Further adventures in backbending with Kino

I’ll hand this to Kino MacGregor: People are interested in her.

Start of Kino’s Led Primary on Saturday, from her tumblr page.

And because so many people seem curious about the goings-on in her workshops, I thought I’d try to pull a few more threads out from my notes on her backbending workshop this past weekend in Los Angeles.

A few people have emailed about her mentioning of the Navy SEALS training advice. Here it is in a bit more details:

  1. Visualization / mental rehearsal. She talked about having the “protocol for the posture” and the specifics of the pose worked out ahead of time. Know what your body needs to be doing (thighs rolling in, big toes pressed to the ground, shoulders back, etc.)
  2. Positive self-talk. She stressed this is “realistically positive.” So I think I can rule out saying, “I can do backbends!” But, “I can straighten my arms more” or “I can hold that one for five full breaths” is realistic. Sort of. She also said to focus on the positives and the task at hand: Don’t think about future poses.
  3. Goal setting. Ala the suggestion above: “I can hold that pose for five breaths. It’s not that long.” She noted that Ashtanga is perfect for this because there are such obvious benchmarks (the length of the poses).
  4. Nervous system control. Breath control is the key to this. If you want to control your nervous system — avoid that fight or flight urge, keep yourself steady in a difficult posture — you have to control your breath. And Ashtanga is all about that: even out the in and out breath, and go from there.

And now a few other things I can glean from my notes:

  • She stressed in backbending the nutation of the sacrum. If, like me, you don’t know precisely what that means, here you go.
  • At one point, she divided up the backbend into two halves of an arch. The main muscles of one half are the erector spinae and the quadratus lumborum (QL); the main muscle of the other is the latissimus dorsi. The whole body has to be part of the arch.
  • She may have emphasized the internal rotation of the things/legs more than any other Ashtanga teacher I’ve heard. Not that I haven’t heard that suggestion, but it was one she stressed — for whatever reason.

And some final reflections:

  • As I wrote in the first post about her Led Primary, Kino brings a very physical and dynamic approach to the practice. That continued in the workshop. She promised we’d be sore. She urged people to be OK with burning muscles. But she was clear about the difference between injury — a sharp pain in the joints, for instance — and an OK muscle fatigue. She in no way shied away from pushing people, even during an afternoon workshop.
  • Kino talked about how this — and all, I suspect — of her workshops change over time. Different things resonate, come to the forefront. And so someone taking this backbending workshop would find it different from three or five years ago. Given how the practice changes, that makes complete sense to me.
  • And a little more on her suggestion that asana practice is about walking “the middle path,” between pleasure and pain. (Just having a happy asana practice is going to create happy, pleasurable samskaras — not any different from wanting to eat ice cream, candy bars, drink beer, etc.) It should be a “daily ritual,” she said. It is one that involves the body and the nervous system, and thus can disrupt the nervous system. (Sleepless nights. Jittery nature. Short temper.) The goal isn’t a happy asana practice. It’s finding the limit between pleasure and pain, and touching both extremes.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

One thought on “Further adventures in backbending with Kino”

  1. A great article on nutation of the sacrum courtesy of David Keil

    “Everyone, unless their sacroiliac joint is fused, does some nutation and counter nutation. The average person probably has somewhere between 3 and 5 millimeters of movement at their sacroiliac joint. In other words, not a whole lot. I’m surprised sometimes by how much emphasis there is on this movement in backbending type poses with such a small range of motion there.

    It is always a good idea to consider all of the factors that go into a backbend and not get caught up in the part that moves the least. A good or deep backbend has much more to do with the hip flexors, such as quadricep, adductors, and the iliopsoas being open enough to allow the pelvis to not get jammed up in an anterior tilt and compressing the lumbar region.”


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