Stumbled upon this old post (languishing as a draft since Friday, 4 July 2014) from just over a year ago, back when I was in my beloved Rethymno, Crete at Kristina's shala. The post looks at handstands and how Kristina carries on the tradition of her late husband Derek Ireland's employment of handstands towards the end of practice. As it happens a couple of days after writing this I decided to pretty much pass on the handstands, love Derek but can't really see the point of introducing one handstand into the practice let alone one after every asana ( and yet here they are in Pattabhi Jois' Led Advanced series - video clip later in the post).
And Pattabhi Jois himself in the picture at Jois Yoga Encinitas ( does anyone have a picture of this without the dancers?)
|Jessica Walden always makes me question my position on headstands, such focussed and controlled breath https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOSRsBegcTk - added the video to the end of this post.|
So here I am at Kyria Maria's a lovely little taverna next door to Kristina's shala, I'm surfing their wifi over saganaki.
Almost through my first ever full week of shala practice, Led tomorrow (Saturday) then a rest day....
Loving shala practice, perhaps I'm just loving THIS shala practice, perhaps all shala's are essentially the same, I can't say.
Love the work going on here, there are practitioners passing through their practice composed and elegant, others grinding it out and still others composed through part but putting the work in on other troublesome postures and frankly grunting and groaning through their new postures (which before long they'll be practicing with a lightness of touch and breath leaving them to groan through others ), Felt like my whole seven years of practice is here in this room.
Which am I?
I would have said (hopefully ) relatively composed ( my practice has never been elegant), up until this morning anyway but now we're on to a whole new ball game.
I thought I'd stick with a straight primary for my first week, settle in, let Kristina and Niko (Kristina's tireless assistant) have a look at my Primary, get used to the shala. Next week I'll come in a little early and practice up to kapo and then in the following weeks see about dusting off my full 2nd. Karandavasana in frount of Kristina's alter again, this time I shall be fearless (first time at Kristina shala I was terrified of flupping over in karandavasana and landing on her alter), hmmmmm.
So, relatively composed up until this morning, last night though Kristina and I were looking at old Pattabhi Jois videos on Youtube, talking about the handstand work she practices here that leads into backbends.
Miss those late night discussions with Kristina on the steps of the shala, Irini, Kristina's lovely daughter running around saying ,"What's this, what's that".
This morning I tried to surreptitiously move to the wall for the handstand work, Kristina has us do 30 breathes with the feet at right angles on the wall to build strength in the back before going up, thought I could just hop up to handstand with the wall as a safety blanket, do my 30 and move on to drop backs at the wall, nope. Kristina misses nothing NOTHING.
So Kristina has me do my 30 breaths then gets me to bring my mat back to the centre of the room for handstands and then this taking the legs over a little way before flipping back down into down dog and finally straight over. I've explored it before on my own a couple of years back, dropping over from handstands to cushions, gradually taking them away one at a time (Towards Tick Tocks : Handstand to Backbend) but it's a different game altogether in the centre of the shala.
And, then Kristina wants me to drop over from handstand into urdhva danhurasana and immediately come up to standing, I seem to stubbornly refuse to ground my heels and tend to keep my head tucked in, mental block although the last couple were better. Get the feeling I'll be exploring tic tocking/tacking over the next couple of months and seeing as we were looking at Guruji's old heel grabbing approach perhaps that too (Grabbing heels, ankles, legs...why? For heaven's sake, why?).
Shala practice, she's in charge, my teacher, it helps that I love, trust and respect her, I am in her hands.
Besides, all asana are the same, may as well be working on breathing in handstand as in kapo or paschimottanasana, much of a muchness.
Below, Kristina's late husband Derek Ireland giving a demo with Radha in Helsinki in 1989 insanely going up into handstand after every asana, a glorious madness. This is before Ashtangi's started visiting handstand coaches.
|Derek practicing on the beach at Triopetra, miss that beach too see the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kd7wTtyoyYs|
Here's Pattabhi Jois taking the team through backbends, check out Tim Miller, majestic at dead on 3:00, lifting back up to handstand from urdhva danhurasna, do we really want to take handstands out of the practice, perhaps the flourishes but this is serious business, composed controlled, focused.... bandhas breath, drishti, tristana innit.
The bit I'm playing with in the shala now comes five minutes in
Ashtanga Yoga Greece
(affiliated with Yoga Practice London)
And a nice gentle reminder from Kristina
Dear practitioners, please note that even though our workshops are offered in the beautiful island of Crete, our centre of attention was, is and will always be Yoga studies.
Update (17th Sept 2015): And yet saying that, it's still our practice and and however much we love and respect our teachers it's up to ourselves whether introducing handstands makes sense to us or which assists we choose to accept. Personally I'd rather work on the asana myself than accept an assist, small, passing, alignment adjustments are fine and I welcome them but assists..... what's the hurry, they will come when they come..... or not.
Kristina's argument is that an assist can give us a sense of the full expression of the postures and that that can be beneficial, perhaps a sense of what we are working towards. Years of home practice gives a different perspective perhaps.
Nice Kristina story: I'd been having trouble with my back since I arrived in Crete ( from packing up 900 odd books a few weeks before re move to Japan), One morning my back was so bad that I decided to go back home after a couple of miserable sun salutations and do a gentle Vinyasa Krama practice. When I got to the door, Kristina asked me where I was going, I explained and she told me to go back to my spot in the center of the room and do my krama practice, that it was all yoga chikitsa... therapy. Nice knocking out Vinyasa Krama in a room full of Ashtangi's.
As well as my Ashtanga teacher Kristina was and is a mentor, I've missed her as much as Crete this year.
Early Tic Tock at Home posts from 2009
Towards Tick Tocks : Handstand to Backbend
More tick tock work, sans wall
and one from 2011
Exploring Tic Tac ( or should that be tick tock's ) with David Garrigues Day 1
Two week Tictac challenge at home speeded up x3
Here's a modern take on handstands in the practice that makes me question my own position ( that they are perhaps an excessive and an unnecessary distraction, too much ego to be found and reenforced, aren't we supposed to be doing the opposite. ). Jessica is displaying quite stunning focus and control of the breath here, I wish she would do one of these with a mic attached to her shirt, would love to hear her breath - I seem to have move interest in what this sounds like than looks like.
Perhaps it's the same with Yoga selfies ( nice post on this from Meghan Powell called In Defence of Selfies HERE), no doubt we generally know ( however much we try to convince ourselves otherwise) if and when there's a point to it, when it's artistic (body and location coming into presence), craft (whether the photographers or the practitioners), inspiration, continuing a tradition, a bit of fun, documenting, tapas.... or just plain ego and perhaps worse, gratuitous self promotion, selling out our practice to sell out workshops. No doubt I ned to hold up my hand to most or all of these myself.
Here's Jessica with a convincing argument for
And here's Simon Borg-Olivier on lifting to handstand from his Yoga Fundamentals course that I'm currently following.
Update (17 Sept 2015): This last week I find I've slipped back into 2nd series ( a lot of tapas in 2nd) and enjoying myself a few extra Vinyasa Krama Bow postures as prep for the 2nd series backbends and a bit of the asymmetric sequence leading up to leg behind head - I cut out a couple of asana from the end of 2nd along with the seven headstands to make space. It's a bit of a mess, heels lifted here, binding at fingertips just (or toes) there, In karandavasana my lotus goes down nicely enough but no longer seems to want to fly and leg behind head postures barely count.... it'll all come back soon enough.... or not.