Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vinyasa Immersion Retreat; Camp Amnicon, WI

Vinyasa Immersion Retreat

April 8th-9th, 2011
with Yoga North @ Camp Amnicon
led by Kristin
$138.00 lodging and meals included

Workshop will run from 5:30pm on Friday to 6pm on Saturday. Join Kristin as she leads a retreat focusing on vinyasa, pranayama, meditation & a discussion on the Bhagavad Gita at Camp Amnicon. Suitable for all levels.

Friday night will be a gentle restorative flow followed by philosophy discussion. Saturday morning will be an invigorating morning practice followed by brunch. Afternoon will be technique and further discussion of the Bhagavad Gita. There will be scheduled downtime for reflection or deep relaxation.

Please read or review the Bhagavad Gita before coming.

Contact: Yoga North, Duluth to register.
Camp Amnicon is located in South Range, WI-- just 30 minutes from Duluth.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Less is More ala Teaching

I have a very dedicated group of individuals in my Monday Astanga class, and I try to be cognizant that sometimes they too need a break from the same routine every. single. Monday.   Yes, yes, I am very well aware that Traditional Astanga is done six days a week, minus full moon/new moon days.  I fully admit I do what I call a Contemporary Astanga - the full sequence, less Sanskrit counting, and no chanting.  Those items would not (and have not) gone over well up here.  I've attempted introducing a Mysore class and I have been met with great resistance and a fair amount of groaning and eye rolling.  Note to self: don't irritate the students.  I would like them to come back...

picture from the web
Recently, the group was smaller than usual;  blame daylight savings and spring in Northern MN.  Folks want to be outside after work, not in a studio.  It was all folks who have been with me for well over a year if not longer.  A good opportunity to do something different.  We slid our mats so two rows were facing in and began...  

We started our sun salutations, and I joined the group with the intent of just warming myself up before moving into the standing sequence.  I've very hands off in the first five sunsalutations as it is - that is for the individual to settle into class in my opinion.  Not for me to run around yammering at how they are doing this or that wrong.  This night, I only cued the inhales and exhales.  We moved.  We flowed. It was...fantastic.

In 'teacher mode' I do very little "hands on" adjustments; flow class doesn't lend itself to a lot of hands on breaking down on an individual basis. However, I do a LOT of verbal cuing. Or verbal cuing with a visual demo. Which means, I tend to talk a fair amount in class. Tonight would be: Less Talking, More Moving.

I decided to keep going, just cue minimal as possible and let people move. This group knows when to take modification.  I wasn't worried.  Let them enjoy what it feels like to expand as they come up, and to fold mindfully, to spread their wings in warrior II, to move through a vinyasa, to switch sides without waiting for my cue to say "and now the left food moves..."   

It was difficult for me to not talk so much, but the concentration I felt in the room was wonderful.  People were focusing on their breath, less on the person next to them, even less on what I was doing because I wasn't standing at the front watching them like a hawk.  They were just moving and breathing.  As it should be.

We did pause briefly to work on two poses, but it didn't seem to interrupt either flow or mindfulness.  We had time at the end for a full headstand, long savasana and meditation.  Rarely do we get to do mediation; I'm usually pushing a 5 minute savasana as it is and not infrequently I need to omit headstand to keep class on time.

The look on their faces at the end was delightful - the contented smiles as they said Namaste to the people across from them.   What has been even better are the postitve comments I've been hearing since then.  One gal admitted to me that this was the first time she had seen me do the sequence in the three years she's been coming to class.  I thought, there is a lesson for me; maybe some folks need to know on occasion that I can do more than stand up in front of class and talk and strike a pose. 

So Less can be More in teaching as well. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Focus Pose - Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose)

So it’s been a while since I reviewed a pose…over a year in fact. For those of you who may be newer to my blog, it was my intent ever so long ago to work my way through the poses of the Primary (Astanga) Sequence in order as best as possible, and to initiate some discussion on each. Somewhere my intent fell by the wayside, but I’m going to try and bring this aspect back. The poses and sequence are based off of my initial Astanga Teacher Training from 2004, as taught by David Swenson. I am aware there are variations in this sequence depending on who your instructor is/was and when in time you learned it.

Here is a list of the poses I’ve done previously (see also "focus poses" in the tags):

Padangushasana and Padahastasana (Standing Forward Fold)
Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle)
Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle)
Parsvottanasan (Pyramid)
Virabhadrasana II
Virabhadrasana III

If you are a practitioner of the Astanga (also spelled Ashtanga) sequence, we are now moving into our balance poses. The first of the two is Utthita Hasta Padangusthasa - Hand to Big Toe pose or Hand to Knee pose, depending on your abilities.
From Parsvottanasana (pyramid), we have returned to samasthti at the front of our mat.

Find your anchor in your left foot by pressing it actively into the floor. Left hand at the waist or hip. We do not lift our hand in this variation.  Shift your weight to your left side.

On an INHALE, raise right leg.

NOTE! There are four levels or four rungs in your ladder to work with here, and it is important in all levels to keep your “tree trunk” (torso) upright. If you are bending over to just to “get” the next level, please, straighten your torso and come down one level.

Level 3

Level 2

Level one: right hand to right knee

Level two: right hand to toes (inside the leg) begin to work on straightening from here.

Level three: mostly straight to straight leg

Level four: (only if your extended leg is straight) add a forward fold.

5 breaths

On an INHALE (if folding), straighten.

EXHALE, open the leg to the right. If in a level 2/3, some folks may need to revert to a level 1 or bent knee position here, or level 2/fingers to toes with a bent knee.

5 breaths

INHALE - bring leg back to front all levels.

EXHALE – raise the knee toward the chest OR Raise the toes higher OR Reach down with both hands and lift the leg higher.

NOTE: There are three variations for this aspect of the pose. I am referring to the variation as I was taught the sequence.

5 breaths

INHALE straighten and exhale, let go of the leg. Working either with bent leg or straight, hold the toes as high off the ground as comfortable for you.

5 breaths

EXHALE release leg to the floor.

Repeat Left Side.

Return to samasthti

Tips and pointers:

Many people find this to be a very challenging balance pose. Several items will help in maintaining stability and steadfastness:

1) Dristhti – traditional drishti is somewhere out in front of your nose. I find the floor works better for me, as then I can more readily ‘ignore’ the people around me. If you are watching others and they start to wobble, so shall you.

2) Engage your core! Use uddyanda bandha here! A lot of this pose comes from your center.

3) Press actively into your supporting foot while trying to touch the ceiling with the crown of your head.

4) Relax your shoulders!

5) And, again, try and avoid the tendency to “hunch over” to get the leg straighter.

6) For folks with flexy-bendy hips, try and avoid the tendency to “hitch the hip” upward on the opening side. Try to keep the hips parallel and open organically.

7) BREATHE!  :)

• Strengthens the legs and ankles
• Stretches the backs of the legs
• Engages the core
• Improves balance

 Bonus!  While searching for appropriate photo's I could use, I came across this lovely clip on YouTube Ashtanga Primary Series with Maria Villella:


Pictures from googling: Utthita Hasta Padangustasana and from