WHAT THE HECK DID WE JUST LEARN ANYWAY
About my yoga workshop with Rodney and Colleen by Nicole Mikula (Nicky) Yoga and meditation teacher
Last weekend, I attended a workshop with my friend Suzie at Kripalu, centre for Yoga and Health, in the Berkshires.The workshop was lead by “yogi to the stars” Rodney Yee and his gorgeous long-limbed wife Colleen Saidman. The title of the workshop was “Breath, Bandhas and Beyond”.
On our way home, Suzie and I, still feeling a little dazed from the experience, asked each other “So, what the heck did we just learn anyway?”
Back to where it all started
Paper and pen in hand and excited to learn more about breath, bandhas and what they mean exactly by “beyond”, Suzie and I entered the spacious yoga hall on opening night. We were ready to learn, our left brains ready to go. We expected some kind of introduction and workshop overview that would gently ease us into a more vigorous yoga practice the following morning. We had had a long drive and had just finished an hour and a half yoga class upon our arrival. We were tired and wanted to be entertained. We claimed our spots on the platform, beside a statue of Shiva. Surrounded by a sea of yoga enthusiasts and over 100 mats neatly laid in rows, the workshop began.
“Anyone new to yoga here” queried Rodney and I was sure I sensed a pinch of mischief in his tone… “Touch your pubic bone” Colleen exclaimed “just so I know you know where it is”.
“Um! this will be interesting…” We mused. We then indulged in backbends, pigeons, cobblers, cobras, warriors, forward bends and, of course shivasana, only to discover that the breath and the bandhas apparently just happen on their own.
We never really did discuss Moolla bandha, Jalandhara bandha or Uddiyana bandha; the very reason we had signed up in the first place.
“So… the purpose of this workshop is to learn WHAT exactly? “ We wondered, somewhat impatiently.
“Could you please teach us more about the bandhas?” We silently begged. But they never did. They did say that a bandha acts more like a valve than a lock though. “This in itself might turn out to be a valuable piece of the jigsaw puzzle; well worth the price of admission”, we thought. Suzie and I were getting curious.
We were invited to feel and experience these valves in our body. Rodney explained that they were shying away from labeling these bandhas so the gentle unfolding of yoga’s natural intelligence wouldn’t be stifled in any way.
“That makes sense, we can deal with that. But, could you please show us exactly how to engage them anyway…We just want to know…
Oops, this is yoga; again lapsing into temporary yoga amnesia. with the flow, we continue to open our heart in the backbend and close it again in the forward bend.
“Open- Close-Open-Close … Flow Valve – Bandha… Now this is all starting to fall into place”
No, we did not get any 1,2,3 steps to follow and we did not come home with a wealth of teaching tips to share and practice.
We did, however, get some strict warnings to never bend back in the backbend and to certainly never instruct our students to bend back. It’s all about pushing down, up and away following the gaze back.
And, yes, finally, we did experience the bandhas.
We learned to watch for them as they happen spontaneously with the breath. We learned to become more aware of the openings and closings that happen throughout our bodies and throughout our lives and to notice their reflection in our outer worlds.
The moral of this story.
What I love most about any transformational experience is that it helps us come back into balance.
When we think we know it all, we suddenly realize we know nothing at all. Conversely, when we feel we know nothing, we realize we know more than we think.
Just like the bandha valve that opens and closes to control the flow of life force, we too open to learn, close to integrate and then we open again to learn once again; when we are ready and when the time is right.
Breathe, and connect to your breath Inhale, exhale and pause.
With much gratitude for a fabulous weekend with a wonderful friend at one of my favorite places in the world, Kripalu!