December 25, 2009

The Beauty of Yoga, with Kathryn Budig.

One look at the beautiful photograph of Kathryn Budig in a gorgeous yoga pose on the wall of a studio and I instantly knew that this workshop had my name written all over it. My name. My heart. My soul. My very core.

My yoga teacher Vickie tells me yoga is not just about the beauty and that I need to look past that to really see yoga for what it is and what it can be. One of my favorite yoga poems by Danna Faulds starts by the phrase, “yoga is not about the pose“. And the author of Light on Yoga, which I am making painfully slow progress in, certainly does not extol the beauty and grace of Asanas in any way, shape or form.

Yes, I know and I do believe there is a universe of vast knowledge and light beyond the physical grace, strength, power and beauty of the pose. Perhaps, my journey has hardly even begun. Nevertheless, I am neither shy or nor ashamed to admit that in my yoga journey, I worship the beauty in these poses, I always have. I admire the physical strength and stamina that I can cultivate in my body with regular practice. I marvel at what magnificent progress my body can make, and subsequently, what magnificent effect that progress begets on my mind. I celebrate the beauty of yoga unabashedly and believe with full confidence that it will open doors to other rewarding paths in your yoga journey.

Kathryn Budig came to do a 2-day workshop in Chapel Hill on November 20th and 21st, many thanks to Franklin St Yoga Studio for sponsoring her. The focus of the workshops was arm balances, core strength and inversions. She was a dynamic, funny, young, beautiful and extremely knowledgeable yoga instructor. The workshops were teasingly short at 2 hours on Friday and 2.5 hours on Saturday. She taught the entire sessions by herself to a group of some 50-70 students. She was very efficient; she divided the time pretty evenly across different areas of focus and pose series. She taught techniques that applied well across many areas, and she beautifully integrated these techniques to various poses. She explained, she demonstrated, she purposely fell on her face and her back many times just to clearly show us what to avoid, and she used humor, fun mind plays and dialogue throughout both sessions.

Kathryn rocked my yoga world in the course of 5 and a half swift hours. I want to bottle up the unforgettable visual images that she stirred up, and remember them every time I step onto the mat. She approached each pose from her perspective, broke it down, built it up with foundation, and core, and strength, and power. She gave each pose a unique meaning, a fresh transition, a fun attitude, and a new challenge. She added spice into an ordinary yoga practice, and a flavor I refuse to part with, now that I have had a taste. Throughout all this, she effortlessly floated into handstands, arm balances, inversions, binding them through creative transitions, and defying gravity and common sense along the way. She was not performing. She was simply being and doing yoga at its most beautiful and graceful. She is the epitome of my most favorite yoga quote by the beloved Father of Ashtanga, Sri Pattabhi Jois, “Do your practice and all is coming!”

So here are my humble top 12 takeaways from Kathryn’s yoga workshop. These lessons, fragments of words and phrases and thoughts below I share with you in hopes of imparting to you some of the learning and all of the inspiration and motivation. Enjoy!

1. Abs Core strength: A fundamental key in yoga practice, essential to being able to lift, balance, and jump into the arm balances. Keep them strong and in tip-top shape.

2. Pull in and lift up: Pull your ribs in more so than your stomach. This action lengthens your spine. Feel the action as that is what helps you hold your jump throughs up in the air. These would be in transitions both from Uttanasana to Chaturanga or from Downdog to Uttanasana.

3. Resist gravity: When in arm balances, think of resisting gravity, pushing up against it with strong arms. Refuse to let in to gravity

4. Keep your feet together: This action keeps the energy in one line and gives you much more control in jump throughs or jump backs. Keep your toes together when you go into Chaturanga or come forward into Pike as though you were going to go into Handstand.

5. Start Small – Dream Big: Think about the smallest ounce of progress you can make. How exciting that is. Celebrate it. Then move up the ante. Do not think about the impossible poses and therefore believe the impossibility in your mind.

6. Crow like a Puffy Cat: Crow needs to be lifted, the back is rounded like a puffy cat. Think feline and lift up with your core strength.

7. Think of the poses as a Project: Maybe some of these poses may be a long term project for you, she said. Maybe your body has a 6-month, 1-year or 3-year plan before getting into these poses. Practice but take your time. Do not rush it. Think how boring it would be if you did everything perfectly to start with?

8. The Anger Management Mudra: A simple mudra that I thought not much of until when I tried it later at home and realized that it worked. This is a hand mudra and you do this by holding your middle finger under your thumb, in both hands, and breathe. We did this in Warrior II but I imagine it would work fine in meditation poses too.

9. Dialogues and Mind Games: She candidly shared with us her mental approach to each pose. Some poses, she is a stubborn 5-year old child and refuses to give in until she has what she wants. For other poses, she imagines being a Ninja or GI Jane character. I thought surely, I can’t get on board with this, this is just silly but in hindsight, I think it clever. The point was simple and made well: Use your imagination. Add spice and life into your practice. Make up a dialogue. Think up a role play. Make a story of it. Do whatever excites you and animates and awakens your imagination. Have fun!

10. Practice it every time: If you want to go into handstand from down dog, practice every single time, and one day it will come. Simplistic theory yes, but the proof is nonnegotiable. She mentioned all the Saturday nights she would be practicing. She did not start to do all this in one day, one week or one month. Training the body and building stamina and strength is a slow but steady progress. Be patient, be brave.

11. I can I can, Commit Commit: The attitude towards your practice needs to be positive. The mantra is “I can, I can”. Use the words “Commit” when you go into those arm balances. Constantly and completely believe in yourself and abandon the fear of falling or failing.

12. The Excitement of it all: Take excitement and joy in the fact that you are not there yet, but will be someday, and then you will set a new goal. How exciting is it to have this journey with your mind and body. How much to look forward to.

So practice often, practice well. And watch your own yoga journey become renewed, rejuvenated and uplifted through breathing and believing.

Author: Farnoosh created Prolific Living with a vision of embodying the essence of vitality and bliss by living a prolific life through well-established habits of conscious eating, voracious reading, diligent yoga, ruthless traveling,insatiable appreciation of the artsand by imparting that experience to its beloved readers, you!

Article adapted with permission via prolificliving.com. All photography by the amazing Pascal Monmoine. All graphic design of photos by Prolific Living.

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