If someone had told me that my ‘Sun Salutations workshop’ at Triyoga with Kino Macgregor would have consisted of 2 hours spent focusing on the first two poses in the sun salutations i probably would have scrunched my face up, raised my right lip in confusion and and said ‘eh!’. But thats exactly what happened. Who woulda thought that lifting your arms above your head and folding forward could be so exhausting. Well not me, but how wrong i was.
Kino is an amazing woman, one of the few women to have been given permission to teach Ashtanga yoga by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois himself. She’s tiny – like really tiny and when she walked into the room a calmness came with her, she seemed quite shy at first, stood there in her trademark tiny shorts and cami top, adorned with metallic gold ‘Flash Tattoos‘ (FYI..i came straight home and ordered some online!)
So the session started, we sat on the floor and she encouraged everyone to gather closer, we would be this close for at least the first hour of the class. The workshop was on Sun Salutations. Kino started the class by saying how we can become complacent with the sun salutations, maybe even bored. Its something that is always done in a yoga practice and people can find themselves switching off. just flowing through the asanas without really thinking about what we are doing, maybe allowing the mind to wander, thinking about whats for dinner later ….this is so true, im always thinking about my next feed!
So anyways, she made us think about lifting our arms up into Urdhva Hastasana (lifting your arms above your head, hands in prayer and looking to thumbs). A pose you dont really think about, but probably do many times per yoga class. We then went on to do Urdhva Hastasana in a way that i have never known before, and believe me i wasnt thinking about dinner, i was focusing whole heartedly on how much energy i was using and how intense lifting my arms was in the way she was teaching us. This was how it went….
- Bring your hands to prayer, thumbs touching sternum and squeeze your elbows into your lower ribs. Hold.
- As you start to lift your thumbs to your chin, keep squeezing the elbows until eventually they touch – so thumbs touching chin. Elbows joined together. Hold.
- Start to raise your hands up towards the sky, keeping the elbows touching, keep your gaze following your thumbs.
- As you keep lifting the arms keep the elbows as close together as you can, until you cant lift any further.
- Release the elbows and straighten the arms as high as you can , keep the gaze at the thumbs.
- with the raised shoulders protecting the neck start to release the head backwards.
- Slowly reverse the actions to come down.
I advise you to try this. Try it now and see if you can think about anything else other than phwoa this is hard work. It truly does make you solely focus on what you are doing right in that moment.
We did it sitting down – quite a few times, then we did it standing up, then we added in Uttanasana, still with the same focus. Before we knew it an hour and a half had gone by and we’d only done the first two steps of the sun salutations, but by this time i was bloody exhausted. We continued and ran through chaturanga a few times, just to tire us out completely before the workshop finished.
It was a totally different type of workshop than i expected, but each time i lift my arms up to Urdhva Hastasana i have Kino’s voice in my ear telling me to focus on what im doing, and stop thinking about what i’ll be eating after class.
I’d advise anyone to take a class with Kino if you get the chance, i still think about what she taught me when i teach my own students. i only spent 2 hours with her, but she definitely made a lasting impression. She’s also on the board of directors for yoga gives back, a non-profit organisation dedicated to raising awareness and funds in order to alleviate poverty in India. So all in all a wonderful Yogi and inspiring woman.