Backbending workshop with Kino: It isn’t supposed to be fun

Two distinct things to report about Sunday’s backbending workshop with Kino MacGregor here in Los Angeles.

ONE: Nuts and Bolts

For those curious about the nuts and bolts, I’ll try to give you the rundown. Overall, and in no way meant to downplay what was a very good workshop, this seemed like a pretty straight-forward backbending workshop. Kino hits the high points, gave them her own spin and provided a lot of information: anatomical, about the subtle body, the stories of Guruji. You name it.

Here’s how it went:

  • She talked in general for about 30 minutes. (I hear she treated the arm balance workshop similarly, and people said it was hard. She also described the arm balance workshop as focusing on inward energy; the backbending one was on outward energy.)
  • She highlighted four pieces of training advice that Navy SEALS get in order to pass the group’s toughest test: 1. Visualization. 2. Positive Self-Talk. 3. Goal Setting. (I.e.: This pose is only five breaths; I can do that.) 4. Nervous System Control, which is best managed via breath control.
  • She took us through the following poses on our way to backbends: Samastitihi (with an exaggerated backbend); Lunges, to allow for a focus on rotating the shoulders; Warrior I; Salabhasana (first with the hands under the hips, then removed); Purvottanasana; Ustrasana; Laghuvajrasana, including the final version in which students either could drop their head to the ground and come back up immediately or hold if for 15 breaths (as she walked around picking people up from it); Kapotasana, with partners; and finally a few backbends, with a focus on opening up the upper back (by straightening the legs).
  • She finished with a few more stories and a couple of chants.

TWO: Walking the middle path

This really resonated with me. At the beginning, as she described how hard backbends are for everyone (flexible and stiff, alike), she talked about how Guruji had the ability to take her, each practice, just to that day’s limit but not further. He knew where it was, that point where asana isn’t fun but isn’t an injury waiting to happen.

What’s the purpose of that limit, she asked? Asana, she said as an answer, isn’t supposed to be fun. If you’re always having fun, if asana practice is always a pleasure, you aren’t doing it right. You’re creating a “happy” samskara. Asana is about walking the middle path between the pleasure and the pain, about experiencing those moments when you think you’re going to die, when you hope you’re going to die, as well as the happier moments. Stira and sukham, not one in exaggeration.

You have to know that appealed to me. (Although maybe I need more sukham.)

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

9 thoughts on “Backbending workshop with Kino: It isn’t supposed to be fun”

  1. I’ve had the fortune to take Kino’s back bending workshop before and I loved it. But I’m one of those crazies who loves back bends and just can’t wait to get all the tips to be able to do more and deeper bends.

    1. So here’s a question: Kino also talked about how this class changed (another thing I thought was great, I should have mentioned it above I realize on reflection). When did you take her class? I wonder if she’s added the “middle road” and that asana practice isn’t just supposed to be fun more recently.

  2. I would tend to agree that asana practice is meant to provide growth. You can work hard and have fun too though. Perhaps not the whole cheering whoo hooo but not militant ether. Being stuck on a pose while practicing daily means something is either off with the teacher or the student if progress isn’t being made. However, that being said, the teacher needs to help the student along on what is holding them back from growing. It may be diet, it may be attitude or a number of other things. My only class with Kino pushed me to a place which I got to through her repeating over and over again “raise the feet” or maybe “straighten the legs” in kurmasana. There was no adjustment just her not going away (she may have said it about 12 times). I don’t know what she saw that indicated to her that I could lift my feet off the ground. I didn’t even realize that was part of the pose and I really didn’t want to go there but she insisted, and insisted. They finally got off the ground, and only come off if I invoke the memory of her command. That is her gift however that I don’t think that many teachers should use unless they know exactly what they are doing because the result could result in injury. A pushy teacher within limits and one who injures you can be as simple as inappropriate energetic flow. I believe it is ultimately the student’s responsibility is to work with a teacher who flows well (good receptivity) with them.

  3. Love the thoughts on the middle path..
    If there is to be a shifting we must first get uncomfortable enough …to want to shift. To want to create

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