Back in February this year, when Ann Barros adjusted my pose in Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolving Triangle) during her weekend workshop, she muttered ‘Seems like you are a bit out of practice here..’ I was taken aback by her comments, not felt criticized at all, but view it as a challenge that I needed to motivate myself more in improving and deepening my practice. So by the end of her workshop, I committed to her that I would attend her 5-day workshop in July to further advance my knowledge.
The other point I made about Ann was that she is an observant teacher. Her eyes are sharp as an eagle. No bend, twist or inversion would loss from her sharp observation. I participated in her workshop/classes since 2005. She learnt yoga directly from guruji BKS Iyengar in Pune, India and many years with his disciple in the US. Since then she opened her own studio in Santa Cruz, USA and running an annual yoga trip to Bali for more than a decade. As you know, Iyengar developed his own style of alignment-based yoga. What I like best about her method of teaching is because she made example based on her experiences, mostly her personal experience, like her long suffering from scoliosis and how she overcame it. Like any Iyengar teacher, she would structurally go through the pose from a beginner angle and advancing into the final pose. She almost always gave a transition pose. Pushing yet providing stages for her students to experience his/her own physical ability at that point.
Whenever appropriate, she would give an anecdotal background story of each asana. For example in Hanumanasana (Pose dedicated to Monkey God), while preparing us for the pose, she would tell us the story of the heroic act and mighty leap that Hanuman took to bring back Sita to King Rama.
So came July, I felt ready for any kind of challenge which would happen in my 5-day workshop. Would I? The yoga studio situated in a small alley in Pengosekan, Ubud, Bali. It was located on the second floor facing the padi field, airy, filled with natural light.
The studio was filled with proper props: mats, blocks, belts, ropes hanging from the wall, blanket, folded chairs, and, of course, the wall. According to Ann, the wall is our best teacher. Almost certain in a distant, you can hear the village people chattering in the evening or practicing the Balinese gamelan for their next performance in the nearby Banjar. The feeling was simple and humble, positive circulation of energy, clean, calm.
There were 18 students, coming from all over the globe: Americans, Canadians, Singaporean, New Zealander residing in Hong Kong and 2 Indonesians, including myself. After a brief introduction to and from each of us, we started the evening with restorative poses. The morning sessions were usually filled with cardiovascular and energizing poses. It was a combination of standing, balancing, seated and twist, back bend, inverted poses. Each session would last between 1.5 to 2 hours, would start with a Suryanamaskar (Sun Salutation) for the morning session.
The poses varied from top to toe, meaning each section of the body was exercised thoroughly. From chest opener, to hip, groin, quadriceps opener, open pelvis, closed pelvis, they were all done day and evening to prepare and come readily to a final pose. For example to come to Sirsasana (Headstand), we would do Dolphin on the mat, Dolphin on the wall, chest opener: Hands in Namaste – important preparations to strengthen the important base of handstand which is the shoulders. Also to come to Urdhva Danurasana (Upward Bow Pose), a various chest opener preparations were done, either sitting by the chair or supported chest reclining towards the wall; as well as Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose).
As usual for Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand), a full prop methodology was taught to ensure neck injury would not happen in the long run. Usually, I felt a bit annoyed with the blanket folding and the chair involved – because I felt that I could do it without all these hassles – but this time, with a little bit of an open mind, I enjoyed and could see the benefits of it all. The ego had to be conquered!
I have a challenge to overcome and I welcome it openly, it is the full arm balance (Adho Mukha Vrksasana). I learnt the techniques to overcome my own fear and I am confident that over time I will conquer it. In the meantime, strengthening the arm muscles will continuously done through half-version of full arm-balance with a wall (Ardha Adho Mukha Vrksasana)
Deep-in muscles below abdominals, focusing on strengthening the ilio-psoas will help to protect lumbar spine. Various exercise were done from the simple knee circles, full circles, lifting upper as lowering back presses to floor, Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (90-60-30 degree to floor leg lift), Navasana both Ardha and Paripurna (Half and Full Boat Pose).
It was a grueling 5-day workshop, whereby each pose done was dissected, held for 5 breath or more.. I could feel that each muscle of my body would scream with (tolerable) pain and sore for a couple of days. So at the end, Savasana (Corpse Pose) was always looked forward to and the mind would not race anywhere but to rest along with each inhalation and exhalation coming from my body, calm and attentive. But the question was did I learn more than just ability to do the asanas properly? The answer is yes. I also learn to leave the ego at the door, to always be open mind, to let myself go after I tried to my best of my ability, to look at myself and not comparing with others, to enjoy the experience no matter how challenging and not all could be done at the same time.
So Ann, thank you! You are a great teacher and my commitment is to even go deeper into my inward journey of my self-discovery of yoga. Hopefully, the self-motivation is strong enough to go to the next distant and I will certainly participate in the next teaching of another new experience in yoga.
Yoga is like music
The rhythm of the body,
The melody of the mind,
And harmony of the soul,
Create the symphony of life.
– BKS Iyengar