippy poppycock. However, after hearing it explained this way, I truly believe what I unconsciously already knew. Part of this is from the class and part of it is my own opinion after thinking about it for a couple of days now. A lot of people tend to slouch forward and round their shoulders because of poor posture, sitting all day at a desk, or any other number of reasons. Introverts and close-minded people tend to stand with arms folded, seemingly in disgust when in a crowd of people or talking to someone about something they refuse to accept or acknowledge. In the workshop, I learned about the heart chakra and how it is the center of emotion. When opening the heart chakra, energy is released and received in great amounts which sometimes causes people to feel intense emotions and to cry during their practice. The heart chakra is the energy center of love and compassion, so opening the heart releases those qualities.

Kapotasana "Pigeon Posture"
I thought a lot about the shoulder opening poses and the backbends that I love so much. All backbend poses, from the easiest upward facing dog pose to the most complex pigeon pose, open the front of the body, thus opening the heart chakra. Maybe this is why backbends are my favorite poses. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a hugger. I'll hug anyone at any time for any reason. Learning about the heart chakra made me think about the motion of opening one's arms in a hug. While not a seemingly impossible and complex yogic backbend, even the smallest of hugs opens us up to positive energy from other people and passes our positive energy on to the next person. The world would be a better place if we all did a little more back bending and hugging.

Yesterday, we had a class specifically on backbends with Kimberly. Needless to say, I was thrilled. One of the toughest things we did in the class was a lunge with the back knee on the ground which involved a pretty substantial backbend with hands at the lower back. Even though it was tough, I loved every second of it. I would say that I loved every minute of it, but there were no minutes involved in holding that posture...only seconds. Her class was very beneficial in that it made a gradual progression to lengthening the spine before the bending began. I couldn't help but to leave her class smiling. I'm going to miss these wonderful teachers, and I'm afraid that the next place I go won't have teachers like them.

Double Vrksasana
with Eralda in a
big chair
A wonderful yoga friend of mine (pictured on the right) sent me this excerpt from Yoga Journal regarding backbends: "There are those, of course, who make it look easy, who have the seemingly genetic gift of backbendiness - surely a grace from God. These yogis are beautiful to behold, dropping back easily into Upward Bow as a warmup, then transfixing everyone by doing poses most of us will only dream of." I don't think I'm that great at backbends, but this was nice to read. Everyone has their strong points in yoga or anything else in life. I'm not great at folding forward, handstands, or forearm balances. Some people are wonderful at them, and I'm sure that I could come up with an equally magnificent quote about forward benders. We just have to keep trying at what we're not good at and improving on what we are good at.

"Nothing would be done at all if we waited until we could do it so well that no one could find fault with it." -Cardinal Newman


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