Just returned from a weekend workshop with the wonderful Lino Miele! I love how after a good workshop you feel all re-energised and full of enthusiasm for your next practice! The weekend started with a counted practice on Friday night, Mysore style self practice on Sat and Sun mornings and a workshop Sat and Sun afternoons. Gonna try and remember what jewels of wisdom he passed on to us, I wrote down Sats but not Suns...
Lino started off with the importance of the breath and linking it fully with the movements into and out of the postures, not so much focusing on the posture itself, because I think he saw that as 'an end in itself', but the breath as 'a means to an end' if that makes any sense. Basically if the rhythm of the breath is compromised by for example, you 'feeling' yourself getting into a posture, an ache here, or an adjustment of the feet there, you are not doing your practice properly. Fluidity, no struggle.
Lino then went on to express the importance of uddiyana banda and its use throughout the practice, especially as they key to lengthening through the spine. He gave an example in a forward bend whilst stood on the edge of the stage, the correct use of uddi meant his hands reached way past his feet and the stage floor by at least 1 foot! Amazing.
In my first Mysore practice he corrected me in trikonasana; I've never been able to reach the toe without compromising my 2-dimensionality. He came and shortened my stance, made me grab the toe and there it was! He mentioned this in the afternoon workshop. How you should always try a posture, at each of your practice. Why? Because each of your practices is different. Practice in the 'now'. You may be able to do something today that you couldn't do yesterday. But what if it is a posture which hurts you? Lino's answer is that you'll never know if it hurts you today if you don't try it. So try it, if you can't do it because you feel pain, back of a little, but hold the pose wherever you can. Accept the pose as it is 'today'. If you don't try, you'll never know. Being in the present moment is being alive, feeling is being alive, if you don't try these postures you won't feel anything and if you don't feel anything you are not living. Simple. But back to my trikonasana... so what if your catching the toe but you're bent over? Lino's answer? Someone'll come and straighten you out! Brilliant.
So what if you can't so a posture perfectly? "WHO CARES"?!! There is no perfection. You cannot compare yourself or your practice to anyone else. So there can be no comparison by you CAN aspire; that's OK. We finished the Saturday with a pranayama practice, man kumbaka after an exhale is difficult. I made some loud sounds as my lungs filled themselves back up with air!!
Today Lino opened his workshop by talking about freedom. It was a little difficult to understand what he was trying to say, but he gave some examples about how to be 'free'. He spoke about 'Gurus' and teachers and how people sometimes follow them like horses with blinkers on, not straying from the path of their teachings, taking every word they say as gospel. He says that this is not freedom. One should not follow a teacher like a strict religion. One should question everything their teacher says, and that is freedom.
Lino then spoke about fear. Asked someone if they were fearful of dropping back, 'yes' - why? 'Cos I hurt myself 12 years ago!' 'WHO CARES' We did some practices to try and overcome fear. Fear of handstands was overcome by doing some partner (urgh) work where we places our hands on the floor with legs straight and our heads between the legs of our partner. The partner had their knees pushing into our shoulders and their hands holding us round the waist. We then came up onto our toes and leaning into our partners knees our legs went up into handstand effortlessly. Quite amazing. Quite simple.
The Drop Back! Why are people scared? Because they don't try. How does one know one is 'ready' for a drop back? Look at their spine in a prepatory UD, if it's got a nice bend they're ready. Again, working in partners, first you start bending back with arms just by the sides slowly, you try and catch your heels or your calves, you're quite deep into the pose at this point, you're leaning into your partner who has their hands lightly on your lower back so you don't fall, you then release your hands and turn your arms into the position for UD then your partner lets go gently and you drop! You don't die! Woo! The partner starts to pull you forward and back 3 times then on the 3rd you bend your elbows slightly and on an inhale come up. Really quite effortless. Such a simple technique to get you over your initial fear and everyone loved it! We did a simple meditation to end the workshop, literally just focussing on the breath. I fell asleep! Funny.
Anyway, such an inspiring man. Great workshop, good times :o)