I took my first yoga workshop this Saturday at Hom Yoga. This is a boutique studio located on the 6th floor of Orchard Central (Somerset MRT) that specialises in hot yoga. The subject of this workshop, however, wasn’t hot yoga but vinyasa flow and inversions.
This was the sales pitch for the two-hour workshop:
“We’ll discuss the basics of good alignment and technique plus the fundamentals of learning how to shift your body-weight to set up the foundation for safe, solid vinyasas. We’ll teach you how to use props, such as blocks and the wall, to help break these poses down in more accessible ways, and we’ll focus on exercises to build up the necessary strength and stamina, giving you the courage and confidence to start integrating these poses into your regular practice.
Some of the poses and their preparatory elements that we aim to cover are: Jump back – Jump through – Chaturanga Dandasana – Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward-facing dog) – Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog) – Sirsasana (headstand) – Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand).”
Don’t we look very excited about the class? While we could manage headstands, none of us could maintain an unassisted handstand. This meant that we couldn’t do the jump throughs required for the vinyasa flow as well.
The class started with headstands. The teacher, Anton Jager, said that this was the only pose that you can do without warm-up. Usually you will require a few sun salutations to start your yoga practice but this was one you can do with cold muscles. So if you only have five minutes before work in the morning, start your day with one!
I was able to get into a headstand. I tried the next step, which was to push up onto my elbows so that my head was off the ground but I lost my balance immediately. Nonetheless, it was my first time trying that so it was good.
Next, we worked on our vinyasa flow sequence. This sequence is hard to describe so a video would be best to show what a vinyasa jump through is:
The gist of the the vinyasa sequence is this:
Get your hips over your shoulders
In order to lift your legs through your arms, you need to think about using your core to lift your hips upwards instead of using momentum to swing forwards or backwards. We practised this with our palms on blocks so that we had more height to compensate for the lack of core strength.
To lift your hips over your shoulders, we practised handstands against the wall. There are three ways to do this:
- Kick up into the handstand – easier but there is less control, tendency to over-kick
- Bunny hop into the handstand – requires more core strength but more control over body
- Pike up into the handstand – requires tremendous amount of core strength as no momentum to help, gives the most control
Alicia and Barbara practised the bunny hops, in which you curl your legs close to your body and hop up with both legs together. This is closest to the vinyasa sequence because you have to do a bunny hop into a half handstand for the jump through.
On the other hand, I was terrified of collapsing on my face so I opted for the simpler one. To kick up into the handstand, you start with downward dog, then lift one leg to the sky and kick up with the other.
This was my first time kicking up into a handstand without any help. Yes, I’ve done handstands against the wall before but always with help because I was too frightened (I’d always imagine I would collapse on my neck).
And I’ve always felt out of control because I learnt how to do it the gymnastics way – which is to start from a standing position with your arms in the air like you’re going to do a front handspring – which made it impossible for me to control my body. I will show you later how I learnt to do this the yoga way, which gave me a lot more confidence and I was able to do it about six times in a row in the workshop.
First I landed against the wall. As you can see, because I was using the wall to support my heels, my body was not in the correct alignment. So I have to try and straighten up by lifting my legs away from the wall.
My body was still not straight and I swayed in the air for a few seconds before I had to touch the wall again.
Alicia said, “Bend your ankles and push into your palms!”
So I bent my ankles instead of pointing my toes. My body was straighter now but I still couldn’t hold the handstand.
I gave up and hopped down.
To me, the act of being able to go up into a handstand without fear was already a huge achievement. I must confess that I didn’t learn this from the workshop. I watched a video by yoga teacher Dice Iida-Klein two weeks ago on Youtube that showed how to go up into a handstand from downward dog. The two things that stuck out to me were:
- In the downward dog position, bring one leg halfway between your foot and and your head. Bend that leg. (In the past, I would try to kick up straight into a handstand staight from a downward dog without moving one foot forward)
- Lift the other leg up. Keep it ramrod straight. (In the past, I didn’t hold tension in the lifted leg)
These two pointers in his video gave me control over my momentum and I felt safe. When I did this in the past, I would either crash into the wall or not kick up enough to reach it. Please watch this video if you have fears about the handstand too. It’s really excellent and I was able to do it six times in a row at the workshop.
On a side note, Barbara and I will be attending Dice’s Singapore workshop in August! Yay!!
What I love about Hom Yoga: This was also my first time at Hom Yoga and I was quite impressed by the clean and small studios. This was a huge improvement over my regular yoga studio, where the rooms were three times the size and the teachers found it difficult to assist everyone. The workshop was excellent and Anton was good at explaining the techniques. If I didn’t already have a yoga membership elsewhere, I would sign up with Hom Yoga.
What can be improved: The duration of the workshop could have been increased. At two hours, we had so many things to cover, including the background behind the vinyasa sequence and anatomical aspect of different poses. This left us with very little time to practise the actual poses. At the end of two hours, I was still raring to learn some more.