Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kino in Los Angeles

It always takes me a few days after a workshop to get my feet back underneath me.  I suppose part of that is due to the fact that for me, good workshops tend to be profoundly moving experiences.  I come out a slightly different person than when I went in and it takes me a few days to reconcile that fact with my "normal" life.

Of course, Kino's lineup of workshops this weekend was no exception.

I find Kino to be such an amazing teacher on so many levels.  She is bright, articulate, and has a firm grasp of the anatomy and workings of the human body.  In addition to the physical, she's also able to impart her knowledge about the subtle body in such a way that it makes sense.  Sprinkle in more than a few heart-warming stories about Guruji and Sharath, and you have a dynamic class, layered with meaning.

Still, that description seems to fall short for me.  Her classes are so much more.  Maybe it's just being able to be close to and learn from someone whom I consider to be a truly powerful embodiment of yoga?  I'm not sure...  Perhaps it's best not to try to put it into words.

The Omkar 108 shala was a fabulous place to spend the weekend.  Jorgen (the owner) was warm and welcoming.  I wish it were closer to me or I would be tempted to practice there regularly.

A few highlights from my notes with Kino:

  • Being strong is a decision you make in your mind.  It is not giving up on yourself.
  • If you feel too old, that your arms are too short, that you're too heavy, it is your choice to figure out how and why you can.
  • Do the humble work of the moment without being attached to the outcome.  Divest your ego from the fruits of the action.
  • If you're thinking "I won't be able to..." or "I can't..." then pause and try anyway.
  • We must surrender to the Divine.  Yoga requires a long period of surrender and non-attachment.  This is a breaking down of the ego and it might be better that it remain broken.
  • Arm balances don't require strong arms, but rather a strong and solid structural foundation.  Every single part of the body is responsible for lifting itself.  If your hips don't move, it's not because they are too large.  It's because they are not cooperating and lifting themselves.
  • Nearly all arm balances require a rounding of the spine combined with a lifting of the pelvic floor.  It is an inward energy that we must hold powerfully in our center.
  • In your practice, look for places where you want to escape.  That's usually where the work needs to happen.  Asana is a false stress designed to trigger panic in the nervous system.  We learn how to use the breath to retrain the mind in order to stay in the moment.  That's the yoga:  remaining steady and calm no matter what might be happening externally.
  • A calm breath calms the nervous system and controls the mind's response.
She also spoke a fair amount about progress within the practice.  Most times progress is only measured microscopically from day to day, or sometimes even not at all.  Yet after months and sometimes years of practice, one day the body will understand what you're asking from it and it will respond.  Kino really stressed the power of detaching from the outcome in such instances and instead just showing up to do the work.  It's dedication and devotion without the need to prove anything.

I was lucky enough to meet and spend some time with Nobel from "Yoga from the Dragon's Den".  I've been a fan of his blog for some time now and it was such a treat to get to know him in real life.  Nobel posted some terrific recaps of his own along with an interview with Kino on his blog.  Check it out if you get the chance.

As I'm sure Nobel will attest, Kino's Led Primary was intense.  She counts S-L-O-W!  Wow.  There were a few prompts that she gave which really helped improve my practice.  For example, in Parivrtta Trikonasana (revolved triangle pose), it's important to extend on the inhale and twist deeper on the exhale.  In Purvottanasana (upward plank), she asked us to focus on inwardly rotating our thighs toward the mat while pressing into the big toe mounds.  This seemed to give me a lot more strength and lift in my hips.  For Urdhva Dhanurasana (backbend), Kino asked us to tilt the pelvis forward, lift the stomach and ribcage, roll the shoulder blades down and onto the back while allowing the entire body to assist in the arch.  It was a terrific checklist to think about while going into the posture to keep the alignment correct and not just dump into the lumbar region.

Here's a picture of me and my new friend Saskia.  I knew her from the Sunday morning Led Primary class I usually attend but it was so nice to spend time getting to know her better.  We were side by side during Mysore practice and I found it really comforting to learn that our pacing was almost nearly exact.

And speaking of that Mysore practice - I've never experienced anything like it!  We actually created our own weather in the room!!  Towards the end of the practice, I looked up and there was a substantial FOG just hanging there.  Literally, it obscured my vision to the other side.  And EVERYTHING was wet - the floors, the walls, the slippery, slippery mats... you name it.  Steam was rising from every single body in there.  Crazy.  If that doesn't attest to the power of Ashtanga, I don't know what does.  It was a terrific weekend and I feel so blessed to have been there.


  1. Wow, thanks for your wonderfully detailed summary and recap of the many things that Kino brought up during the workshop :-) I will be re-rereading this blog post for a long time to come, to keep reminding myself of everything she says. It was great meeting and spending time with you. May we meet again soon :-)

    1. You're more than welcome, Nobel! I have a feeling our paths are going to cross again one of these days. One thing I am learning is that the Ashtanga yoga world is fairly small. :) I had so much fun getting to know you, too!

  2. I love her comment on surrender and non-attachment. Most deep transformation I've observed, both in myself and others, seems to almost always spring from a place of surrender! Also liked the thought about dismantling the ego...and her comment on detaching from the outcome and instead, just focusing on showing up and doing the work. That mentality totally helps produce a more peaceful zone in which to live and's a good reminder for me today!