Pranayama for Arm Balances — workshop 10 Jan 2015

We started 2015 with foundations – breath work! One of the early iterations of this workshop was ‘Pranayama for/and Arm Balances’ – but that was just too clunky for marketing purposes. It was a more accurate description of what we were up to, though.

We did arm balances, but not many. Our focus was first on the pranayama. What’s the link? Those of you who participated in (or read about) our previous workshops are aware that the emphasis is on foundations, and one of the most important foundations for any yoga work is core strength.

In our last workshop ‘Establishing a Handstand Practice’ we did a lot of core work, not only to strengthen the core, but to activate it. In this workshop we learned that we do not have to do leg lifts or crunches to activate the core – kapalabhati and agni sara are both excellent pranayama techniques for charging the core in preparation for arm balances (or handstands, of course!).

Once again, there was a nice mix of familiar and new faces, so we began with introductions and brief expressions of desire or intent – what brought us and what do we want to work on. There was much laughter when Faye said she had fallen out of peacock (mayurasana) the night before, so would be happy to work on that. That set the tone for the intent – everyone else then expressed how they felt about mayurasana, and whether or not they wanted to work on it. Very mixed feelings, but a general willingness. We never got around to it though 😉

The focus on pranayama was not simply for the physical activation of the core, but because these practices – especially agni sara – help us to access our bandhas. A significant part of this workshop was bandha activation and exploration – working with finding and feeling mula bandha and jalandhara bandha, of course; but also hri bandha.

Hri bandha is one of the most tangible (least subtle?) of the bandahs, and can be easily experienced in partner work (see the photos where it looks like Nina is tickling Maria). Cactus arms and engaging serratus anterior activates hri bandha, which in turn activates mula and jalandhara bandha, and sets the bases for serious inversions.

With all of that in place, we then turned our attention to curling in and up, so we could lift off the floor. The rest of the workshop was spent playing with titibasana and bakasana, and then transitioning from titibasana to bakasana (for some), and bakasana to tripod to bakasana to chaturanga. One of the more interesting discoveries (for me at least) was that tripod to kakasana is much much easier than tripod to bakasana – something about a shift in the centre of gravity.

One of the highlights of this workshop was an increased amount of interaction between participants, most notable when we had a wide ranging discussion about various instructions on how to grip the floor (hasta bandha: again, see the last discussion). Some people have been taught to grip with the pads of the fingers, some with the base knuckles, so to turn the hands out like screwing jar lids, some to keep the palms cupped …

It was great to work around these various dimensions to reach an understanding of what is being sought, and what is effective. And most importantly, to once again get to the point of realizing that there is no single “right” way of doing things. The point of practicing with others is to work out what’s best for you!

Next month: Extensions! (7 Feb) Come find out why Nina wants to shift our focus away from ‘backbends’ towards a more general practice of ‘spinal extensions’. Hope to see you there

agni sara 2

shape of the spine

serratus anterior finding bundhas 3

For more photos visit here

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