An Ashtanga Yoga weekend workshop {shared by Gert McQueen}

Gert is a fellow WordPress blogger I met over a year ago through my other blog. She and I discovered, over time, that we have many, many common interests and experiences. I hope you enjoy her guest post below as much as I do!


I’ve been practicing Ashtanga now for just over 10 years. At first I thought I would never do it, for ‘it’ is a very strong intense athletic type of yoga. I had never been athletic in my life but then in my middle 50s I’m doing this type of yoga. But as you know, once you make that commitment and just ‘show up’ you find just what you can do!

Here’s our group picture! The only male, Jeff Rule is the owner of the studio. I am in the center, in green. In front of me, in blue is Mary Flinn, guest instructor. Next to her is Kathy Falge. Kathy and Jeff are my Ashtanga instructors. Also present are three instructors of mine that teach Vinyasa flow and Kripala.

Here’s our group picture!
The only male, Jeff Rule, is the owner of the studio. I am in the center, in green. In front of me, in blue is Mary Flinn, guest instructor. Next to her is Kathy Falge. Kathy and Jeff are my Ashtanga instructors. Also present are three instructors of mine that teach Vinyasa flow and Kripala.

I usually practice 2 nights a week; on Monday and Thursday evenings, 90 minutes each night. The only time I miss a class is when the weather is too nasty (too hot, cold, or stormy) or I’m ill. Once retired I did a ‘mysore’ practice (personal practice) early mornings at the studio when I lived in that neighborhood. But once I moved, 15 miles away, it was next to impossible to get there in the early mornings. The idea of dealing with dark and snow and traffic no longer appeals to one who is retired! In fact the only night driving I do any more are those 2 night yoga classes! Everything else gets done before 4pm or it doesn’t get done. I should mention that I bike a 7 mile round trip trail as often as possible; this season the tally is, at the moment 800 miles. In the winter I go to a gym, 3 to 5 times a week, to bike and work upper body/core machines. I also walk and do tai-chi.

Like lots of folks I am not very self-disciplined but have found that if I ‘pay’ the fee I’ll want my monies worth; therefore I make the class. Now of course I ‘know’ I can practice at home and I try but for the most part it doesn’t happen. There are always so many other things to do, at home. Is that a cop-out? Sure, but at least I’m honest! I’ve wanted to get into a home meditation practice and even with on-line sessions I keep getting side-swiped. So I try to remember to – just keep coming back to my breath and my practice! There are times when illness or injury will stop or limit my practice. Again, just come back to it and it will stay with you and you with it.

When it was announced that the studio was inviting a certified level 2 Ashtanga teacher to do a workshop, September 27th, 28th and 29th, I signed right up! I’ve attended 3 other workshops in the past by visiting yoga instructors, who taught Ashtanga, but never a level 2 instructor. My instructor met this woman in Mysore India earlier this year.

Workshops are interesting…different instructor, energy, views – all help to get you ‘out of your comfort zone’ even if it’s only a short time. But funny things happen…you ‘work’ harder because you want to make your instructors ‘look good’ (by having great students for the visiting instructor) and you want to ‘look good’ too! And then you, the student, the one who is practicing yoga, finds that you can do ‘more’! You find that hidden strength and calm to move beyond and achieve something that was just within your reach!

I had done my normal 90 minute class on Thursday. The workshop was a total of 9 hours over 3 days (2 on Friday, 5 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday) and then my normal 90 minutes class on Monday. That’s a total of 12 hours of yoga in 5 days. Many of us wondered, out loud, if we could do that afternoon session on Saturday! We did, plus by Sunday morning, we all were loving it!

Every one has some physical limitations; we just modify and adjust. I have some breathing/heart rate/coughing issues as well as the ‘usual’ female stress incontinence. If I get too hot I start to choke, cough and I sometimes must stand ‘still’ while I get my breathing/heart rate settled. A trip to the bathroom before major hip-openers and twists is a given and then again before headstand and savasana. All small prices to pay for the benefits of the practice! And then there are some postures that may not be ideal or wise for us to do. For me its shoulder stand sequences (constriction of chest area), jumping, crow postures, hand stands and very deep forward twists (wrists, breathing and belly fat). Even with restrictions it is always good to do modifications.

In our studio we sometimes leave the windows open a crack and/or put on the ceiling fans. Generally speaking our ‘classes’ are geared to those that ‘show up’, that means there can be many levels of understanding and learning of the postures that entail more instruction versus ‘just doing’ the practice. So, the workshop format allows the participant to do the complete and traditional style of Ashtanga; something we may not get always in our regular class time.

So, it didn’t take long, probably about 5 minutes, before our visiting instructor closed the windows and turned off the fans! Oh, we all knew we were in the ‘heat’ for sure! Could it have been that heat that opened my muscles up more enabling me to do more with my body and get more strength? I’m sure it was.

In addition to a more ‘intense’ practice experience our guest instructor gave us opportunities to be part of a fire ritual and offerings, healing mantras and circle and a guided meditation that was a very profound personal experience.

~Gert
 
Check out the studio at these sites…
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