I went to class today at the Life Centre, where Mark Hill was covering for Kathy Roberts. A class heavy on pranayama, we practiced samavritti antar kumbhaka and rechaka, agnisara, nadi shodhana and after savasana, 10 minutes of meditation. In between there was trikonasana, Astanga A and B, , virabhadrasana I, janursirsasana and mahamudra, which Mark taught as a version of janursirsasana with inhale and exhale retention. After class, I felt pretty spacey and tired, and ended up cancelling on a private client (which I rarely do) because I felt so trippy.
The class format in itself was a little choppy and felt unbalanced to me – too much pranayama and too little asana; it was billed as a dynamic 2-3 class on the schedule.
Pranayama on an intensive level isn’t to be dabbled with from time to time, or taken too intensively with an unfamiliar group of students. As the Hatha Yoga Pradipika notes, “When the yogi has perfected his asanas he should practice pranayama according to the instructions of his master. With controlled senses he should nourish himself with moderation.” The body needs time and a daily practice to acclimate to these powerful practices, and should ideally be practiced with a teacher whom you know and trust.
The explanation of mahamudra left me perplexed; it was explained as a variation of an asana, specifically, janursirsasana, combined with specific breath techniques. Mark didn’t take the time to explain the word mudra in any depth, and while he did tell us at the beginning of class we would be working up to this posture, mahamudra, he didn’t clarify the difference between the mudra and the asana, or the relationship between the two.
Mark was a kind and encouraging teacher, and the one adjustment I received in downward dog was strong. This said, the pivotal information given to the class, namely, mahamudra and its relationship to the spine (it was mentioned that the cases would focus on the anatomy of the spine) lacked depth, and diluted the importance of these ancient, powerful teachings. I will revisit his class in the spring, as I’ve decided to do with all the classes I’ve taken during the challenge.
Tomorrow’s schedule has changed! I am giving a workshop on yoga and meditation to 35 GPs at St. Mary’s hospital at the time of Sally’s class at Indaba, so another practice wild card. Stay tuned…