Sunday, September 5, 2010

What Do You Make of Workshops?

It's 2.55pm on Sunday afternoon, and I'm sitting in an audio studio at work. Last night we finished at midnight. I'm not gonna whine about it. Instead, I figured while I've got some down time when the client and creative team figure out this audio mix now, I'm gonna get some "me" time and bang out a post. :)

I've been thinking about yoga workshops. As in: taking yoga workshops. As in: to take or not to take. There are different schools of thought for or against it... and I've always been all for them coz it's a chance to step out of the regular format of a class and break down the physicality/ dynamics/ techniques of the poses or learn more about the philosophy of the lineage.

This morning, I went for KM's workshop. Well, not quite a workshop, more like a Mysore-style class. (She's one of the rockstar ashtanga teachers... Go on, think a little harder and you'll get it). She's been giving workshops the whole of this weekend in London, but by the time I decided to stay on this weekend coz of work, the Mysore class was pretty much the only opening available. So... Granted, my one little class this morning is probably not a good indication of the rest of the workshops she's giving here (like a real proper "breaking it down" workshop). (For those, go check out Kevin, Mel, Helen, Susan or Ashtanga Brighton's blogs - they've been going to some of her other sessions so you may get a report from them soon!)

ANYWAY... I was a little hesitant to go this morning coz a part of me was thinking that in the past few weeks, I've had so many teachers keeping an eye on me - P for the first week, J when P went away, and A on Sunday at AYL... and now yet ANOTHER teacher this morning? The thing is, especially with a Mysore-style practice, you get a lot more out of it when it's the same person looking out for you. Your day-to-day teacher knows your practice, knows YOU, knows what you're struggling with, knows the odd quirks about your body and how to help you out.

In a workshop format, it probably helps if you go to the entire series of workshops that particular teacher is giving for the same reason: over a few sessions, the teacher gets to see you practice and is more familiar with what you or your body requires.

So... to be honest, my ONE little measly Mysore class today probably isn't that great an indication of my experience of that teacher.

Umm... Can you tell you I'm feeling a little bit "meh" about it today?

It also probably didn't help that I was clock-watching, coz I had to be back at work at 10am this morning.

I dunno... I just found the whole experience a little... strange. Maybe it's coz it wasn't part of my usual routine - y'know, even though it was taking place in the same studio space I've been going to every morning, it was a completely different context, with new faces, new teacher... there was a bit of an air of uncertainty. I was thinking "Hurry up and say the opening chant so I can start and get on with it..."

And when I got my first adjustment in Paschimottanasa, I remember thinking "WOW! Too strong!" I think I just wasn't prepared for it. Same reaction in Marichyasana A when I was being assisted deeper into it (and no adjustment on the other side, which I found a bit odd. But the room was starting to fill up quite a bit by then so how can you fault that).

And then I picked up on the weirdest thing... Like when she came to help me with Chakrabandasana after dropbacks - I distinctly remember thinking "Oh, she's wearing make-up". Not like that was weird, it was just weird that I noticed that. Coz... Not like it matters AT ALL, but I just notice the most inane details (I guess none of the other female teachers I've had have worn make-up while teaching?) I dunno why I'm even bringing this up, I'm a weirdo! HAHAHA!

But the Chakrabandasana assist was AWESOME! So 3 half-dropbacks with arms crossed to chest, arms on the floor on the 4th dropback, then she made me drop my head to floor, walk the hands in as far as I could... I couldn't see my feet but they felt close (they probably weren't AT ALL, they just FELT close coz I was gonna explode already). And then she said "try and lift yourself up again".

The first couple of seconds I was like "Say whaaaaaaat?" Coz it felt like I could die here already. But as I pressed up, it felt like I was going up into the pose! Couldn't quite extend my arms or legs fully coz I would've just exploded completely, but I got a lift up!

But... I digress. My whole point from the beginning was... Once upon a time, I was quite the workshop junkie. Now, more and more I'm not really feeling the workshop vibe. Another ashtanga rockstar teacher, DS, will be giving a series of workshops in London later this year, and while I'm dying to do some classes with him, I looked at the workshop line-up and was completely "meh" about all of them. The only thing I'd be interested in is... er... a Mysore-style class with him! (But I wouldn't fly all the way back here just to do that ONE class with him).

Maybe I'm just going through a phase now where I'm pretty happy just figuring out the poses I'm struggling with on my own. Er... And then going to check out if there are specific tutorials on Youtube (from other rockstar ashtangis) when I feel like it. It's like having a workshop in your own time! And for FREE! HAHAHA!

I'm still all for workshops. It's just at this point in time, I'm not really feeling it. It feels more like a distraction now - too much information from too many people (I know I'm contradicting myself, coz shouldn't the same thing apply to those Youtube videos I'm watching too?)

What's your take on it?


  1. I like Mysore practice with travelling teachers. The break-it-down stuff, not so much. Did two Mysore practices with DS, which I quite enjoyed, and especially like Mysore with Matthew Sweeney. I just enjoy seeing how different teachers handle their rooms.

  2. It's interesting to hear Karen's thoughts because I'm exactly the opposite: I like the break-it-down workshops, but I'm not so keen on Mysore or Led Primary with travelling teachers.

    I guess I see topical workshops as a supplement to practice, helping me learn skills or see things from a fresh perspective, but for my own practice, I prefer to be in a familiar environment - either at home or with teachers who know my body and quirks.

    I valued what I learned in KM's workshops but I had a really bad experience in her led Primary. My cybershalamate Patrick found her led Primary 'life changing'.

    So to sum it up, I guess it's whatever 'floats your boat.' ;-)

  3. I've also been less than excited about workshops lately. I find myself looking at upcoming workshop lists online and thinking, "meh, not interested." For a while, I was gung-ho about going to as many workshops as possible. I guess that lately I haven't felt I've gotten much out of workshops...especially considering the high cost of some of them (not including travel expenses and time away from work/family). thoughts about workshops might change if I could find a 2-3 week workshop on yoga theory or philosophy. This is an area I really need to grow...but most of the workshops are focused on the physical practice.

  4. Hi Jaime, Now I understand why we were on the same pose for quite a while then you hit the Warp Factor button and were gone!

    I have done 3 of the 4 asana sessions over the weekend including the mysore. I have to say the led was excellent, she makes you find energy and belief when you think the tank is empty. The intro the 2nd series was really good, enjoyed it much more than the one I did with DS last year. Much more of us "doing" rather than watching then Rockstar. All in all I would say Kino is one of the teachers who gives good value,makes it fun and I always learn something from.

  5. Hey Karen! Yeah - I think there's value in going to a visiting teacher's Mysore class over a few classes. Coz I'm not really sure that 1 class I took today really was enough. (Then again - last week's substitute teacher J was really awesome and even after 1 class I was looking forward to the next). Or maybe I just had high expectations given the rockstar status of today's teacher. And you know what happens with high expectations, right? Disappointment. Ha.

    Kai - I completely agree with you about the "break it down" workshops... They can add so much value and I'm all for them. I guess I haven't come across one recently that I've been gagging to go for.

    Arkie - I also agree that a lot of workshops focus on the physical aspects. While living in Sydney, I went to the Australia Yoga Conference and because it was held over 3 days, with a gazilion teachers over a gazilion timeslots, there was LOTS of philosophy from different schools of thought too. So maybe try and check out the bigger gatherings like the Yoga Journal conferences, coz I'm sure those will have them.

    Kev - I usually do 5 sun As and 3 sun Bs, coz I'm warmed up and perspiring by then already. Plus - that was how many Sharath counted out when he came to Sydney, so I don't feel like I'm doing something illegal. Haha. Glad to hear you enjoyed the other sessions. I figured my 1 class was probably not a fair gauge of her workshop experience. Also - you've done many more classes/ workshops with her, so you're really familiar with her style.

  6. I think workshops, yoga or otherwise, can play into "peak experience syndrome", where you get all excited about how dramatically different everything is going to be... and then go back to what you were doing before the weekend. I agree that the gold is in daily practice, and someone who knows you and can assess you, unique individual that you are, with discernment and wisdom. That said, I too have had incredible practice-changing moments from one-shots. But they're the exception rather than the rule.

  7. I was glad I started with the first wave, by the time I finished people coming in were finding it hard to find a place to lay their mat Down. She gave me assistance and advice in the asanas where I need it. My one criticism of TY as always is that they pack too many in.

    As well as the retreat in Thailand this is the second weekend with multiple workshops I have done with Kino, first time I have done a specific 2nd series one with her though. Hopefully I will work out the standing up thing soon and be able to "legally" play in Krounchasana and beyond.

    Great to see you, pity you had to work and couldn't join us all for brunch

  8. I was all about the workshops when I didn't have a teacher, but now that I've got a fabulous one, I don't need anyone else looking at my practice.

    Having said that, I just signed for a Saturday with Richard Freeman, but come's Richard Freeman! :-D

  9. I'm funny about workshops in general but will go to workshops from my regular teacher's teachers if I can afford it. I agree, my usual teacher knows me and what I'm struggling with to help me further my practice but it's also nice to be re-inspired by others, and I love the community buzz from a workshop. Sometimes I won't see some peeps for weeks but then everyone comes together for a workshop.

  10. I just wanted to say, YES, that is the infamous Kino chakra-b method! I STILL use that in my own practice (except that I can't pull myself up with a towel, hah) when I backbend.

    On workshops? I can't often afford, so I try to only hit what's going to be BRILLIANT. Thumbs up to Sweeney, Kino, Tim.

    Generally on Mysore-style, if there is a program where I'm going, I go. Virtually no matter what.

  11. Fran - "peak experience syndrome". I love it! You hit the nail on the head with that. I guess I have come back from the average workshop experience a little bit deflated at the next practice (that things haven't magically shifted). HAHAHA! The shift comes from chipping away at it daily. You're a sage. x

    Kev - glad you found it useful. But I guess you and Susan have more of a relationship built with her over the few workshops you've done... so you'll definitely get more benefit from it.

    V - Richard Freeman! Where?! When?! (Wait hang on... what have I been bitching about "dunno about workshops" again? Ha!)

    Mary - Agree! I saw Kevin and Helen at this KM workshop, nuff said!

    Patrick - EVERYONE has great things to say about Sweeney, I can't wait to check him if/when he ever comes this way.

  12. I 2nd you should try Sweeney if you can. He came to Austin for about 10 days (mysore) and it happened to be at a time our teacher was out of town, so a few of us paid the extra $$$ and went. He's got a great vibe about him!!

  13. dear Jaime
    i think KM would herself tell you that in a workshop, since she is not the people present's main teacher, she would take few risks with adjustments. if you were her student in Florida she would know your practice and know what you would need to be working on. that said, teachers who teach a lot all over probably see more body types and probably understand how to adjust for the various types of bodies. i was amazed when i was put into marichyasana d by Manju Jois, done quickly and after just pulling my arm way out and then at lighting speed wrappping my arms up behind the leg. it showed knowledge of my body type.

    since i know KM from way back, i would take a workshop if she was in town.


  14. I've never been for any workshop, and curiously, I'm not dying to travel to practice with a particular teacher. Perhaps it's because I'm still new to the practice and am very happy with my teacher, plus blogs (like yours!), YouTube, etc, that I don't feel a need for it. That said, KM is coming to SF in November for 3 days and I've signed up for one day, so we will see. I agree with Fran that the real gold is in daily practice - the workshops are a nice add-on.

  15. I Keep getting excited when somebody comes over and plan on booking up but then I think there are such excellent teachers in London already that I never make it to. I should just take a week off work and go and see one of them every morning, probably more what I need at this point, be cheaper too.

    Your in London full time now, thought you were going back and forth to Amsterdam, poor you, getting cold a and dark here already.

  16. Hey Lilli - Everyone I know who's met him or done a workshop with him has said the same thing about him too. He goes on the wish list!

    Arturo - I guess that's just experience in general, right? I feel really safe with the more experienced teachers... they are very good at sussing out different body types and what your individual body needs.

    Danielle - can't wait to read about your experience when she comes to your town!

    Grimm - Nope, I'm still based in Amsterdam. But I've been in London for about a month now on this one job. It's been really nice weather here actually! Amsterdam's been pissing down and winter has pretty much started already. So I'm glad to be here instead. HAHA. Leaving next week though.
    And teachers in London - you're right, such a great bunch of teachers here! ...but it's probably better going to the same one for a stretch of time and growing your practice with them. I've enjoyed going to AYL the last time I was here for a month, and this time round I've been to TY the whole time. Only AYL on Sundays coz TY doesn't have classes then. :)


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