So far it feels a lot like 2011. Except that my quads are quite a bit more sore (haha…more sore – mysore) than they normally are on a Monday.
Thad and I rang in the new year by getting our asanas seriously whooped into shape by the always inspiring and challenging, David Garrigues.
We spent 2 nights in Philly staying with our friend Sarah Durney. She is a student of David’s, his right-hand woman helping him lead Mysore at AYSP, and truly one of the loveliest, most positive, open-hearted and dedicated yoginis around.
This was my 4th time working with David for a weekend. He is Thad’s primary teacher, the one he did all his training with…but I guess you could say he’s becoming my primary teacher too (other than my dear daily Mysore teacher here in Cville – great respect, Jennifer!). Thad and I are heading to India in a few short weeks to spend a whole month of intensive asana, pranayama and chanting with David and I am beyond excited!
If you have not yet had the good fortune to study with David, I highly recommend you make the effort to catch him somewhere in his travels or in Philly. He’s a total trip. He’s simultaneously the world’s most insanely intense and laid-back man in the world. He trembles when he speaks with bhakti and passion for the practice. He speaks cryptically with lots of great metaphors – comparing poses and actions to octopuses, drag-racing, suction cups and hooded cobras. He has you do a pose over and over and over and over again until you don’t think you can handle it one more time and then he encourages you to go again!
There’s nothing remotely static or rigid about the way David presents Ashtanga. Working with him is all about the dynamic flow, the rhythm, the movement of energy, of prana, of shakti and the power of repetition in the practice. There’s no half-assing it when you’re in his presence. You go for your all and then you go again!
I love practicing with him because I’m always pushed to my edge and a bit beyond.
Ok, honestly, I’m kind of terrified of David. I pretty much never stop shaking when I’m in his workshops. The first half hour of a class with him I’m shaking from nervousness and anxiety, and then I just keep on shaking because at that point I’m already so physically worked! I feel silly even putting this all into words – you really should just go study with him rather than reading my ramblings!
Nevertheless, I will tell you a little bit more about the workshop in specific detail.
Friday night we broke down Second Series up through Kapotasana. This took a bit over 3 hours I think. We started by sitting in virasana for a loooong time while squeezing a thin block between the thighs, while David talked. This helped to start to get that orientation of inner spiraling of the thighs – the inward rotation of the femur and the “magnetic attraction” (DG’s words) of the thighs – this is so key in Second Series, and so different from the orientation of the legs in Primary (excluding triang mukha ekapada….). After 15 minutes of this, my left foot had fallen asleep so completely that despite my greatest efforts to push through, I had to get out of virasan!
The block between the thighs remained a theme throughout pretty much every pose (minus the first 2). This constant adduction and inner rotation was a lot of work! My legs were jello walking down the many steep stairs leaving the shala that evening! My favorite part (much to my surprise given my aversion to dropbacks) was working Kapotasana. I’m finally (with David’s encouragement) moving on from Laghu and starting this Kapotasana this week officially. I’ve only done it a few times but so far it hasn’t freaked me out yet the way it does a lot of people. David had us work first by squeezing the block between the thighs to get really rooted in the legs and then lift up through the spine and swing all the way back, hands to the mat and then swing back up again. I probably went up and back 15 times or so. It was really fun and quite a rush! Then we went back all the way and David adjusted me and I actually grabbed one of my heels and was able to hold on for a few short breaths.
The next day was the most physically challenging experience I’ve probably had in my life (no kidding – I’m weak…but even my retired Hotshot fiance said that it was brutal for him too!). We were in the shala working with intensity for over 6 hours. We started by practicing up to kapo with counted vinyasa, but the 5 breath count was really more like 20 breath count and I was sweating buckets and trembling by the time we finally got to kapo!
From there we began workshopping, or “researching” the rest of Second Series. Since I don’t practice these poses, this was a real challenge for me. Some of the poses I had some surprising success in – for example I learned how to jump into Bakasana and Titibasana and that was super cool! I also was pleasantly shocked to realize how much opening has actually occurred in my hips. I was able to practice all the leg behind the head stuff with way more ease than the last time I had tried these poses. We spent quite a long time in Eka Pada Sirsasana (probably 3 minutes each side). This felt really amazing. The next day my right hip popped this epic pop and every since then I’ve felt loose and open in that hip – I’m thrilled about this because that hip has felt like there was an iron bolt stuck in the joint for months and it hurt like hell in Baddha Konasana. Wow – once again, the healing power of yoga! So amazing.
Of course, for all the successes, there were plenty of major failures, like Pincha Mayurasana, Karandavasana, Nakrasana, Vatayanasana….. the list continues….
But oh well, lots to work on! So much to work on in fact.
Saturday afternoon I tried to stay upright while we chanted and did some intense inverted pranayama. Sunday morning was a super hot and long Mysore practice, followed by time for discussion.
David laid something pretty intense and heavy on me during the discussion,with my permission, of course, but even so, once it sunk in, I started to crumbe inside. David closed the workshop with a kirtan. We could only stay for one song because we had to leave early to get to the Radha Krishna temple for a meeting, but David played this gorgeous bhajan to Radha and Krishna actually. I was already on the verge of breaking down when David began this song and then he said said, much to my surprise, “Let’s start with this one, it’s Frances’ favorite” (I couldn’t believe he had ever paid me that much attention to know that, let alone remember it and announce it to all the other students), I was totally take aback and then, boom! waterworks!
Seriously, I am Asthanga’s poster girl for crying in the shala!
I’m still kind of reeling from the weekend, especially from the hit at the end.
I can’t get into it now, I barely got this post out, but I promise that after another couple days of processing, somehow a coherent blog post will find its way out of the chaos I’m in!
Blessings for a happy, healthy and beautiful 2012.