Friday, August 21, 2009


I woke up at 6 and was on the mat by 7 this morning - a necessary evil because of today's very full schedule. I had a nice, albeit stiff practice. I did full Primary with Sharath's voice leading me forward through the poses.

One good thing about this Sharath kick I'm currently on: I'm becoming very comfortable with the correct vinyasa; I've put aside many of my bad habits. No doubt I have more I don't even know about.

Alas, I won't be able to attend the led Primary at Shala Central on Sunday because of my participation in the Yoga Festival. I already signed up for a 3-hour class/workshop with Teacher D that morning. I would have liked one more opportunity to go through the poses in a Shala setting, but it just isn't possible.

I've decided to go to at least one led Primary with Sharath at the end of the month. The only issue is money. I have to figure out how many days of this I can afford (it's pricey). I definitely want to do the Sunday and attend conference later on that day. Thankfully, the location is a 20-minute bike ride from my apartment so transportation isn't an issue.

This morning's practice was followed (karmically canceled out?) by Banana Pancakes (twice in one week - decadent, I know!) and a walk with a friend. We took my hoop into the park and did some hooping too!

I spent the rest of the day at the Yoga Festival. I used my volunteer discount code to buy a half-day pass and went to two sessions and an evening roundtable discussion. I wasn't sure what to expect. The Festival debuted last year. A friend of mine attended for the full three days and just raved about it. It's *very* local, so there are not many 'big names' on the schedule. To be honest, there were not many sessions that interested me.

Disclaimer: My experience of this festival was (and will be) heavily skewed toward Yoga Asana. It's my main area of interest because it's what I do. I don't teach meditation or philosophy and to be honest, I would rather read about those topics in books or take a comprehensive course than hear a basic outline in a two-hour workshop.

That said, the asana offerings were scant. There was little that was Ashtanga-specific. I found a lot of the topics pretty vague.

The first session I attended today was a two-hour Iyengar session targeting knees and hips. It was taught by the most senior Iyengar teacher in Canada. I started my yoga journey with Iyengar, so I'm familiar with the style, but this lady is in a class by herself.

The first thing she did was *completely* rearrange the room to her exact specifications. The second thing she did was impose prop-control: we were discouraged from using our own belts and blocks. Notebooks were banned, so I couldn't jot anything down.

It was a Yoga Military I half-expected her to make us change into uniforms. Actually, she did fuss about 'yoga pants' and informed us that next time, we should consider wearing shorts.

Or maybe fatigues.

But no one argued with her. She handled this very large class with such finesse, we all just followed along like happy sheep. At 71, she's physically strong, sharp as a tack and has an eagle eye for misalignments in the human body. I was in awe. Whatever my criticisms, she's a class act.

She showed amazing self-restraint and made only *one* small jab at Ashtanga ;-)

In two hours, we covered exactly *four* poses and when I say 'covered' I mean we analyzed them to *death*: Tadasana, Dandasana, Baddha Konasana, Supta Padangustasana. It was quite the opposite of Ashtanga, where every movement is made with efficiency and fussing in a pose is discouraged. We spent long periods fussing over poses. This is exactly why I moved away from Iyengar-style practice as soon as I had developed basic knowledge of asana. I found it way too niddly-piddly for my tastes.

The workshop was interesting and she was fascinating. In the end, though, I received little practical knowledge from this workshop that I could apply directly to my classes and my own practice. She talked a lot about the nitty gritty specifics of what the hips and knees should be doing in Iyengar style poses and I gained some general knowledge of alignment. I guess I was hoping for more modifications to protect tight knees and hips and tips for opening up those areas in my students. I was also hoping for a class geared toward teachers (it was billed 'teacher enrichment') but found that it was presented for the general practitioner.

The main draw for me today was the session on Children's Yoga. This is a bulls-eye 'teacher enrichment' area for me because I teach 5 children's classes per week during the school year. I've been teaching kids for over 5 years and to be honest, my well of inspiration has started to run dry. This workshop was a *great* resource for me (and quite fun!). The presenter was trained through the 'Yoga Ed' programme (I'm dying to get my hands on a copy of their training manual...eBay?). She covered basic categories: breathing, visualization/relaxation, asana and games.

She touched only briefly on asana because we're all familiar with the basic poses. I really enjoyed her tips on using 'yoga tools' to convey information to children, as well as the resources for stories and activities and ways of conveying yogic concepts (like the Chakras) without disturbing the religious sensibilities of the school environment.

The games were a hoot! Imagine a bunch of adults, in Dandasana, feet-to-sacrum, in a 'train.'

“Raise your right hand!”, she commands. We comply. “Now toot your horns!”



The evening keynote was a discussion of 'Yoga and Relationships.' It touched a variety of subjects, including guru-disciple relationships, attachment, unconditional love, jealousy, gender, celibacy, open relationships, the householder/ascetic dynamic and Tantra. It was good fun.

Quote of the evening (in the Brahmacarya discussion): “At the end of the day, sex is not a problem.”

I'm teaching on Saturday, but I'll be back at the Festival on Sunday (for a full day). More stories to come!


YogaforCynics said...

Yoga in fatigues is one thing, but trying to do lotus (or even half-lotus) in combat boots looks just...ouch...

Kaivalya said...

I know! It's wrong on so many levels, I don't even know where to begin!

Michelle said...

See and I love Iyengar for the minute details. I always thought that Astanga was for those who merely wanted and athletic workout instead of the Mind/body/spirit connection with yoga. And as I say that, know that I have never practiced astanga.

Kaivalya said...

See, this is fascinating stuff!!!

If I wanted a workout, I would do spinning or go jogging. I love Astanga because it takes me into this meditative zone where I forget everything else and I'm just *completely* in my body and deeply connected to my breath.

In other words, Astanga takes me to that mind/body/spirit connection place, the same place you find when you do Iyengar.

I'm sure the Bikram and Forrest people also find their way to the Place of Bliss, via their different paths.

Guess this is why there are different styles of yoga, eh? Different journeys, same destination. Cool! :-)