So last night I attended Ronald Steiner's “Learn to Fly” workshop. There were around 40 people in the room who were all at very different places in the practice - at least from what I could tell from the corner of my eye. It was beautiful to hear as many people sing OM together. In order to prepare us for the arm balances to follow, Ron did a couple of rounds of wrist and shoulder warm-ups first: “You want to produce enough synovial fluid to protect your joints.” Indeed, for what followed were four hours of a lot of practice and information. Let me try to sum up what I remember (next time I should probably take notes, like some of the other participants did).
Things I had never done before but did in this workshop:
- Going from Malasana (squat) to Bakasana (crow) to Tripod Headstand in one movement by shifting my Kanda (energy centre).
- Baby Bakasana (crow pose on forearms)
- Assisted Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Stand)
- Going from Uttanasana to Handstand (assisted)
- Assists that will be useful in my later life as a Mysore teacher (e.g. helping people lift their pelvis from Uttanasana and jump back to Chaturanga Dandasana)
Personal advice I received:
- Lift pelvis higher during jump throughs. In order to achieve this, take a figurative step back, break the movement down into its core elements (inhalation-exhalation-inhalation) and practice the first jump toward the arms by hopping onto tiptoes, each time lifting the sitting bones higher up. “That’s how you will find the point where your hips are right above your shoulders before lowering down and jumping through to the seated position.” Certainly something I will have to practice.
Some of the general advice we received:
- All movement must be reversible, otherwise it isn’t executed correctly. Key to being able to do so is Kanda control.
- Instead of aligning your middle finger alongside the outer line of your mat as most teachers advise, align your index finger instead (wrist wrinkles parallel to the front line of the mat). According to Ron, this will alleviate pressure from the wrist joints and spare you some serious pain.
- Instead of pulling the shoulders down when stretching your arms out over your head and looking up, pull the armpits back. A seemingly similar movement, but one with less damaging effects on the shoulders.
- For all inversions, the brain must learn to use the hand as feet. This takes time, don’t give up.
- With asana perfection comes smooth Pranayama. (Freely translated from Pattabhi Jois.)
- It doesn’t matter how well you perform certain asanas or how far along you are in your practice. As long as you practice.
From what I understood, these tips and many more are also available in Ron’s new book “Yoga für Fortgeschrittene”.
A lot of what we did during the workshop were partner exercises, and I was lucky to have placed my mat next to the nicest person, Katrin. Coincidentally, Katrin was the author of a recent interview with Sharath Jois that I think I have mentioned on here before. It’s the one where he said that Yoga teacher trainings were a rip-off, and that what you really needed to teach was a longtime, intensive personal practice. Reading this was what made me throw my doubts about teaching lunch break classes without a teacher’s license over board. A life-changing decision. And there I was four weeks later, accidentally stepping on the author of that article’s hand. Oops! (It had gotten pretty loud in the room by the time, and we misunderstood each other about the exact timing of our next movements in an assist.) Katrin said it didn’t hurt, but I still felt super bad about it. Life gets funny sometimes.
Overall, I really enjoyed the workshop. I even considered asking for a last minute spot on Ron’s anatomy training taking place today and tomorrow, but then reconsidered mainly because I had had an exhausting week with little sleep. I’ll certainly keep a look out onto what other workshops he will be teaching in the future, though.
I liked how Ron made perfectly clear that Ashtanga Yoga needed a lot of dedication, but that it is okay to have fun and play around with the practice, too: You might be practicing first series normally, but you can take a break from that any time and try what tickles your fancy from second or even third. In doing so during his workshop, the limits to my abilities became very clear again, even though I am already doing well enough to cruise through first series more or less uninterruptedly. A very humbling experience. I love that about Ashtanga Yoga: There is still so much to learn! And then seeing Ron, who is an Ashtanga Yoga machine, making it all look so easy… incredible. Certainly, this wasn’t the last of Ron’s workshops I attended. Thank you for an interesting evening! Namaste.